13 ‘easily missed’ signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition. People diasgnosed with ADHD often face challenges with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

For people with ADHD, these challenges usually begin in childhood and can continue as they grow up. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to ADHD and two different people with the condition can suffer in different ways.

For example, around 2/3 in 10 people with the condition have problems with concentration and focus, but not with hyperactivity or impulsiveness. This form of ADHD is also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD).

ADD can sometimes go unnoticed because the symptoms may be less obvious. In adults, the symptoms of ADHD are more difficult to define. This is largely due to a lack of research into adults with ADHD.

As ADHD is a developmental disorder, it’s believed it cannot develop in adults without it first appearing during childhood. But symptoms of ADHD in children and teenagers often continue into adulthood and can sometimes go undiagnosed or unnoticed. 

The way in which inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness affect adults can be very different from the way they affect children. Hyperactivity tends to decrease in adults, while inattentiveness tends to remain as the pressures of adult life increase.

Adult symptoms of ADHD also tend to be far more subtle than childhood symptoms. Some specialists have suggested the following as a list of symptoms associated with ADHD in adults:

  • carelessness and lack of attention to detail
  • continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
  • poor organisational skills
  • inability to focus or prioritise
  • continually losing or misplacing things
  • forgetfulness
  • restlessness and edginess
  • difficulty keeping quiet, and speaking out of turn
  • blurting out responses and often interrupting others
  • mood swings, irritability and a quick temper
  • inability to deal with stress
  • extreme impatience
  • taking risks in activities, often with little or no regard for personal safety or the safety of others – for example, driving dangerously

ADHD UK has shared an Adult ADHD Self Screening Tool, which has been compiled by the World Health Organisation and the Workgroup on Adult ADHD.

It’s important to remember the survey is designed to be done by individuals on their own to give an indication of whether they might have ADHD and would therefore benefit from further clinical analysis. 

It’s crucial to remember that only a healthcare professional can provide an accurate diagnosis of ADHD.

As with ADHD in children and teenagers, ADHD in adults can occur alongside several related problems or conditions. One of the most common is depression. Other conditions that adults may have alongside ADHD include personality disorders, bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

The exact cause of ADHD is not fully understood, although a combination of factors is thought to be responsible. These include genetics, as ADHD tends to run in families , and the physical brain structure and function.

There are various options available for treating ADHD, such as medication, therapy, or a combination of both. The five types of medications approved for treating ADHD are methylphenidate, lisdexamfetamine, dexamfetamine, atomoxetine, and guanfacine.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that these medications won’t cure the condition, but they can assist with improving concentration, reducing impulsivity, promoting a sense of calm, and enhancing the learning and practicing of new skills.

Different types of therapies include psychoeducation, behaviour therapy, social skills training, and cognitive behavioural therapy.

If you are diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood, both your GP and a specialist can guide you on the most appropriate medicines and therapies.

As part of a ADHD assessment, specialists will usually ask about your present symptoms. However, under current diagnostic guidelines, a diagnosis of ADHD in adults cannot be confirmed unless your symptoms have been present from childhood.

For more information, visit ADHD UK.

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