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Can adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

Dr. Diana K. Blythe, MD
Pediatrician

Grown-ups can have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but they have more ability to control their environment. If hyperactivity is the problem, adults can avoid desk jobs. If inattentiveness is the concern, adults can take fast paced jobs and avoid boredom. Children do not have the same choices with school and chores, so their symptoms seem more apparent. Adults who think they have ADHD should talk to their physician about possible treatments because treatments do exist.

Dr. Heather Wittenberg, PhD
Psychology Specialist

ADHD is a neurological condition that is often not diagnosed until adulthood, although symptoms do begin in childhood. ADHD is thought to be inherited, in many cases. I've diagnosed many children with ADHD, and in my discussions with the parents, one or the other often says, "Hey, I wonder if ADHD explains my problems, too."

After a lifetime of struggling with an undiagnosed problem, it can be a relief for an adult to finally have a name for those difficulties. What was previously thought only to be "learning problems" or "not being able to handle a desk job" can now be understood more fully. It also allows for treatment to take place, which can be very effective for both children and adults.

Many adults have ADHD and don't know they have it. Like ADHD in children and teens, ADHD in adults can make life challenging. ADHD can make it hard for adults to feel organized, stick with a job, or get to work on time. Adults with ADHD may have trouble in relationships. The disorder can also make adults feel restless.

ADHD in adults can be diagnosed and treated. For some adults, finding out they have ADHD can be a big relief. Being able to connect ADHD to longtime problems helps adults understand that they can get better. If you're an adult and think you may have ADHD symptoms, call your doctor.

This information is based on source information from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Absolutely. ADHD is not just a problem for kids and teens. In fact, only about a third of young people outgrow ADHD by adulthood. And those with co-morbidities such as anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, or conduct disorder are less likely to outgrow it and continue experiencing symptoms for life. But just like for kids and teens, you can control this and do great things, so talk to your doc.

Dr. Iris M. Rodriguez-Ocasio, MD
Pediatrician

Yes adults can have ADHD. There are many studies out there to prove this fact. Some adults are on medication for it.

Dr. Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Practitioner

Many adults have symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, adults are less likely than children to have a significant amount of trouble with ADHD. About 5 to 8 percent of children and adolescents struggle with ADHD, while only 4 percent of adults are diagnosed with ADHD. Thus, about 40 percent of children and adolescents with ADHD may outgrow the disorder by adulthood or they learn how to manage and compensate for their symptoms by the time they are adults.

For adults, ADHD symptoms can range from mild to extreme in severity. ADHD in adulthood may cause problems with daily tasks, jobs, friendships, and family members. Symptoms of ADHD in adulthood may present as poor job performance, frequent job changes, being disorganized, having trouble paying bills, feeling stressed out, and being irresponsible. Fortunately, treatment, which is available for adults and children, can often enable adults to live fairly normal and productive lives.

Dr. Lara Honos-Webb, PhD
Psychology Specialist

About 4 percent of adults are diagnosed and treated for Adult ADD. These adults struggle with difficulty concentrating, feeling driven by a motor and impulsiveness. Adults with ADD have much more freedom to structure their lives so they can function at much higher levels that kids who must go to a highly structured classroom.

In school, you are taught to believe that you must be good at every subject. In the real world as an adult, YOU HAVE TO BE REALLY GOOD AT SOMETHING, in order to function at a high level and be successful.

Adults have the power to build on their strengths rather than patch up weaknesses.

Global changes may create a world that is a good match for the symptoms of ADD. The buzzwords of today are inventiveness, adaptability, and creativity, some of the very gifts of ADD.

This is good news for the ADD child now an adult. The defiance of an ADD child can transform into self-reliance as an adult, leading to both new ways of looking at the world and new solutions to old problems. An ADD child's hyperactivity can translate into the high energy required to keep up with a constant influx of information and ever-changing technologies. Even the low tolerance for boredom that go the ADD child in trouble in school can be useful as an adult—a perpetual quest for excitement can keep an adult on the leading edge of the ever-changing digital world.

The deficits of ADD are real can lead to higher rates of divorce, job changes and drug and alcohol use. While it's important not to glamorize the gifts of ADD, an extreme focus on the problems of ADD can also take its toll. Fortunately adults with ADD have more choices in their ability to focus on their gifts or weaknesses.

Dr. Mary Solanto, MD
Psychology Specialist

Studies that follow children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) into their mid-twenties or older show that ADHD is present in adults. In fact, research shows that the disorder continues into adulthood in at least half of children with ADHD. Adults with ADHD have the same problems that children experience, including difficulty focusing and maintaining attention, and difficulty with executive functions such as time-management, organization, and planning. Some also continue to have problems with impulse control such as verbal impulsivity, anger management, behavioral self-control, mood regulation, or feelings of restlessness. Fortunately, the same medications that help children with ADHD continue to work for adults with the condition. In addition, cognitive-behavioral treatments that focus on executive functions have been developed specifically for adults with ADHD.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.