Published on ADDitudeMag.com
Is It Adult ADHD? 10 Signs and Symptoms You Might Have ADD
Lazy. Ditzy. Disorganized. Selfish. Too many adults spend their lives feeling defective, when really undiagnosed ADHD is to blame. Overlapping symptoms, persistent myths, and stigmas all make diagnosis difficult — here is what you need to know about ADD in adults.
by the editors of ADDitude
Adult ADD Is Real
ADHD was once considered a pediatric disorder, but it’s now clear that many children never outgrow their symptoms. In fact, more than 70 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD have symptoms throughout adolescence. And up to 50 percent will have it as adults. Hyperactive and/or impulsive symptoms often improve in adolescence, while inattention inattention
persists or gets worse as you age.
The Causes of ADHD
ADHD is a neurologically based condition caused by a shortage of the
neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine
in the brain, and the inability of the brain to transmit these
chemicals to the brain's neurons. ADHD is not caused by poor
parenting or too much sugar, and it is not synonymous with laziness. Most adults with ADD, in fact, work incredibly hard to devise coping systems to compensate for symptoms.
Could YOU Have ADHD?
Adults with ADHD find it hard to
, be on time, and complete projects. They may interrupt
others, or blurt out words without thinking. Adults with ADHD are more likely to be
distracted while driving, reading, and doing other tasks. These behaviors
frequently lead to underperformance at work and challenging relationships.
However, exhibiting one or more of the behaviors above does not necessarily mean you have ADHD. For a full overview of symptoms, read on.
Two Types of ADHD
ADHD is divided
into two symptom categories: inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive. A person
may fall into one category or into both, called combined type. To be diagnosed with ADHD, at least five
symptoms must be present in each category, be chronic, and be noticeable before age 12.
Read on for more information on the most typical ADD symptoms in adults. (For more on symptoms, take the Adult ADHD Self-Test
1. You're Always Restless
Most teens and adults with ADHD
learn to control their energy, and may not appear overtly hyperactive. On the inside, however, they feel jumpy and restless, even when they have nothing to do.
If you have ADD, your mind feels like it is whirring along at 90 miles per hour, skipping from topic to topic. People might call you a chatty Kathy or struggle to follow your logic. The hyperactivity of the condition expresses itself verbally and mentally more often than it does physically.
2. You're Easily Distracted
You start gathering dirty clothes, and then the phone rings. Your spouse reminds you it's trash pick-up day and that inspires you to go buy new recycling bins. Two hours later, the laundry is still untouched. Adults with inattentive or combined-type ADHD have trouble staying on task and finishing projects. It's not that you don't want
to follow through, you just notice stimuli that others tune out easily, and even when spoken to directly, you have trouble focusing
on the conversation.
3. You Make Spur-of-the-Moment Decisions
You act impulsively, whether it's splurging
on those way-too-expensive shoes, going out when you should be studying, or eating too much. Since you can't wait for people to finish their sentences, you often interrupt, no matter how many times you resolve not to. Acting without thinking is a common trouble for adults with ADHD, which can lead to regret, financial problem, and social trouble after sticking your foot in your mouth too many times.
4. You're Very Forgetful
You rarely leave the house with everything you need on the first try. Where did I put the keys? Is the oven off? Can you call my phone? You spend a big portion of every day looking for things you've misplaced, or retracing your steps to see if you've actually done something. The inattention of adult ADHD can come out as spaciness
that leaves others frustrated with your behavior — and you feeling like you let everyone down.
5. You Lose Track of Time
Why is it that when you're playing a video game, hours go by in a flash, but when you sit down to pay the bills, you can't seem to concentrate even for a second? Adults with ADHD are able
to pay attention to tasks that interest them — sometimes so intensely they lose track of time and place. It's called hyperfocus, and it doesn't often kick in for “boring
things” like finishing a tedious project at work.
You can feel inadequate or like you're falling short at life because you just.can't.get.it.done.
6. You're Not Good at Planning Ahead
You to-do list is never-ending, but you never seem to cross any important tasks off. You know when you need to pick the kids up at school, but somehow you're always late. Executive
— planning ahead, getting organized, managing time, concentrating on a task, and being motivated — are often impaired in adults with ADHD, leaving you feeling scattered and disorganized.
7. Your Relationship is on the Rocks
Adults with ADHD have higher divorce rates. Often,
we get swept up by the novelty and intensity of a new relationship
only to lose focus later. Non-ADHD partners may interpret lack of focus as
lack of interest. We also have trouble pro-actively finishing chores,
paying bills, and remembering important dates, which can cause relationship problems.
8. You Have Trouble Sleeping
You struggle to fall asleep at night, or wake up during the night. You describe yourself as a night owl — in part because your bullet-train brain keeps racing with thoughts and worries long after it's supposed to shut off. You stay up too late and then have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Many of the same regions of the brain regulate both attention and sleep, so a brain that has trouble paying attention will often have trouble going to sleep
9. You Hate Your Job
There is no perfect career
for someone with ADHD
. Adults diagnosed with ADD succeed in many different fields, but they all tend to hate monotonous jobs that require a great attention to detail and long periods of sustained focus with little stimulation. Russell Barkley, Ph.D., suggests careers in
sales, acting, the military, and many trade professions. Your ability to
hyperfocus and to generate creative ideas can be an asset in these and other jobs.
10. Your Child Has ADHD
While scientists are still
looking for the gene
(or genes) responsible for ADHD, the condition does appear
to run in families. Children with ADHD usually have at least one close relative
with ADD, and studies have shown that one-third of all men who had ADHD in
their youth have biological children with ADHD. Often, parents will go for an evaluation after recognizing their child's symptoms in themselves.
There is no single test for
ADHD in adults. Your physician will make a diagnosis after taking a detailed medical history, and interviewing people in your life like parents, and former teachers. Sometimes neuropsychological
tests are given when looking for co-occurring conditions, such as learning
disabilities. Conditions like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or sensory integration disorder (SID)
cause symptoms that mimic those of ADHD. About half of people with ADHD have at least one other disorder, which makes symptom detection and diagnosis difficult.
Mild to Severe Symptoms
ADHD is not like pregnancy,
in which a person tests either positive or negative. Instead, it’s more like
depression, where symptoms occur along a continuum of severity
. In order to
obtain a diagnosis, symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with normal
functioning at home and at work.
are often prescribed to treat ADHD. The two basic classes—methylphenidate and
amphetamine—are sold under several different brand names and are administered
as pills, patches, or liquids. No drug can cure ADHD, but the right medication
regime can help manage core symptoms. Studies have shown that stimulant medications alleviate symptoms in 70 to 80 percent of those diagnosed with ADHD. Improvements are generally seen 30 to 90 minutes after a dose is administered.
Treatment: ADHD Coaching for Adults
Most adults improve with
medication, but many continue to struggle with poor habits or low self-esteem. ADHD
can help. They are different from psychiatrists in that their focus is practical and goal-oriented. Coaches have different specialties, and may
help clients with everything from improving relationships to starting a new
business. Most coaches will offer a free initial interview to make sure the
match is a good fit.
Treatment: Diet and Alternative Therapies
While ADHD is not caused by too much sugar or other dietary factors, a
can help to keep symptoms under control. Omega-3 supplements supply
healthy fats that can improve focus. Protein steadies
blood sugar levels, increasing attention. A diet rich in fiber (whole grains,
fruits and vegetables, and legumes) can stabilize energy levels.
Additional Resources for Adults with ADHD
Do you suspect you have adult ADHD? Check out these additional resources, and see your doctor for a diagnosis:
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