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Could I have adult ADHD?

A woman rests her chin on her hand and stares away from her laptop.

Feb. 17, 2023—It's natural to wish you were better organized or to have trouble focusing now and then. But some adults have more than their fair share of difficulties like these. If that sounds familiar, there may be something else at play: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is a developmental disorder. It starts in childhood, but the symptoms often go unrecognized until many years later. Undiagnosed and untreated ADHD can cause a lot of problems for adults. ADHD can make it hard to hold down a job, meet daily responsibilities and achieve life goals. And that may cause a lot of unnecessary stress, worry, guilt and self-doubt.

But it's never too late to do something about it.

What are the signs?

The signs of ADHD can vary from person to person, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But in general, adults with ADHD tend to have symptoms that fall into these categories:

Trouble with attention and focus. You may have trouble:

  • Paying close attention to details, which may lead to mistakes.
  • Staying focused on long tasks, especially if you don't find them interesting.
  • Following directions and completing tasks. To others, it can seem like poor listening skills.
  • Organizing your tasks and activities, managing time and meeting work deadlines.
  • Remembering to keep appointments, pay bills or return messages. You might often misplace things like keys, phones and paperwork.

Hyperactivity and impulsivity. You may:

  • Feel extremely restless.
  • Try to do too many things at once, which may lead to unsuccessful results.
  • Fidget and have trouble sitting still.
  • Blurt out thoughts and answer questions before they are asked completely.
  • Have trouble waiting your turn.
  • Interrupt others or talk over them.

Adults with ADHD can have symptoms in just one category or in both. Symptoms can also change over time, so they might appear different now than they did when you were a child.

When to seek an evaluation

If you think you might have ADHD, tell your doctor. Doing so is especially important if you have ADHD symptoms that interfere with your daily life. For instance, according to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, it may be time to see a doctor if you have ADHD symptoms along with:

  • Difficulty with job or school performance.
  • Problems managing daily responsibilities, like household chores, paying bills or organizing things.
  • Relationship problems.
  • Forgetting important things, like appointments or returning messages.
  • Chronic stress or other negative feelings.

Treatment can help

If you are diagnosed with ADHD, your doctor may offer treatments, such as medicines or behavioral counseling, to help you manage the symptoms.

There are also many self-help strategies (like using timers, alarms, lists and deadlines) that can help make living with ADHD a little easier.

But the first and most important step is to ask for help.


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