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Last Updated on December 13, 2021

When discussing ADHD, many of us automatically think of the presentation in children. Maybe our mind goes to the child bouncing off the walls, unable to sit still in the classroom. There seems to be much less discussion and understanding about what ADHD might look like in adults. Though ADHD is common among adults, it is often misdiagnosed or missed entirely due to the overlap between its symptoms and other mental health conditions. In this article, we will take a look at the signs of adult ADHD, and how to distinguish the symptoms from that of other conditions. 

When discussing ADHD, many of us automatically think of the presentation in children. Maybe our mind goes to the child bouncing off the walls, unable to sit still in the classroom. There seems to be much less discussion and understanding about what ADHD might look like in adults. Though ADHD is common among adults, it is often misdiagnosed or missed entirely due to the overlap between its symptoms and other mental health conditions. In this article, we will take a look at the signs of adult ADHD, and how to distinguish the symptoms from that of other conditions. 

Signs of Adult ADHD

ADHD (Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) presents differently in adults than it does in children. While hyperactive behavior may signal the presence of ADHD in children, extreme hyperactivity tends to be less common in adults. Adults with ADHD are more likely to present with challenges around sustaining focus and concentration. They may find it difficult to manage their time and plan ahead in order to carry out necessary tasks and meet deadlines. A person with ADHD may set goals, but have challenges seeing a task through to completion. 

Other symptoms of adult ADHD may include forgetfulness, poor listening skills, impatience,  restlessness, and difficulty regulating emotions. ADHD can impact many areas of an individual’s life, including school or work performance, and relationships.

For more information about ADHD, visit BetterHelp.

The Misdiagnosis of ADHD

Many adults are unaware that what they are experiencing on a daily basis can be attributed to ADHD. Unfortunately, ADHD is commonly misdiagnosed or missed entirely. This may be due to a variety of factors, between lack of awareness of how ADHD might present in adults, and certain symptoms looking similar to those of other mental health conditions. 

Individuals with ADHD may exhibit lethargy, difficulty concentrating, and lack of motivation that present similarly to depression. There also may be noticable mood changes and symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, talkativeness, or sleep difficulties that overlap with those of a manic episode (seen in bipolar disorder). However, individuals with Bipolar Disorder tend to have more severe shifts in mood and energy levels that span several days or weeks. A distinct difference between ADHD and mood disorders is that mood symptoms tend to be less severe and pronounced in ADHD, and challenges with attention and concentration are consistently at the forefront. 

In up to 90% of adults with ADHD, they are also living with another mental disorder. It is common for conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and eating disorders to occur alongside ADHD. For this reason, symptoms may be attributed to these conditions and the presence of ADHD may be overlooked entirely. Individuals might also find ways for compensating for the challenges they face due to ADHD, as they may rely on others to assist them with organizational tasks or planning. They may also ‘self-medicate’ by using substances whether caffeine, alcohol, or other drugs. For these reasons, symptoms may remain under the radar.

Seeking Support
If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of ADHD that are interfering with your daily functioning, you might start by utilizing a self-screening tool. This can help you to clarify if what you are experiencing could be due to ADHD. From there, you can seek the support of a mental health professional who can assist you in exploring treatment options. There is treatment available that helps to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve quality of life for those who live with the condition.

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