16 Symptoms Of ADHD In Adults

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated June 29, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Tonia Cassaday , LISW

Can you have ADHD if you’re an adult? The short answer is, yes. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 4.4% of U.S. adults currently have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And that doesn’t include people who have it but haven’t gotten the diagnosis yet! So, what do you do if you think you might have this, ADHD? The first step is to learn the symptoms.

Symptoms Of ADHD In Adults

Recognizing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is essential to getting treatment and support. If you can’t identify the problem, you don’t know you can benefit from getting help in the first place. And, you could struggle with the same attention deficit problems for the rest of your life. Adults with ADHD may have several or all the following symptoms.

1.      You Tend To Be Disorganized

A part of the attention deficit part of ADHD is an inability to stay well-organized. You might lose things often because you haven’t put them away systematically. Your workspace might be filled with piles of unrelated folders, or you might have trouble organizing folders on your computer. If you have an attention deficit, you might be unlikely to make lists of things you need to do, and so it’s easy for you to forget something important.

2.      It’s Hard For You To Prioritize

You also might have an attention deficit problem with prioritizing tasks. It can be hard to see what’s most important. Instead, you might feel overwhelmed when you have many different tasks you could do. This can cause you to give up on doing anything or feel extreme stress as you try to do everything at once.

3.      You Don’t Manage Your Time Well

Time management can be hard when you’re an adult with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It might be tough for you to gauge how long a task is going to take. And, you might spend all day running from task to task without accomplishing much.

4.      You Have Little Ability To Focus On Tasks

When attention deficit is a problem, it’s hard to focus on what you’re doing. You might have trouble keeping up with conversations at work or in social situations. Or, you might not be able to stay “tuned in” to the task at hand.

5.      But You Might Get Overly Focused On Some Tasks

While lack of focus might be your usual problem, ADHD in adults can result in finding yourself so intensely focused on some tasks that you lose all sense of time. Even if something urgently demands your attention, you might not notice it or pull yourself away from that one task. Often, the things you get hyper-focused on are things you don’t really need to do, like watching a TV show or playing a video game.

6.      Multitasking Is Hard For You

Doing more than one thing at a time may seem next to impossible because of your attention deficit problem. This is important because there might be many times in your work or home life when you do need to do two things seamlessly without stopping to change course.

7.      You Have Trouble Planning Your Work Or Other Tasks

Planning your work may feel next to impossible if you have an attention deficit. Creating a schedule may seem so difficult that you just let things happen as they come up. Instead of deciding what to do and in what order to do it, you might give up even thinking about planning anything. This can not only be problematic at work, but you might have trouble planning social events with your friends and family.

8.      You Often Miss Deadlines

Missing deadlines can be familiar if you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. When staying focused and planning your work seems so overwhelming, it’s easy to find yourself procrastinating.

9.      Completing Tasks And Following Through Is Not Your Strong Suit

Even when you do work on a task, you might have trouble following it through to completion. You might start one task, get distracted or frustrated with it, and quickly move on to another. It’s not that you aren’t staying busy or working hard. It’s just that your distractibility keeps you from staying with the task until you finish it.

10.  You’re Easily Distracted

Your attention deficit might cause you to become distracted easily and often. Distractions can come from your environment, the people around you, or even random thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere. You might stop what you’re doing as you switch your attention from one distraction to another.

11.  You Tend To be Restless Or Excessively Active

As a part of this disorder, ADHD sometimes shows up in feelings of restlessness. And, you might always be doing something, even if it isn’t productive in any way, such as tapping a pencil or drumming your fingers.

12.  You Get Frustrated Easily

Perhaps the reason people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder feel frustrated so often is that their symptoms make so many tasks harder to accomplish. Whatever the reason, you might frequently become frustrated when you’re faced with even the most minor setbacks.

13.  You Often Behave Impulsively

If you’re one of the many adults with ADHD, you might have noticed that you do things without thinking about them. Often, these are reckless behaviors, like driving too fast, spending too much money, or having sex with strangers. It can also show up in social situations. You might interrupt others while they’re trying to talk or have trouble waiting for your turn in line.

