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Issues >> Adult ADD / ADHD
RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS, SYMPTOMS, AND EFFECTS
OF ADULT ADD/ADHD
Most children with ADD / ADHD don’t
outgrow their disorders; rather, they become disorganized,
inattentive adults. If you’re an adult with ADD
/ ADHD, your symptoms may be holding you back at work,
impacting your relationships, and keeping you from accomplishing
your goals. Happily, once you recognize the signs and
symptoms of adult ADD / ADHD, you can begin to address
your areas of weakness and make your strengths work
ADD / ADHD IN ADULTS
Many people have a stereotypical picture in their head
of what someone with attention deficit disorder looks
like: hyperactive, loud, a whirlwind of energy and unchecked
impulses. And let’s face it: it’s probably
a kid they’re picturing in their mind’s
eye. However, ADD / ADHD is not just a childhood disorder.
Kids don’t simply grow out of ADHD, as if it’s
a phase. In fact, the symptoms of ADD / ADHD typically
get worse as children grow into adulthood and face life’s
increasing pressures and demands.
Adults with ADD / ADHD struggle daily with self-regulation:
regulating their attention, regulating their impulses
in talking and action, and regulating their emotions.
If you have trouble staying focused, getting organized,
starting and completing your work, managing your time
and money, and remembering all the little things in
your daily life, you may very well be one of these people.
The chaos of living with unrecognized and untreated
ADD / ADHD can take its toll: never-ending to-do lists,
the stress of missed deadlines and forgotten appointments,
aggravated friends and family members who just don’t
understand why you can’t pull it together and
self-recrimination over your lack of accomplishments.
The good news: life doesn’t have to be this way.
Treatment can go a long way toward getting ADD / ADHD
in check. But before you can manage the problem, you
have to be able to identify it, starting with a thorough
understanding of what ADD / ADHD looks like in adults.
ADULT ADD MYTHS: FACT OR FICTION
MYTH:ADD is just a lack of willpower.
Persons with ADD focus well on things that interest
them; they could focus on any other tasks if they really
FACT: ADD looks very much like a willpower
problem, but it isn’t. It’s essentially
a chemical problem in the management systems of the
MYTH:Everybody has the symptoms of
ADD, and anyone with adequate intelligence can overcome
FACT: ADD affects persons of all levels
of intelligence. And although everyone sometimes has
symptoms of ADD, only those with chronic impairments
from these symptoms warrant an ADD diagnosis.
MYTH:Someone can’t have ADD and
also have depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric
FACT: A person with ADD is six times
more likely to have another psychiatric or learning
disorder than most other people. ADD usually overlaps
with other disorders.
MYTH:ADD doesn’t really cause
much damage to a person’s life.
FACT: Untreated or inadequately treated
ADD syndrome often severely impairs learning, family
life, education, work life, social interactions, and
MYTH:Unless you have been diagnosed
with ADD as a child, you can’t have it as an adult.
FACT: Many adults have struggled all
their lives with unrecognized ADD impairments. They
haven’t received help because they assumed that
their chronic difficulties, like depression or anxiety,
were caused by other impairments that did not respond
to the usual treatments.
Source: Dr. Thomas E. Brown, Attention
Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and
ADULT vs. CHILDHOOD ADD / ADHD
The symptoms of ADD / ADHD change as someone with ADD
/ ADHD develops from a child into a teenager and then
into an adult. While the core problems of hyperactivity,
impulsiveness, and inattentiveness remain the same,
the specific symptoms manifest differently. Typically,
the symptoms of hyperactivity decrease and become more
subtle, while problems related to concentration and
organization become more dominant.
- inability to relax
- restlessness, nervous energy
- talking excessively
- volatile moods
- blurting out rude or insulting remarks
- interrupting others
|Inattentiveness in adults:
- “tuning out” unintentionally
- inability to focus on mundane tasks
- constantly losing and forgetting things
Signs and symptoms of adult
ADD / ADHD
According to Dr. Thomas E. Brown of the Yale University
School of Medicine, "ADHD is essentially a name
for developmental impairment of executive function."
Executive functions are the skills involved in planning,
selective attention, motivation, and impulse control.
Adults with ADHD have problems in six major areas of
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF
ADD / ADHD
- Activation – Problems
with organization, prioritizing, and starting
- Focus – Problems
with sustaining focus and resisting distraction,
especially with reading.
- Effort – Problems
with motivation, sustained effort, and persistence.
- Emotion – Difficulty
regulating emotions and managing stress.
- Memory – Problems
with short-term memory and memory retrieval.
- Action – Problems
with self-control and self-regulation.
- Procrastination; difficulty getting started
- Excessive disorganization
- Inability to prioritize
- Underestimating the time needed
to finish a task
- Inability to screen out distractions
- "Zoning out" when others are talking
- Randomly skipping from topic to topic
- Reading words over
and over in order to grasp the meaning
sustaining effort over long periods of time
- Starting multiple tasks, but never completing
any of them
- Missing deadlines
- Trouble going to sleep at night and staying
alert during the day.
