You routinely forget appointments and miss deadlines, you can’t
stand to wait in line, and other people complain that your mind always seems to
be going in a dozen directions at once. Are you just a little scattered and
impatient? Or could the problem be adult ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) begins in
childhood, causing trouble paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior,
and/or hyperactivity. Although it’s often outgrown, the disorder persists into
adulthood in as many as 60 percent of cases, according to the National Resource Center on ADHD.
Many with adult ADHD don’t know that they have a disorder.
They simply know that they find it extra-challenging to get out of the house in
the morning, make it to meetings on time, check off items on a to-do list, sit
through a long movie, or cope with many other demands of daily life.
You may be thinking that this description could apply to
you—and almost anyone else—at one time or another. But ADHD is only diagnosed
when there are multiple, long-lasting symptoms that are severe enough to cause
serious problems at home, work, or school. One study found that people with
ADHD do about three
weeks less work per year, on average, than those without the disorder. Some
of that is due to more sick days, but most is due to decreased productivity on
standard diagnostic manual for mental health professionals, divides the
symptoms of ADHD into three main categories:
You may find it difficult to tune out distractions, stay focused, get
organized, and follow through on instructions. Or you may be chronically
forgetful, lose things you need, and make careless mistakes.
You may be prone to fidgeting, squirming in your seat, and talking a blue streak.
Or you may frequently feel restless.
You may have trouble waiting in line and sitting in traffic. Or you may butt
into conversations and blurt out answers prematurely. In some cases, problems
with impulse control lead to angry outbursts.
Such symptoms tend to be more clear-cut in children. In
adults, they may be vaguer and more varied. Often, it’s the consequences that get
noticed instead: lost jobs, unstable relationships, traffic accidents,
impulsive spending sprees. Because the symptoms of ADHD resemble those of
several other disorders, it’s important to see a health professional for an
It’s also wise to heed the comments of those around you. A
recent study in European Psychiatry
found that adults tend to underestimate
their own ADHD symptoms. You may not be fully aware of how you unfocused,
restless, or impulsive you seem. But if your partner, friend, and coworker all
say, “That sounds just like you,” you might want to listen.