These days, a lot of people think they have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They misplace their car keys, forget a doctor appointment, or have a frenzied week at work and feel unable to focus. These kinds of mishaps happen to everyone from time to time. But for adults with ADHD, they happen all the time, making daily life a struggle if left untreated.
According to the American Psychological Association, ADHD is a behavioral condition that makes focusing on everyday requests and routines challenging. (ADD is a type of ADHD with little or no hyperactivity.) Typical ADHD symptoms include having trouble getting organized, staying focused, making realistic plans and thinking before acting. Adults with ADHD may be fidgety, noisy and unable to adapt to changing situations. These ADHD symptoms, which have a biological basis, affect every aspect of the adult's life: work, school, relationships, personal finances, sex and raising children.
One telltale sign that it's ADHD is it begins in childhood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9.5% of children 4 to 17 years old have been diagnosed with this attention disorder. While some kids appear to outgrow it, not all do. In a 2006 study, researchers found that about 4.4% of adults suffer from ADHD, as reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Adults with ADHD are more likely to:
- Lose their jobs
- Have interpersonal difficulties with coworkers and managers
- Experience relationship difficulties and breakups
- Struggle with substance abuse, if they're not treating their condition
If you think you might have ADHD or ADD, answer the below questions. Do you often do the following?
- Find it difficult to concentrate?
- Hyperfocus on things you want to do and don't notice the passage of time?
- Have difficulty getting organized?
- Miss appointments, deadlines, or other obligations?
- Make lots of careless mistakes?
- Procrastinate when given a task?
- Bounce from project to project, unable to complete most of them?
- Have racing thoughts?
- Become easily bored and lose track in conversations?
- Make impulsive decisions (e.g., spend money, change plans, or become sexually involved with someone?
- Blurt inappropriate things and sometimes get in trouble for it?
- Find it difficult to sit still?
- Have low self-esteem as a result of past failures?
- Consider yourself an underachiever in school?
If you answered yes to at least 10 of these questions, you may have ADHD.
Diagnosing adult ADHD is a difficult science because it overlaps with other mental health disorders, which makes diagnosis tricky. Also, much of the diagnostic research to date has been done on children, and the diagnostic features that doctors use for children often take different form in adults. The only way to know for sure if you have adult ADHD is to work closely with your doctor on assessing your symptoms and medical history.