ADHD Adult Symptoms, Challenges, And Treatments

Updated August 27, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC

ADHD is a mental health disorder that many people associate with children. However, the disorder doesn’t only affect children. Not only do children with ADHD grow up to be adults with ADHD, but it’s possible to be diagnosed with the disorder after your childhood years. Adult ADHD symptoms can have some similarity and some differences from what children experience. Understanding how to recognize the symptoms can help you get the treatment that can help you.

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What Is Adult ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This disorder is commonly diagnosed in childhood, but many people don’t realize that adults can be diagnosed with it as well. It could be that the diagnosis was missed in childhood or that symptoms didn’t begin to present until adulthood.

ADHD is a mental health disorder that affects brain development and causes people to struggle with attention. They may also struggle with compulsive behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention share that while there is no cure for ADHD, there are treatment options that are effective in helping children and adults to manage their symptoms.

ADHD is not a different disorder between adults and children. Some of the symptoms may look very similar regardless of the age. Some children may find that their symptoms lessen as they age. And, there are some struggles that adults experience that children don’t have to deal with based on their differences in life responsibility.

To determine if you think you might be struggling with adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, learning how to recognize adult ADHD symptoms and what the challenges look like can help.

Challenges Of ADHD In Adults

Struggles With Organization

For adults with ADHD, there can be two different extremes that they might deal with when it comes to organization. Some struggle to be organized at all. Your life may feel hectic, and it’s a challenge for you to keep track of things. This could be where you put your keys, what time you were supposed to pick your daughter up from school, or where you put that important file at work. Regardless of what it is, you struggle to have any type of organization in your life.

On the other side of the spectrum, some adults with ADHD are rigorously organized. This can happen as a result of overcompensating for disorganization. Or, it can happen as a result of being hyper-focused in a certain area. For example, if you become focused on creating a filing system at work, it may consume all your attention, causing you to neglect other tasks that needed to be done.

Problems Driving

As an adult with ADHD, you may struggle to stay focused while you’re driving. This can cause you to get lost if you don’t pay attention to where you’re going. It can also cause you to struggle with speeding, swerving in the lane, and possibly accidents.

Relationship Trouble

Some of the common symptoms of ADHD can present themselves in relationships. If you haven’t been diagnosed, these symptoms can come across looking like you don’t care about your relationship instead of simply being tied to a mental health challenge.

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For example, many adults with ADHD struggle with listening skills. They tend to be easily distracted, which can make it a challenge to stay focused on a conversation. This can come across as uncaring to a spouse or partner. Another example is losing focus. If you are hyper-focused on a certain project that you’re working on, you may lose track of time. This can cause you to miss a commitment that you made to your significant other.

Procrastination

Children with ADHD can struggle to start on projects that they know are going to take a lot of focus. The process can be overwhelming because of the challenges caused by the disorder. This is no different for adults. You may find yourself putting off doing things that you know need to be done if they’re things you don’t know how to easily do.

Difficulty Being On Time

Living with ADHD can make being on time for things a struggle. It may be that you forget where you’re supposed to go or when you’re supposed to be there. Or, you may get involved in another project and lose all track of time. Another reason this can be a struggle is because of disorganization. If you’re already running late and then can’t find your keys or cell phone or something else that you need, you may fall even more behind.

Misuse Of Substances

The Addiction Center shares that 25% of people that seek treatment for substance abuse are struggling with ADHD. There are a few different reasons why this can happen. The first is that sometimes stimulants are used to treat the symptoms of ADHD. Secondly, people struggling with the negative symptoms of ADHD may turn to substances like drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with it.

Adult ADHD Symptoms

Other than the challenges described above, adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may show the following symptoms:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Easily frustrated
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Chronic boredom
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood swings

Treatments For ADHD

ADHD has several different forms of treatment that can help alleviate symptoms. And, there are also things that you can try at home to help.

Medication

You should consult with your primary care provider or psychiatrist to discuss potential medication options. It’s important to note that if you’ve been on medication since childhood, you may need to have adjustments made as you age.

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Therapy

There are many ways that therapy can be helpful for you as an adult with ADHD. Even if medication alone worked for you as a child, as you gain new responsibilities as an adult, you may find that you could use additional help.

A therapist can help you learn effective strategies to help deal with the challenges that you’re facing. This could include helping you with time management, social skills, behavioral skills, and also dealing with difficult feelings you may be dealing with caused by your symptoms.

Tips That Can Help

While these are not replacements for getting professional help for your ADHD challenges, these tips may help you with some of the challenges that you might be struggling with:

Stop Multitasking – It’s actually been found that multitasking is not the most productive way to work. You actually use more energy by trying to do more than one thing at a time and often are unable to do any of the tasks as well as if you were only focusing on one thing at a time. It’s also been found that those with ADHD tend to need to use more energy just to stay focused through their normal tasks for the day. When you add in trying to do more than one thing at once, you can end up exhausted at the end of the day.

Use A Pomodoro Type Timer – The Pomodoro technique involves spending a set amount of time focusing on only one task with no distractions and then allowing yourself a short break before starting the timer again. This can be an effective strategy to help you stay focused while working on a project.

Use A Planner – If you struggle to be placed on time or remember what you need to be doing, keep a planner, and use it daily. This could be a paper planner or an app. Find what works the best for you and make sure that everything you need to remember goes on the planner.

Work Away From Distractions – If you find that you’re easily distracted while working, see what you can do to eliminate distractions. If you have an office, shut the door so you won’t be distracted by other conversations. Or, you can use noise-canceling headphones to block out disruptive sounds.

Be Realistic With Expectations – It can be easy to overcommit yourself because there are a lot of things that you might be interested in. However, this can make it even harder to keep up with your schedule. Being realistic with your schedule can help you to avoid doing this.

Develop Systems – When it’s hard to stay focused, it can be helpful to have systems in your life. You can create systems for checking the mail, paying bills, meal planning, and grocery shopping. Once you learn your system, it takes less effort to stay focused on getting done the tasks you need to.

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Getting Help

When you have ADHD, it’s also possible to struggle with mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. This is another reason why it can be helpful to work with a therapist. In-person or online therapists like those at BetterHelp can help you to identify challenges that you’re struggling with and coping strategies that can help.

ADHD in adults can cause daily struggles, just like it can for children. But with the many options for treatment and tips to help, you can overcome those struggles.


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