There are very few diseases or disorders that are diagnosed in children and don’t carry over into adulthood. ADHD or Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is one of those disorders that is usually diagnosed early on in childhood and persists throughout the persons life. It is a myth that as we become adults ADHD just disappears or goes away. In most cases the person will have some if not all the same symptoms in adulthood as they did in childhood. Even though diagnoses of ADHD in children have increased over the last decade, there are many cases that go undiagnosed. Some children are able to cope with mild symptoms and therefore they aren’t diagnosed until later on in life. Either way, most adults who are diagnosed with ADHD have had some types of symptoms all their life.
For any parent, it is hard to accept that your child has a disease or disorder. Guilt, anger and frustration are normal reactions. However, denial plays another role in some parents inability to determine their children’s actions or rather symptoms. When parents, teachers, or adults dismiss their child’s symptoms for typical childhood hyperactivity or distraction, they are missing a key part of caring for their child’s welfare. Not all children experience all the symptoms of ADHD therefore parents may label their child as a troublemaker or dreamer if they show an inability to concentrate in school. However, even one symptom can lead to a diagnosis and should be taken seriously. Some kids may be able to compensate for their symptoms due to a higher intellectual level. As they age adulthood can exacerbate their symptoms due to increased responsibility, and a greater demand for organizational skills. Although diagnosis of this disorder in childhood, gives people more time to educate, learn and manage their ADHD, adult diagnosis requires the same education, support from family and friends and creativity to manage their symptoms.
While the symptoms of ADHD are similar in childhood and adult ADHD, their appearance presents itself quite differently. Every individual has a unique set of symptoms and not all symptoms are required to diagnosis this disorder. Poor concentration, hyperactivity, distractibility, impulsiveness, and restlessness are key characteristics of ADHD. Adult ADHD primary symptoms include trouble concentrating or hyper focus, disorganization and forgetfulness, impulsivity, emotional difficulties, and restlessness. Adults are much less likely to be hyperactive than children, however it is included in the symptomology. If left untreated and undiagnosed adult ADHD can lead to problems in all areas of life, physical, mental, work, financial, and relationships.
Adults who suffer from ADHD normally have trouble focusing, concentration or staying on task. Every day tasks are boring which lead to zoning out or extreme distractibility. It is difficult to pay attention or focus on the task at hand. Adults with ADHD struggle completing tasks, especially if they are simple tasks. Details are easily missed which cause errors or incomplete work and their ability to listen proper causes an inability to follow directions or remember what is required of them. On the other hand some adults with ADHD have the opposite problem. They become hyper focused on specific tasks. They become so absorbed in what they are doing because it is stimulating, exciting or rewarding. They may forget about time, space or location. They completely tune out the world around them. This is their way of coping with the chaos, which surrounds them on a day-to-day basis. Although, in some circumstances this is a good way to accomplish something, it normally causes the person to forget appointments, dates, time, deadlines and ultimately other things that have to be done.
Most often than not an adult with ADHD has a hard time with organization. Disorganization is caused by the chaos that surrounds them. They feel like their life is out of control so organization is very difficult to maintain. This includes their house, car, and room, which are normally messy and cluttered. In addition, this person usually has a problem with forgetfulness. They procrastinate and are chronically late to appointments (if they even show up at all), bills, commitments and deadlines. Starting and finishing projects and tasks are very challenging. Because they procrastinate they normally don’t give themselves enough time to complete a task. Plus they are constantly losing or misplacing things, which causes inability to focus on the task at hand.
Adults with ADHD are usually very impulsive and have trouble stopping themselves from performing these behaviors. Normally they have poor self control because their life is so chaotic, so it’s impossible for them to contain themselves from commenting, interrupting, blurting out thoughts or being inappropriate. Adults with ADHD have trouble behaving in a socially appropriate manner. They act upon what they think without any disregard for what they are saying or doing. They act spontaneously without any regard for the consequences, which can get them into trouble.
Because most people who suffer with ADHD have suffered with it throughout their lives they have deep rooted feelings of embarrassment, frustration, hopelessness, disappointment, loss of confidence and underachievement. This leads to emotional difficulties in relationships with friends, families and partners. They are easily frustrated and irritated. Although, temper tantrums are more recognized in children, adults with ADHD have trouble dealing with frustration and stress and may have very violent mood swings, and explosive tempers. . They are very hypersensitive to criticism, which leads to a lack of motivation. Most adult ADHD have low self esteem and are very insecure.
Hyperactivity in adults with ADHD presents itself more as restlessness, rather than hyperactivity. Adults with ADHD tend to become bored very easily which leads to taking risks, trouble sitting still, and constant craving for attention and excitement. They have an inner agitation that leads to racing thoughts, excessive talking, constant fidgeting and trying to do a million things at once.
Adults who suffer from ADHD and are untreated are more likely to have addictive tendencies. This can lead to compulsive eating, substance abuse, debt, and impulsive spending. Without understanding and management it will be hard for individuals to hold down a job or have meaningful relationships. Low self esteem will always play a role in the severity of their symptoms, however with the right support, adults with ADHD can lead productive, and active lives.
Sarah Labdar, “The Difference Between Adult & Childhood ADHD”, Everyday Health