Diagnosing Adult ADHD

By Eileen Bailey

ADHD was once considered to be a childhood disorder.  It was thought that as children reached puberty and then adulthood, symptoms disappeared.  As we now know, this is far from the truth.  As people strived to understand childhood ADHD and to help their children, more and more information was written explaining the symptoms and characteristic behaviors that go along with Attention Deficit Disorder.  Parents began to see themselves in this information.  They began to realize the symptoms their children were experiencing were the same symptoms they had experienced as a child.  As research advanced, adults and doctors alike discovered that the symptoms of ADHD continued into adulthood.

The majority of adults with ADD/ADHD today do not receive any treatment.  Throughout the years, they have found various ways of coping with their symptoms, including using organizational tools like PDA’s.  Some may have found partners to help them create structure and provide organization.  Others may have found jobs and careers that utilize some of the positive traits of ADHD to help them succeed.

Some adults with ADHD, however, have spent years going from one job to another, feeling as if they could never quite “get it together.”  Some have found ways to self-medicate, including caffeine or illegal substances.  Some live in despair, wondering why their life seems hopeless.

Adult ADD/ADHD shares the same major symptoms of the childhood disorder: impulsiveness, inattention and hyperactivity, although many adults indicate that their hyperactivity has slowed down in adulthood. 

According to the CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD) What We Know Series on Adult ADHD, those that seek treatment indicate problems in one or more of the following areas:

  • Inconsistent performance in jobs or careers; losing or quitting jobs frequently
  • A history of academic and/or career underachievement 
  • Poor ability to manage day-to-day responsibilities (e.g., completing household chores or maintenance tasks, paying bills, organizing things) 
  • Relationship problems due to not completing tasks, forgetting important things, or getting upset easily over minor things 
  • Chronic stress and worry due to failure to accomplish goals and meet responsibilities 
  • Chronic and intense feelings of frustration, guilt, or blame

There are, however, many positive traits and characteristics of Adult ADHD.  Some that have been reported to me through discussions include:

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