Not Just for Kids: Adult ADHD

There has been a recent shift to addressing ADHD in adults.

Most of us knew a kid, often a boy, in elementary school who bounced off the walls, had trouble being quiet in class, and found homework impossible to finish. If this child were born in the 1980s or later, they might have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which the American Psychological Association first made a formal diagnosis in 1987.

However, the creation of the diagnosis did not mean that the disorder itself was new, nor that it was limited to children. Therefore, there has been a recent shift to addressing ADHD in adults. The symptoms often present differently and may include the following difficulties:

  • Maintaining attention
  • Executive function (properly managing time, priorities, and actions)
  • Physical restlessness
  • Forgetting/losing things
  • Being easily distracted
  • Completing lengthy tasks that involve sustained mental effort
  • Feeling overwhelmed

While most of us experience these difficulties from time to time, adults with ADHD tend to struggle often and severely. Unmanaged ADHD can lead to frustration and problems at work and home. Mounting research, including a 2021 review by the National Institutes of Health, shows that women especially tend to be underdiagnosed, particularly in childhood, as the symptoms of ADHD tend to manifest in women as inattentiveness rather than the hyperactivity many professionals and parents associate with male ADHD presentation.

If you recognize many of these symptoms in yourself and are interested in being assessed for ADHD, talk with your primary care doctor first. They will be able to address some of your concerns and refer you to a specialist if necessary. There are many options for management and treatment, including medication (stimulant and non-stimulant) and therapy. ADHD is not a personal failing, and there is never shame associated with seeking help for mental health.

The History of ADHD: A Timeline (healthline.com)
Overview – CHADD
NIMH » Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (nih.gov)
Women and Girls – CHADD