Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects about 5 percent of children and about half of them will carry those symptoms into adulthood, says the American Psychiatric Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates numbers are even higher in smaller community samples. On top of that, many adults have ADHD but have never been diagnosed.
Untreated ADHD can cause numerous mental and physical problems that can put a strain on relationships and cause difficulties in many aspects of everyday life. It’s important to recognize the signs of adult ADHD so you can get proper treatment. Keep reading to learn about the symptoms.
Possibly the most telltale sign of ADHD, “lack of focus” goes beyond difficulty paying attention. It means being easily distracted, finding it hard to listen to others in a conversation, overlooking details, and not completing tasks or projects. The flip side to that is hyperfocus.
While people with ADHD are often easily distractible, the flip side of the coin is called hyperfocus. A person with ADHD can be so engrossed in something that they can ignore anything else around them. This kind of focus makes it easier to lose track of time, ignore those around you, and cause relationship misunderstandings.
Life can seem chaotic for everyone at times. But someone with ADHD experiences a more hectic life on a regular basis. This can make it difficult to keep everything in its right place. A person with ADHD may struggle with these organizational skills:
- time management
- keeping track of tasks
- prioritizing in a logical manner
It’s human to forget things occasionally. But for someone with ADHD, forgetfulness is an everyday part of life. This includes routinely forgetting where you’ve put something or important dates. Some can be menial. Others can be serious. The bottom line is that forgetfulness can be damaging to careers and relationships because it can be confused with carelessness or lack of intelligence.
Impulsiveness in someone with ADHD can manifest in several ways:
- interrupting others during conversation
- being socially inappropriate
- rushing through tasks
- acting without much consideration to the consequences
A person’s shopping habits are often a good indication of ADHD. Impulse buying, especially on items they can’t afford, is a common symptom of adult ADHD.
Life with ADHD can seem chaotic, as though your emotions are on a constantly up-and-down journey. You can easily become bored and go looking for excitement on a whim. Small frustrations can seem intolerable or bring on depression and mood swings.
Untreated emotional problems can have a polarizing effect, which can add complications to personal and professional relationships.
Adults with ADHD are often hypercritical of themselves. This can lead to a poor self-image. This is due in part to their inability to concentrate and other symptoms that may cause problems in school, work, or relationships. They may view these difficulties as personal failures or underachievement, which can cause them to see themselves in a negative light.
While you might be open to doing everything at once, you also may feel unmotivated. This is a problem commonly seen in children with ADHD who often can’t focus on schoolwork. It can also happen with adults. Coupled with procrastination and poor organizational skills, it may be difficult for an adult with ADHD to finish a project because they can’t focus for long periods of time.
As an adult with ADHD, you may feel like your motor can’t shut off. Your yearning to keep moving and doing things can lead to frustration when you can’t do something immediately. This leads to restlessness, which can lead to frustrations and anxiety. Anxiety is a very common symptom of adult ADHD, as the mind tends to replay worrisome events repeatedly.
Impulsivity, lack of motivation, emotional problems, and disorganization can lead a person with ADHD to neglect their health. This can be seen through compulsive poor eating, neglecting exercise, or forgoing important medication. Anxiety and stress negatively affect health, so without good habits, the negative effects of ADHD can make other symptoms worse.
An adult with ADHD often has trouble in relationships, whether they are professional, romantic, or platonic. The traits of talking over people in conversation, inattentiveness, and easily being bored can be draining on relationships as a person can come across as insensitive, irresponsible, or uncaring.
Other common traits among adults with ADHD include:
- changing employers often
- few personal or work-related achievements
- higher use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs
- repeated patterns of relationship issues, including divorce
Adults with ADHD can find solutions to overcome the difficulties of their condition. Getting organized, sticking with plans, and finishing what you started can begin with cognitive behavioral therapy or by meeting with a professional organizer.