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4 Minutes Read

What are the signs of adult ADHD?

The term ADHD often brings to mind the image of high energy children fidgeting or zooming around the classroom instead of listening and sitting still. In reality, ADHD (or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) is a much more complex condition, and its lesser known or more subtle symptoms can often go unnoticed.

When these signs are not recognized in children, they may not get help and guidance that could support them with learning and everyday activities. Too often, children (and those around them) start to blame themselves for their difficulties – labeling themselves as “lazy” for struggling to finish books or complete assignments on time, or “dramatic” for patterns of getting intensely involved with new hobbies before losing interest and discarding them just as quickly.

Today, more and more adults are questioning their challenges with attention and focus and wondering if they fall under the diagnosis of ADHD. Understanding ADHD’s symptoms is useful in determining whether it could be helpful to consult with a professional about your experience.

Possible signs of ADHD in adults

Because research suggests ADHD develops in early childhood, there’s a lot more data about what it looks like in children and teenagers as opposed to adults. It’s believed that by age 25 many people grow out of at least some of their previous ADHD symptoms, but some difficulties may remain bothersome.

Some ways ADHD could continue to manifest in adults include:

  • Frequently overlooking details
  • Difficulty prioritizing and staying organized
  • Struggling to finish tasks and projects before starting new ones
  • Forgetting information, losing or misplacing things
  • Restlessness and impatience
  • Interrupting or talking over others in conversations
  • Easily becomes stressed out or moody
  • Chasing adrenaline (eg: “daredevil” behavior)

Many adults with undiagnosed ADHD are dismissed as immature, because this condition interferes with staying on task at work, and also may prime people to spend more time trying to have fun and less time squarely on “adulting”. They can also come off as rude for completely forgetting about plans to meet up with a friend, or dominating a group conversation by not letting anyone else finish their sentences.

Inattentive ADHD

Adults who may have had a more “inattentive” type of ADHD (as opposed to a more “hyperactive” type) in childhood may be at particular risk of overlooking the possibility that they have ADHD. That’s because the hyperactive behaviors (which are often stereotypically associated with the behavioral gender norms of boys) often stick out more in elementary and middle school, when ADHD is typically diagnosed – and, therefore, it’s the popular image of ADHD in mainstream consciousness.

By contrast, the behaviors of the inattentive type of ADHD (which are often stereotypically associated with the behavioral gender norms of girls) can look more like quietly absorbed doodling in your notebook, completely missing the lesson your class is learning around you. Because these experiences are more likely to go unnoticed, they are also less understood.

Getting support

If you believe you have some of the signs of ADHD, getting a professional diagnosis can be the first step in connecting with treatment that fits your needs. I recommend seeking ADHD testing from a neuropsychologist to obtain a diagnosis, particularly if you have or may have other mental health or developmental conditions that have similar symptoms – including Bipolar Disorder, autism, or a history of chronic/complex trauma.

ADHD is often addressed with a combination of medication prescribed by a psychiatrist, and support from a therapist in building skills and making lifestyle changes. Some medications are designed to be taken every day, and others are made to be taken as needed. If you have a history of addiction or are otherwise worried about becoming dependent on medication, your psychiatrist may recommend one of the newer generation medications, which are less likely to be habit forming.

Identifying what particular challenges your ADHD causes with a therapist can help you tackle them with compensatory strategies – like beefing up your time management with calendars and reminder systems, decreasing your susceptibility to stress by finding ways to relax and improving taking care of your body, and practicing social skills that help improve your relationships.

Therapy can also help process feelings of shame or inadequacy that you may have been carrying for “failing” to have it all together just like other people, all the while not understanding that you were struggling with a condition with no help or support. Rebuilding your self-esteem can bring you a greater contentment and connection to your life.

While non-professional resources should always be taken with a grain of salt, there is some great content by people with ADHD online sharing how they have successfully managed their life experiences. A resource I recommend is Jessica McCabe’s YouTube channel How To ADHD, which contains a lot of perspective about what it can be like to live with ADHD and practical tools that may be of use.

Therapy can help

If you have been diagnosed with ADHD or are looking for support with some similar experiences regardless of diagnosis, connecting with therapy could be a meaningful part of your journey. Click the button below to schedule a free consultation. I'd love to chat with you more about what we could work on together to give you more mastery and satisfaction in your life.


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