What is Adult ADHD and the downside of undiagnosed Adult ADHD or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)

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What is Adult ADHD and the downside of undiagnosed Adult ADHD or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)

What is Adult ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder found in children, teens and adults.  The main focus of symptoms for ADHD are inattention, impulsivity/hyperactivity.  Symptoms of hyperactivity may be less obvious in an adult with ADHD.  However, difficulties with attention, poor planning and impulsivity may persist.  These symptoms can appear anywhere: home, work, school or in social settings.

Though it’s referred to as Adult ADHD, symptoms start in early childhood and then continue on to adulthood.  In some instances, ADHD is not diagnosed or even recognized until the person is an adult.  The symptoms of adult ADHD may not be as clear as symptoms in a child with ADHD.  As adults the hyperactivity may decrease but could be replaced with struggles of impulsiveness, restlessness and difficulty paying attention may continue.


ADHD symptoms range from person to person.  Some have fewer symptoms as they age, but some adults continue to have major symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and can range from mild to severe.

Many adults with ADHD may not be aware that they have it – they just know that everyday tasks can be a challenge.  Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus and prioritize which may lead to missed deadlines or forgotten meetings/plans.  The inability to control impulses can range from impatience while waiting in line or driving in traffic, mood swings and outbursts of anger.

Other symptoms might include:

·         Impulsiveness

·         Disorganization and problems prioritizing

·         Poor time management skills

·         Problems focusing on a task

·         Trouble multi-tasking

·         Excessive activity or restlessness

·         Poor planning

·         Low tolerance

·         Frequent mood swings

·         Problems following through and completing tasks

·         Hot temper

·         Trouble coping with stress


A lot of people have some symptoms similar to ADHD at some point in their lives.  ADHD is typically diagnosed only when these symptoms are severe enough to cause continuous problems in more than one area of a person’s life and these symptoms can be tracked back to early childhood.

Diagnosis of ADHD in adults can be difficult because certain ADHD symptoms are similar to those caused by other conditions, such as anxiety, mood disorders or depression.  Plus, not to mention, many adults with ADHD also have at least one other mental condition.

Undiagnosed ADHD in Adults

Estimates suggest that somewhere between five and seven percent of the adult population in the United States has ADHD. However, only about 20% of those individuals are ever treated for the condition. While some with ADHD may choose to go without treatment, many adults who have the condition simply don’t recognize that they even have it. This can create a wide variety of problems in a person’s life.  They can range from academic struggles to relationship conflicts.  What might undiagnosed ADHD in adults look like:


Hyperactivity is often a major symptom of ADHD.  In adults this symptom may present as the inability to relax or they may feel tense, anxious, or on edge.


·         Always looking for items they can’t find

·         A haphazard approach to projects, where tasks are often left incomplete

·         Clutter and messiness in their home, office, car and other areas under their control

·         Difficulty putting things in order

·         Dropping things where they are and not sorting them

·         Losing important bills, papers, or important documents

·         Misplacing items

·         Sorting objects into visible piles instead of putting them where they belong

·         Storing things in locations that don’t make sense

Problems with Motivation:

Poor motivation is another common sign of undiagnosed ADHD in adults.  ADHD causes deficits in executive functioning, which are the mental skills needed to plan, organize, initiate, and sustain activity. Those who often struggle with these skills may want to start a task but are unable to and they may feel overwhelmed by too many details and too much information.  Since finding a place to start seems overwhelming, they might simply lose their initiative before they begin.  On the flip side, a person may start a task but then struggle to stay focused on it.  The inability to know how to organize a project into manageable sections may cause a project to be left abandoned.

Lack of Focus:

Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus on tasks they find boring, repetitive, or uninteresting, but then may also get lost in projects that interest them.  This lack of focus is the most noticeable for time-consuming, predictable, or repetitive tasks. Reading books, completing daily household chores, or managing a checkbook are a few examples of these activities. Projects that take a long time to pay off, like learning a new language or how to play an instrument, can also lead to problems with focus.

However, undiagnosed ADHD in adults is also often characterized by periods of hyperfocus. People will become extremely engrossed in one thing, often for hours at a time. They may neglect other important tasks in order to focus on the thing that is currently holding their attention.


·         Starting a task and forgetting what they were doing

·         Losing things, even if they were just using them

·         Forgetting important dates or appointments

·         Retelling a story that they’ve already told someone because they don’t remember telling it to them

·         Momentarily walking away from a task and then forgetting that they were working on it

Time Management Issues:

·         Chronic lateness

·         Feeling like time is passing too quickly

·         Feeling like time is passing too slowly

·         Problems making and sticking to schedules

·         Problems recognizing how long-ago events occurred

·         Troubling knowing how much time will be needed to finish a task

Shifting emotions:

·         Having problems calming down when they are mad

·         Overreacting to relatively small stresses

·         Becoming very frustrated with minor annoyances

·         Difficulty focusing on anything other than their emotions

·         Experiencing sudden shifts in mood or outburst of anger


·         An inability to commit to a decision

·         Choosing randomly

·         Feeling overwhelmed when making choices

·         Letting others make decisions

·         Worrying about making the wrong decision

Downside of Undiagnosed Adult ADHD

ADHD can have a significant impact on adults if they do not receive treatment for the condition and could also affect the people living with them.

Some risks associated with untreated ADHD in adults include:

·         Low self-esteem, depression and anxiety

·         Difficulty in relationships

·         Job instability

·         Negative parent-child interactions

·         Drug and alcohol misuse

·         Increased mortality rate

Just about every bad outcome you can imagine in life is more common in adults who have ADHD than it is in everyone else. Because people with ADHD are not good at caring for themselves, the risk rises for health problems. Because people with ADHD are not good at planning, the consequences of being a day late abound in their lives—at home and at work.

Getting the right diagnosis and the proper treatment can save a life. It can also turn failure into success. ADHD is a good-news diagnosis. Life can only get better when the diagnosis is made, a person embraces the condition, and gets the appropriate treatment. It is time to shout from the rooftops: Adults who struggle with life should look into the possibility that they have ADHD.

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