ADHD is a disorder affecting behavior and concentration. Symptoms of ADHD appear before age seven, and it is most often diagnosed in childhood. In some individuals, ADHD symptoms resolve by late adolescence or adulthood. Other people continue to experience the effects of ADHD symptoms throughout their lives.
ADHD symptoms can include behaviors that fall into the following three categories:
In order to receive an ADHD diagnosis, several of these behaviors must appear before age seven and persist for longer than six months. In addition, the symptoms must disrupt everyday routines. ADHD always presents in childhood; however, some individuals may not be diagnosed as children, and will only discover in adulthood that they have had ADHD their whole lives.
Questions to Ask Yourself
If you never received an ADHD diagnosis in childhood, but feel that you may suffer from ADHD symptoms, ask yourself:
- Are you disorganized?
- Are you easily distracted by background noise or visual stimuli?
- Do you become impatient easily when waiting?
- Do you frequently fidget physically (e.g. tapping your foot or pencil)?
- Do you have difficulty focusing at work, or make careless mistakes?
- Do you have family members with ADHD?
- Do you have trouble maintaining attention in meetings or presentations?
- Do you interrupt others in conversation?
If you answer yes to many of these questions, and particularly if these symptoms were also present when you were a child, you may wish to bring up the subject of ADHD with your doctor.
Effects of Adult ADHD
Just as ADHD in children can affect academic performance and social situations, ADHD in adults can lead to difficulty at work, as well as in personal relationships. An adult with ADHD may feel frustrated that he can’t concentrate on important tasks, or if he makes careless mistakes. He may take on more than he can handle, without a full understanding of how long a project will take to complete. Spouses or family members may have trouble understanding an adult with ADHD. Communication may be impaired when she cannot maintain attention, and relations may be strained if she forgets to run important errands or pay bills.
Adults who do not know they have ADHD may blame their symptoms on stress, lack of sleep or even lack of intelligence. Some adults with ADHD have compensated with their choice of career, or with organizational help from a spouse or partner. However, an adult ADHD diagnosis, no matter how late, can open the door to appropriate treatment of symptoms and management of the disorder.
ADHD Support. (2009). ADHD: Not just a child’s disorder. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://www.adhdsupport.com/adhd-in-adults.aspx.
Matlen, T. (2005). ADHD: Not just for kids anymore. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://www.add.org/mc/page.do?sitePageId=97174.
Mayo Clinic. (2009.). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/adhd/DS00275/.