- Easily bored
- Low tolerance for frustration and stress
- Unstable, unpredictable moods
- Quick temper
- Constant worrying
- Trouble remembering things, even for a
- Doesn’t recall conversations, things
- Forgetting appointments
- Constantly losing or misplacing things
- Inability to delay gratification
- Speaking without thinking
- Acting impulsively (e.g. impulsive spending,
sudden change of plans) without regard for consequences
- Jumping to conclusions
EFFECTS OF ADULT ADD / ADHD
Left untreated, ADD can wreak havoc in your life, disrupting
everything from your career to your social life, love
life, and financial stability.
ADD / ADHD can be a big stumbling block on the road
to career success. The symptoms of disorganization and
inattention, in particular, pose problems in the workplace.
If you have ADD / ADHD, you may:
- be chronically late to work,
- miss or forget deadlines and meetings,
- have a hard time organizing projects and
- have difficulty completing projects on
- spend hours at work, but get very little
- get distracted by trivial tasks, while
neglecting the most important ones, and
- have trouble paying attention in meetings
or in conversations with your boss and colleagues.
ADD / ADHD can put a strain on your relationships. The
chaos that surrounds the disorder is particularly hard
on romantic relationships. The spouse or partner without
ADD may feel resentful if he or she is the one who has
to take care of all the planning, organizing, cleaning,
bill paying, and other household responsibilities. And
you may resent your partner’s constant nagging
to tidy up, get organized, and take care of business.
Friends and family members may also take it personally
when you tune them out, forget conversations or commitments,
speak a little too bluntly, or keep them waiting.
The ADD / ADHD symptoms of procrastination, disorganization,
and impulsivity can interfere with good money management.
If you have ADD / ADHD, you may find that you:
- forget to pay bills,
- run up huge balances on your credit cards,
- cannot save money,
- are unable to follow through on long-term
- shop impulsively,
- have difficulty keeping financial paperwork
in order, and
- fail at budgeting and recordkeeping.
The impulsivity of ADD / ADHD can extend to eating,
and many adults with the condition also suffer from
overeating, obesity, or disordered eating. talks about
the connection between ADHD (ADD) and disordered eating:
If you have ADD / ADHD, you may:
between ADD and Disordered Eating
- eat snacks throughout the day, rather than
eating at planned meals,
- be unable to stick with a diet,
- have intense cravings for carbohydrates
and caffeine (in coffee and chocolate),
- eat a lot of fast food and “junk
food” (cookies, chips, soda, fries,
- ignore hunger signs, waiting until you’re
too hungry to plan a healthy meal and then
eating whatever you can find.
Healthy dietary regulation requires organization and
planning—two areas of cognitive functioning that
are typically difficult for those with ADD. Good eating
habits also require self-awareness: awareness of when
one is hungry, awareness of when one is full. Many individuals
with ADD report that they skip meals because they were
busy and distracted; these same individuals often report
that later their hunger becomes so intense that they
swing in the opposite direction, overeating well beyond
the point of reasonable intake because they don't know
when to stop until they feel "stuffed."
Source: Diet and Weight Management
Strategies for Adults with ADD (ADHD)
Positive characteristics of adults with ADD
The symptoms of ADD / ADHD are not all negative. People
with ADD / ADHD also have many positive traits that
are directly tied to their active, impulsive minds:
A Positive Symptom of ADD / ADHD
- Creativity – People
with ADD excel at thinking outside of the
box, brainstorming, and finding creative solutions
to problems. Because of their flexible way
of thinking about things, they tend to be
more open-minded, independent, and ready to
- Enthusiasm and spontaneity
– People with ADD are free spirits with
lively minds—qualities that makes for
good company and engrossing conversation.
Their enthusiasm and spontaneous approach
to life can be infectious.
- A quick mind - People with
ADD have the ability to think on their feet,
quickly absorb new information (as long as
it’s interesting), and multitask with
ease. Their rapid-fire minds thrive on stimulation.
They adapt well to change and are great in
- High energy level –
People with ADD have loads of energy. When
their attention is captured by something that
interests them, they can have virtually unlimited
stamina and drive.
While adults with ADHD have great difficulty maintaining
attention, those same individuals often are able to
“hyperfocus” for long periods of time on
tasks or projects that they find interesting. This is
particularly true of interactive or hands-on activities.
They may even be compulsive about it, spending hours
immersed in the activity without a thought to anything
or anyone else.
When they’re “in the zone,” people
with ADD often lose all concept of time. Hours pass
as if they are minutes. This single-minded ability to
hyperfocus can lead to significant accomplishments,
discoveries, and creative breakthroughs
Jaelline Jaffe, Ph.D., Tina de Benedictis, Ph.D., Melinda
Smith, M.A., and Robert Segal M.A contributed to this
article. Last modified on: 12/14/07.
Reprinted with permission from http://www.helpguide.org/.
C 2008 Helpguide.org. All rights reserved.
You can find the original article at http://helpguide.org/mental/adhd_add_adult_symptoms.htm
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