ADHD symptoms can hit adults but often be mistaken for something else. It can wreak havoc on a career and personal life. In addition, people who were never diagnosed as kids may still develop symptoms in adulthood. Many adults don’t realize they have ADHD, leaving them mystified about why their goals seem to slip out of reach.
ADHD: Running Late
ADHD in adults follows a slightly different pattern than in children. Adults may be chronically late for work or important events. Adults may realize that their tardiness is undermining their goals, but they just can’t seem to be on time.
ADHD: Risky Driving
One of the hallmarks of ADHD is difficulty keeping your mind on the task at hand. That spells trouble for teens and adults when they’re behind the wheel of a vehicle. Studies show that people with ADHD are more likely to speed, have accidents, and lose their drivers’ licenses.
Adults may have trouble prioritizing, starting, and finishing tasks. They tend to be disorganized, restless, and easily distracted. Some people with this disease have trouble concentrating while reading. The inability to stay focused and follow through on tasks can derail careers, ambitions, and relationships.
Adults may have problems with self-control. This can lead to:
- Difficulty controlling anger
- Impulsive behaviors
- Blurting out rude or insulting thoughts at any time
Some adults with ADHD can focus intently on things they enjoy or find interesting, the ability to hyperfocus. But they struggle to pay attention to tasks that bore them. The trouble is that many tasks necessary for success in everyday life are dull, from making a grocery list to filing documents at work. Afflicted people tend to put off boring tasks in favor of more enjoyable activities.
ADHD or Multitasking?
It may seem like everyone has ADHD these days, as we respond to text messages, email, calls, and fast-paced work environments. While all of this can be distracting, most people manage to focus on important responsibilities. In people with this disease, distractions interfere with the completion of vital tasks at home and at work.
If you are often restless and have trouble concentrating, don’t jump to the conclusion that you have ADHD. These symptoms are also common in other conditions. Poor concentration is a classic sign of depression. Restlessness or anxiety could indicate an overactive thyroid or anxiety disorder. Your doctor will investigate whether these conditions could be causing your symptoms.
In people with ADHD, brain chemicals called neurotransmitters are less active in areas of the brain that control attention. Researchers don’t know exactly what causes this chemical imbalance, but they think genes may play a role, because the disease often runs in families. Studies have also linked it to prenatal exposure to cigarettes and alcohol.
Testing for ADHD
During an evaluation for ADHD, some mental health professionals use neuropsychological tests. These can include timed, computer-based tests that measure attention and problem-solving skills. Neuropsychological testing is not needed to make a diagnosis, but it can shed light on how it affects a person’s daily life. It can also uncover coexisting conditions, such as learning disabilities.
Adults with ADHD struggle with depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder. They’re also more likely to smoke or abuse drugs.
The most common medicines for ADHD are stimulants. It may seem ironic that people who are restless or hyperactive get help from stimulants. These drugs may sharpen concentration and curb distractibility by fine-tuning brain circuits that affect attention. If stimulants don’t help enough, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant to stabilize mood or a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, such as atomoxetine, which can help control impulsive behaviors.
Counseling for ADHD
Most adults with ADHD improve when they start medication, but they may continue to struggle with poor habits and low self-esteem. Counseling focuses on getting organized, setting helpful routines, repairing relationships, and improving social skills. There is evidence that cognitive-behavioral therapy is particularly helpful in managing problems of daily life.
ADHD on the Job
Holding down a job can be tough. They often have trouble breaking down tasks and following directions, staying organized, and making deadlines. They’re also prone to tardiness and careless mistakes. In one national survey, only half of adults with ADHD were employed full time, compared to 72% of adults without the disorder.
ADHD: Diet Tips for Adults
Some experts believe foods that provide quality brain fuel could reduce symptoms of ADHD. High-protein foods, including nuts, meat, beans, and eggs, may improve concentration. Replacing simple carbs with complex carbs, like whole-grain pasta or brown rice, can help ward off mood swings.
Outlook for Adults
Adults with ADHD don’t outgrow the condition, but many learn to manage it successfully. Long-term treatment can reduce problems at home and at work, bringing patients closer to their families and their professional goals.