What Was Your Tipping Point? Adult ADHD Diagnosis Stories
Adult ADHD diagnoses rarely happen by accident. Most evaluations are prompted by some tipping point — motherhood, divorce, a job gained or lost, the pandemic, and more. Here, ADDitude readers share the life events that prompted their ADHD diagnoses.
ADHD diagnoses among adults are growing four times faster than are ADHD diagnoses among children in the U.S. 1 Still, ADHD remains significantly underdiagnosed beyond childhood. Fewer than 20% of adults with ADHD are currently diagnosed and receiving treatment, which means most are navigating symptoms without any support or treatment. 2
Among those who have pursued an ADHD diagnosis in adulthood, most report experiencing some “tipping point” that made their symptoms impossible to further ignore or dismiss. Here, ADDitude readers tell us what life event(s) prompted them to pursue their ADHD diagnoses. Their tipping points range from the pandemic and perimenopause to motherhood and divorce, to job promotions — and job losses — plus many more.
Were you diagnosed with ADHD after childhood? What “tipping point” led to your evaluation for ADHD? Share your stories in the Comments section below.
“When I got to graduate school, I knew the difficulties I faced in my first semester weren’t survivable. I was finally specializing in what I loved! So, why was I still procrastinating, stressed out, and anxious? I’d considered the possibility of having ADHD before, but this time I finally brought it up to my psychologist. My diagnosis changed everything for the better. I’ll be graduating with my MFA in a few months.” — An ADDitude Reader
“My tipping point came at the ripe age of 45. I had put myself through college for five years (and quit with a few credits to go) and excelled in a demanding career. I had experienced five years of infertility and then became a parent to two highly spirited kids (both of whom barely sleep). My head felt like it was going to explode. And that’s when I finally sought a diagnosis.” — CR, New York
“In adulthood, I managed to keep it mostly together. Once perimenopause started to rob my brain of estrogen, what dopamine I did have was under threat, and then the pandemic hit, and all of my scaffolding fell away.” — Michelle, Scotland
“My tipping point was trying and mostly failing to balance motherhood with three young children and nursing school during the pandemic. I felt even more scattered than usual and could not cope with my classwork, support my children with their virtual schooling, stay afloat with the house chores, and manage my anxiety levels and mood swings. My husband read an article discussing ADHD symptoms in women, and so many of them aligned with my struggles. When he first suggested I might have ADHD, I was super defensive. Now, I feel a huge sense of gratitude because it prompted me to finally get the help that was lacking for the first 32 years of my life.” — An ADDitude Reader
“My wife was fed up with me and requested I ask my therapist about an evaluation. She had several bosses with ADHD and recognized similarities in behavior between them and me. I don’t think we’d still be married if I didn’t get diagnosed and learn more about how to cope.” — An ADDitude Reader
“The pandemic normalized discussions around mental health in the workplace. When work colleagues opened up about their current struggles, I realized what I’d been experiencing my whole life wasn’t the norm. I encountered major burnout, but it prompted me to see a professional. I just got diagnosed — I’m a 36-year-old female. It has been life-changing.”— Jaimee, Australia
“My tipping point came after my divorce. I’d always been easily agitated, unfocused, and tired. Once it was just me, the problems became a lot more obvious. I befriended people online who happened to have adult ADHD. They would share relatable posts among themselves, and I recognized myself in those posts. I sought an ADHD diagnosis from a skeptical psychiatrist, who reluctantly started me on stimulant medication. My response to it was proof enough that I’d been misdiagnosed all these years.” — Alice, New York
“What really helped me see my ADHD was when I was fired from my job because I was not focused on work or performing well. I thought back to when I was growing up, and my teachers always called me out for being a daydreamer and unfocused. It all made sense. I am glad that I have a name for it now, and I am thankful for all the tools and supports available to help me.” — An ADDitude Reader
“After I retired, I didn’t want to join anything, be anywhere or take care of anything or anybody. I just planned to sew, but I couldn’t make myself do it. I started to feel really bad and eventually told my doctor how I felt. He suggested I had ADHD. I would never have thought of that! Here I was 83 and just being diagnosed with ADHD! I really wish I had known about this earlier. I’ve always felt that I wasn’t living up to my potential. Now I don’t need to feel guilty anymore.” — MN
“When I got my first ‘real’ job after college, it was impossible to keep up while also having a life. I felt behind at everything, and my symptoms, which were always there, worsened.” — Susana, Mexico
“I noticed my child was struggling with the same issues I had in school. He was so bright, but the struggles were affecting school. When he was diagnosed and I started implementing strategies, he flourished. It made me cry. I was so happy to be able to help him but wished someone had helped me when I was younger.” — Andi, Florida
“I was promoted at work, and the role required a lot more administrative work. I worked 10-hour days and would go to work on my days off, trying to stay afloat. I became more acutely aware of how little I was accomplishing. A friend who had been diagnosed as an adult with ADHD made me seek out a diagnosis.” — Alec, London
“I was intrigued by the cover artwork of the book Women with Attention Deficit Disorder by Sari Solden and decided since I bought it, I should read it. I was shocked to see things in my life described as ‘ADD symptoms.’ Until then, I thought only 8-year-old boys had ADHD. This happened in my 60s.” — An ADDitude Reader
“I got evaluated when my daughter (who was in 1st grade at the time) was diagnosed. When I asked, ‘Why didn’t it occur to me to seek help earlier?’ my psychiatrist said, “You developed coping mechanisms, which worked until now.” The system finally gave in when all my stresses (pregnancy, motherhood, my medical career, taking care of my house and family, etc.) came together.” — An ADDitude Reader
Adult ADHD Diagnosis: Next Steps
- Learn: ADHD Diagnosis and Testing — What to Expect
- Free Download: What a Thorough ADHD Diagnosis Includes
- Read: I Think I Have ADHD?
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View Article Sources
1Chung W, Jiang S, Paksarian D, et al.(2019). Trends in the Prevalence and Incidence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adults and Children of Different Racial and Ethnic Groups. JAMA Netw Open. 2019.14344
2 Ginsberg, Y., Quintero, J., Anand, E., Casillas, M., & Upadhyaya, H. P. (2014). Underdiagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in adult patients: a review of the literature. The primary care companion for CNS disorders,16(3), PCC.13r01600.//doi.org/10.4088/PCC.13r01600