ADHD symptoms are generally split into two categories: inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive. The symptoms of ADHD in adults may look different. Adults tend to think they can “outgrow” their ADHD, but the symptoms often continue into adulthood. Some adults with ADHD have never been diagnosed, especially if they didn’t have problems in school.
ADHD isn’t just a kids’ condition. Signs of ADHD in adults may present differently. In order to be diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, you must have had symptoms that began in childhood and continued into adulthood.
Many adults with ADHD don’t realize they have it — they just know that everyday tasks can be a challenge. Adult ADHD is often mistaken for emotional or psychological problems or substance abuse problems.
Symptoms of ADHD in Adults
The symptoms of ADHD vary from person to person. Some people are primarily inattentive, but others are overwhelmingly hyperactive and impulsive. In adults, hyperactivity may decrease, but struggles with impulsiveness, restlessness and difficulty paying attention may continue.
Inattention. Adults with ADHD may have trouble paying attention in certain situations — particularly if the situation doesn’t engage their interest. They also tend to get bored easily, often moving on to another activity or task before finishing the first one.
Hyperfocus. This isn’t the same as being focused or concentrating on something you enjoy doing — something everyone does from time to time. Hyperfocus is being so engrossed in a task that you don’t hear someone calling your name or your phone ringing (or both).
People with ADHD may not be able to control when they hyperfocus — it can happen at any time — but they can learn how to recognize when it’s happening and how to manage it better.
If you think you might have adult ADHD, talk with your doctor about taking an ADHD test. To diagnose ADHD in adults, the doctor will ask questions about your childhood and symptoms you’ve had as an adult. It’s important to work with a doctor who is experienced in treating adult ADHD so you get appropriate diagnosis and care.