14.  You Have Mood Swings

You may experience mood swings related to your disorder. ADHD in adults can cause your mood to go quickly from sad and tired to excited and energetic.

15.  It’s Hard For You To Cope With Stress

Both attention deficit and hyperactivity can bring many sources of stress. But if you have this disorder – ADHD – you might also have trouble handling that stress. You might feel like you’re under tremendous emotional and psychological pressure to do things you don’t feel equipped to do. The stress can lead to many other problems, from negative thought patterns to physical issues like problems with sleeping.

16.  You Might Have An Unusually Hot Temper

Many people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have extremely hot tempers. They might lash out in anger when they can’t accomplish something important to them. Or, they might become angry with their spouse very quickly whenever they have a slight disagreement.

Why Does It Matter?

So, what if you do have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Why does the disorder ADHD even matter? You might tell yourself, “I’ve gotten in this way for years, so why is it important to do something about it now?” The idea of upsetting the applecart may feel unnecessary or even frightening. And that’s a natural reaction when someone presents you with a new take on an ongoing problem.

But consider this: in this disorder, ADHD symptoms alone can make your life miserable. When adults with ADHD continue to struggle, it can damage their self-esteem, because they can’t find a way to achieve what others seem to do easily. Your relationships may dwindle, especially when those close to you don’t understand why you do things the way you do or don’t do the things they think everyone should. And until they know why, it’s hard for them to offer you the kind of support that would make your life easier.

Also, there are several ways the disorder ADHD can interfere with your life and success that go beyond the frustration of having the symptoms.

In a 2011 study, researchers found that in their group of adult participants with ADHD:

  • Only 22.7% did ordinary work as a source of employment, while 72% of the general population did.
  • 8% had lifetime depression.
  • 1% had substance abuse problems.
  • 3% had alcohol abuse problems.

Also, this study concluded that adults with the disorder ADHD had lower educational and employment outcomes. And, the later they received medication treatment, the lower their level of employment. So, getting a diagnosis and treatment might improve many facets of your life substantially.

Doesn’t Everyone Have These Symptoms?

As you read through the symptoms, you might have noticed that most people experience many of the same things at some time in their lives. Yet, not everyone has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. So, how do you know if the symptoms of ADHD are something to be concerned about? First, think about how often you have these symptoms. Even more important, consider how these symptoms are disrupting your life, damaging your relationships, or stopping you from achieving your goals.

If you determine that you might have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and it’s hindering your ability to live a fulfilling life, it might be time to talk to a mental health professional. They can assess the frequency and severity of your symptoms to determine if a diagnosis of ADHD is appropriate.

How Can Treatment Help With Adult ADHD?

Once you find out that you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, treatment can be beneficial in many ways. It can help you cope with the symptoms, learn how to get things done, and build a better life for yourself. Treatment for ADHD usually involves several components.

Medications: Stimulant medications are often the first recommended treatment for ADHD. If those medications don’t work for you, your doctor might suggest trying non-stimulant drugs designed for ADHD or antidepressants. The medications can help with many of the symptoms of attention-deficit, as well as hyperactivity.

Skill-Building: Another option that many adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder find helpful is having an ADHD coach or counselor who can help you build practical skills, like planning, goal setting, time management, and organizing. And, because they’re experienced in helping people with ADHD, they are familiar with techniques that are specifically designed to help adults with attention deficit and hyperactivity issues.

Psychotherapy: Talk therapy can help you in several ways, too. With cognitive behavioral therapy, you can learn to change your thoughts and behaviors in ways that help you meet the challenges of work, relationships, and social situations. Relationship therapy can help you, and your loved ones communicate more effectively and help your family members understand what you’re going through.

Maybe you’re wondering if ADHD therapy can help you feel more in control and accomplish more. If so, talking to a counselor might put you on the right track. In your community, you can find support services for ADHD as well as local counselors. Online therapy through BetterHelp can be beneficial, too, and it’s a convenient, affordable way to get private counseling from wherever you are. By taking charge of your ADHD, you can learn how to function better at work, build better relationships, cope with stress more effectively, and work productively towards achieving your highest goals.

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