Warning Signs of Adult ADHD

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.

Look for these 12 signs of adult ADHD

Challenges in Everyday Life

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 the job.

Find out if your child has ADHD

Warning Signs to Watch For

DSM-IV-TR, the standard diagnostic manual for mental health professionals, divides the symptoms of ADHD into three main categories:

  • Inattentiveness. 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.
  • Hyperactivity. You may be prone to fidgeting, squirming in your seat, and talking a blue streak. Or you may frequently feel restless.
  • Impulsiveness. 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.

Stressed Jobs, Strained Relationships

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 accurate diagnosis.

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.

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