What Does it Look Like in Adults?
It is often not hard to spot what we have long thought of as “typical” ADHD in children and adolescents. But adults can have more subtle symptoms. This means many adults struggle with ADHD yet may not even know they have it. Many are diagnosed with other co-occurring disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Adults may not realize that many of the problems they face, including staying organized, difficulty starting a task, or being on time, relate back to ADHD.
Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus and prioritize, leading to missed deadlines and forgotten classes or meetings, or even social plans. The inability to control impulses (hyperactivity), often thought of as the “8 year old boy running around the classroom”, in adults can range from impatience waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and outbursts of anger. Many of these adults have been forced most of their lives to “Mask” their ADHD, told to stop the pen clicking, foot tapping, chair rocking, and excessive chatter, because it was “impolite,” “annoying,” and “inconsiderate” of others. No one understood that their brain couldn’t focus unless their body was engaged in some type of movement.
Isn’t ADHD a Disorder in Childhood?
While ADHD is a disorder typically diagnosed in childhood, there are approximately 10 million adults who have ADHD, with around 20% treating it. More often than not, the other 80% of these adults may not even be aware they have ADHD. While these adults had ADHD in childhood, several factors may have prevented those around them from recognizing it.
As a child, they may have been missed because they were very bright, managing well throughout school, sometimes even through high school, college or even graduate school, until they experienced the demands of adulthood, especially at work. For others, teachers and parents may not have recognized the signs, especially as the work became more challenging, and their struggle increased.