Increasingly Attention Deficit/ Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD) is being recognised as a disorder that can stay with a person past childhood and into adult life. A recent study states that up to 75% of children with ADHD will continue to experience significant disruption from the disorder as adults. Dr. Russell Barkley, author of Taking Change of Adult ADHD, has described how the disorder can manifest as “nearsightedness to the future”. As a result of difficulties with impulsive control, adults with ADHD can make choices that are fundamentally out of line with their best interests, personal values and long-term career or relationship prospects. Adults with ADHD can make decisions in the short term that bring exasperation, stress and pain to the people most important to them. Due to a lack of awareness about ADHD in years gone by, many adults with the disorder have gone through their lives unaware that the chaos and frustration they are experiencing is due to undiagnosed and untreated ADHD. For adults with undiagnosed ADHD, difficulties consistently meeting their professional and personal obligations can be misunderstood as proof that they are lazy, inconsiderate or selfish. The misinterpretation of ADHD symptoms as evidence of a personal moral failure can often date back to childhood and contribute to low-self esteem and negative self-perception. For adults with previously undetected ADHD, it is never too late to seek out a diagnosis and treatment.
Here are 8 potential warning signs of Adult ADHD:
1. Chronic disorganisation
Do you have constant trouble meeting deadlines despite the very best of intentions? Is your to-do list a source of near constant dread, with the adding of new items inevitably outpacing your ability to get tasks crossed off? Individuals with ADHD have significant impairments with Executive Functioning – planning ahead, balancing time, self-motivating and focusing on the task at hand. Difficulties with Executive Functioning can result in people with ADHD feeling overwhelmed, disorganised and undependable.
Do you more often significantly underestimate how long a task is going to take? Do you find it a constant challenge to keep to a tight schedule? In the busy modern world, many people are time-poor and have to work hard to maintain the punctuality that is expected by both professional colleagues and loved ones. However, if the struggle with timekeeping has been a lifelong problem for you, with your inability to adequately plan your time having significant negative consequences to your education, employment and relationships, this could be an indicator of undiagnosed ADHD.
3. Distractibility or Trouble staying on task
Did you set out this afternoon to do the ironing, but before you had finished this task you found yourself rearrange the bookshelfs, and before this new task was finished you found yourself sorting out your iTunes music library? A key symptom of ADHD is being easily distracted with attention being easily drawn away from the task at hand. Many adults with ADHD display an ongoing pattern of unfinished projects and goals not fully realised.
Do you find it difficult to sit still for long periods of time? Do you find yourself taking unnecessary trips to the bathroom during university lectures, or do you often feel the need to leave your workstation to take an impromptu walk around the office? Many people with ADHD find it exceedingly difficult to remain still without being restless or fidgeting for any length of time.
5. Poor Listening Skills
Poor impulse control can result in adults with ADHD talking over others or finishing people’s sentences. Many people with ADHD may have difficulty listening attentively or retaining information, even when they know they are receiving information important to their welfare, success and comfort.
6. Relationship Difficulties
Adults with ADHD can have trouble remembering important dates or keeping in mind previous commitments, all of which may be interpreted by partners as either a lack of commitment or respect. Along with poor or inconsistent listening skills, this can cause friction and distress to even the most valued interpersonal relationships.
7. Recklessness behind the wheel
Are you often surprised when a concerned passenger notes how fast you are driving? Do you find yourself checking something on your phone while driving, although if you saw another driver doing the same you would be appalled at their irresponsibility? Lack of concentration, high distractibility and a tendency to act on impulse without reviewing the consequences can lead to individuals with ADHD making poorly considered and potentially dangerous choices when behind the wheel.
8. Difficulty managing finances
Many individuals with ADHD report being prone to spending money recklessly on impulsive purchases. Adults with ADHD have a tendency to act quickly without adequately thinking through the long term repercussions. Such impulsiveness can lead to serious difficulties managing personal finances and cash flow.
For adults struggling to manage undiagnosed ADHD, an evaluation by a trained medical professional could be the beginning of a new stage in life. Years of living with an undetected ADHD can result in shame and low self-esteem until a diagnosis provides clarity, making sense of why seemingly simple things have been hard for so long. If you suspect that you may have ADHD, speak to your doctor about your concerns and request a referral for a full ADHD evaluation.
Barkley, R.A & Benton, C.M. (2010). Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, Guilford Press.
Hallowed, E.M & John J. Rately, J.J. (2005). Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder, Ballantine Books : New York, NY.