ADHD AND ADULTHOOD
ADHD – it’s not just for kids
The understanding of ADHD into adulthood has evolved
What is ADHD?
ADHD is one of the most common psychiatric conditions
ADHD is commonly defined as a childhood-onset neurodevelopmental condition characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. It often carries on into adulthood.
65% of diagnosed children continue to have ADHD as adults.
There are three commonly diagnosed types of ADHD:
Difficulty paying attention, forgetful, or easily distracted
Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type:
Fidgety, talkative, impatient behavior
Combined (inattentive/hyperactive-impulsive ADHD):
Shows symptoms of both
A family history of ADHD increases your risk
The exact cause of ADHD is still unknown. While environmental factors such as low birth weight, delivery complications, and exposure to toxins have been identified as potential causes, the biggest factor is genetic.
You have an estimated 75-90% chance of having ADHD if a member of your family has it
ADHD INTO ADULTHOOD
ADHD is a 24/7 disorder that often sticks around into adulthood
Can you outgrow ADHD?
It is widely accepted that ADHD is more common than previously thought; up to 65% of patients with childhood ADHD continue to have difficulties in adulthood.
Did you know ADHD is now recognized as one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses in adults with a prevalence of approximately 5% in the US?
That’s about 10 million diagnosed adults
ADHD symptoms often look different in adults than children
While symptoms of ADHD are the same throughout your life, they look different in adulthood. Many adults with ADHD are less likely to exhibit obvious hyperactive/impulsive symptoms. It is often more inattentive symptoms instead, especially in adult females.
DIAGNOSING ADULT ADHD
Many adults with ADHD remain undiagnosed
Just because you weren’t diagnosed as a kid, doesn’t mean you don’t have ADHD
Sometimes ADHD symptoms are overlooked in childhood, leading to a missed diagnosis. Knowing what symptoms to look for as an adult is key. Do any of the following sound familiar to you?
ADHD symptoms of inattention in adults
- Careless mistakes: Do you have difficulty with detail, overlooking or missing mistakes at work? Or do you often get lost in the details?
- Focus: Do you find it hard to focus during work, in conversations, or while reading something lengthy?
- Poor listener: Are you often perceived as someone who doesn’t pay attention in conversations, even without any obvious distractions?
- Following direction: Do you find that you fail to complete tasks at work or at home? Or do you tend to start a task and become easily side-tracked?
- Staying organized: Do you struggle to stay organized at work or at home? Is time management or missing deadlines an issue for you?
- Sustained interest: Do you struggle with tasks that require continued mental effort like completing forms or reviewing lengthy documents? Do you sometimes avoid those tasks? Or find that you will hyper focus on the wrong tasks?
- Misplacing items: Do you often forget or misplace items of importance like your phone, wallet, or keys?
- Easily distracted: Does your mind wander or drift to unrelated thoughts? Do you often find you have multiple thoughts at once or jump from thought to thought spontaneously?
- Forgetful: Do you often forget to get back to people, or miss a bill or appointment?
ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity
- Fidgety: Are you often tapping your hands or feet or find yourself unable to sit still?
- Staying seated: Do you often find yourself wandering around when you should be at your desk, in a meeting, or seated at a social event?
- Restlessness: Are excessive movement or feelings of restlessness an issue in your day to day? Is it hard to relax or do you struggle with sleep?
- Being quiet: Is it hard for you to quietly engage in leisure activities?
- Staying still: Are you often impulsively “on the go,” finding it uncomfortable to be still for an extended period of time at work or in a social setting like a movie? Have you ever been described as hard to keep up with?
- Talkative: Do you find yourself talking excessively or too loudly at times?
- Interrupting: Do you sometimes blurt out an answer before a question is even completed, or find yourself finishing people’s sentences?
- Waiting your turn: Do you struggle with waiting in line or waiting for your turn at something?
- Intruding on others: Do you ever interrupt conversations or find yourself taking over what others are doing without asking? Do you do these things impulsively?
Combined (inattentive/hyperactive-impulsive ADHD)
Do you show symptoms of both inattentive ADHD and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD?
ADHD IN MEN VS WOMEN
ADHD can impact men and women differently
ADHD looks different in men than in women
The severity of hyperactive-impulsive symptoms tends be lower in women than in men. ADHD in men often looks more like the childhood symptoms of fidgeting, restlessness, or risk taking. Women, however, will more often show signs of inattention, which can be harder to spot.
Many girls and women remain undiagnosed, and as a result, are undertreated
Even in adulthood, women are more likely to be underdiagnosed because their ADHD symptoms can be overlooked and chalked up to just being disorganized, distracted, overwhelmed, or lacking motivation. Women with ADHD are more likely to report depressive symptoms, anxiety, stress, and lower self-esteem which have similar symptoms to ADHD.
How much do you know about ADHD in women?
- Common coexisting disorders can delay or confuse a diagnosis: Mood disorders, tics or involuntary actions, anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders are often accompanied by ADHD
- Sleep issues: Not only are sleep disturbances common in ADHD, but they can be a sign of ADHD
- Masking or overcompensating for symptoms is more common in women: For example, a busy mother ignoring her own symptoms in favor of caring for others
Self-reflection can help you see your ADHD more clearly
Talk to your friends and family about your symptoms for a more productive conversation with your doctor. In addition to your report of your symptoms, when possible, doctors will speak with people who know you well in helping assess your symptoms and reach an ADHD diagnosis.
IMPACT OF UNTREATED ADHD
ADHD can have a significant impact on your life
When adult ADHD goes unchecked, there can be serious consequences
ADHD impacts executive function – this includes control over your working memory, your ability to self-monitor, self-control, and to manage your time.
Adult ADHD often includes a wider spectrum of emotional dysregulation and functional impairment
Emotional dysregulation is a term used to describe an inability to regulate emotions and the responses to those emotions. It’s estimated to be found in 34-70% of adults with ADHD.
Emotional dysregulation can involve mood swings or severe depression and lead to high-risk behaviors or impulsivity.
Functional impairment is a term used to describe having a hard time performing everyday activities or difficulty working or keeping a job because of symptoms.
ADHD treatment can help improve these symptoms.
Untreated ADHD can lead to:
Work and finance issues
- Frequent job changes/loss of employment
- Productivity issues
- Lower income
- Less motivation to engage and follow up on important tasks
Relationship and social life strain
- Symptoms can interfere with finding and maintaining social relationships
- Marital problems
- Increased risky behavior
Mental health and well-being struggles
- Low self-esteem, which can delay personal growth
- Increased anti-social acts
- Avoiding seeking help due to the social stigma of ADHD
- More substance abuse, suicide risk, and psychological and mood disturbances
- ADHD is a 24/7 disorder that often sticks around into adulthood
- Many adults with ADHD remain undiagnosed
- When adult ADHD goes unchecked, there can be serious consequences