Adult ADHD Fact Sheet

Do you find yourself scrambling to get out of the house because you can’t find your car keys? Or frequently forget something you’ve just heard or read? Do you find it’s often difficult to sit still? These are some of the signs of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), though only a trained professional can properly diagnose it. Find out more about the condition, along with how it is treated and managed.

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What is ADHD? 

To understand adult ADHD, it’s helpful to first understand ADHD in children. Symptoms in children usually appear between age three and six, but diagnosis often happens after the first signs show up. This is why the average age of diagnosis is seven.

The mix of symptoms differs from child to child, but may include:

  • Hyperactivity: fidgeting, talking nonstop, constantly moving, touching everything in sight
  • Inattention: losing things that are needed, forgetting details, trouble focusing on one thing, daydreaming, frequently switching from one activity to another, having difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as peers do
  • Impulsivity: saying inappropriate things without restraint or having difficulty waiting to take turns

These may sound like common childhood behaviors, but true ADHD symptoms prevent those with the condition from being able to function effectively at school and at home.

Treatment varies on a case-by-case basis, but often includes:

  • Parent and child education
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Stimulant medication

What is adult ADHD?

Symptoms in some kids improve with age. For others, ADHD can persist into adulthood and may continue to need treatment. Some people are never diagnosed during childhood and are only diagnosed as adults. Because the illness is lifelong, an adult diagnosis requires a person to have shown some of the ADHD symptoms early in life.

Symptoms and their effects in adults may include:

  • Problems with organization
  • Remembering appointments
  • Being on time to work
  • Becoming restless with downtime
  • Being forgetful and easily distracted
  • Impatience
  • Mood swings

These problems may lead to:

  • Relationship problems
  • A history of multiple traffic accidents
  • Higher rates of job loss
  • Financial problems
  • Alcohol or drug use

Some people with the condition adapt to it and are able to be productive and successful. Many have developed mechanisms to cope with their ADHD. Some adults with the condition are very intelligent and creative.

How is adult ADHD treated?

Similar to children with the disorder, adults are treated with medications (stimulant and non-stimulant), psychotherapy or a combination of treatments.  In addition, adults with ADHD may also have anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder.

Education with a counselor and therapist can help an adult with ADHD as well. This can include teaching him or her to use a large calendar for appointment keeping or how to use lists for tasks. Having a dedicated place to store keys, bills and other important items can also help.