A diagnosis of ADHD often comes as a surprise for adults. Some experts estimate that as many as 75 percent of adults with ADHD don’t know they have it. This might be because it was once considered a "childhood disorder" and it was thought that by the time you ended puberty, you outgrew it. It was also considered a "male disorder," which means women were much less likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as a child. Today, more and more adults are being diagnosed with ADHD. Sometimes this happens when their child is diagnosed and they realize they share many of the same symptoms, such as lack of focus.
While the main symptoms of ADHD are the same: inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, these symptoms often manifest differently in children and adults. The following are signs you might have adult ADHD:
You are always looking for something. It might be your keys, your phone or important papers. It seems every day you spend anywhere from a few minutes to an hour of your time looking for items you misplaced.
You are chronically late. You have no "sense of time" and are chronically late for work, appointments, meeting your spouse for dinner or picking up the kids. No matter how many times you resolve to change, you end up being late…again.
You are forgetful. You forget to take out the trash, forget to pick up the dry cleaning, forget to meet a friend for lunch, forget to pick up the kids from school. It isn’t that these things aren’t important to you, they are, the thought simply left your brain when it was replaced by another thought. You end up disappointing other people on a consistent basis.
You feel restless. Hyperactivity still appears in adults but it does so as a feeling of restlessness. You fidget a lot and always want to be moving, even if you aren’t "running and jumping" around as children with ADHD frequently do. If you remember being extremely active and energetic as a child, hyperactivity could have settled into restlessness.
You have relationship troubles, have been married several times or are divorced. According to some studies, there is a link between adult ADHD and divorce. Adults with ADHD rank their satisfaction with their relationship lower than those without ADHD. This is sometimes attributed to boredom when a relationship enters the long-term phase or when a non-ADHD partner has trouble dealing with ADHD symptoms.
You smoke. Nicotine often improves some symptoms of ADHD, such as attention and focus. Studies have shown that as many as 40 percent of adults with ADHD smoke, as opposed to 26 percent of adults without ADHD.
You have a child with ADHD. While the exact causes of ADHD aren’t fully understood, it is considered hereditary. If you have a child with ADHD, the chances are high that either you or your spouse have ADHD.
You have had several jobs or are still searching for the "right" career path. One of the most common problems for adults with ADHD is employment. You have problems meeting deadlines, staying on track, being on time or become bored with the job. Adults with ADHD might frequently quit their job or be fired.
You interrupt others, jump into conversations at the wrong time or blurt out inappropriate comments during conversations. Impulsiveness is reacting without thinking and it remains a troublesome symptom in adults, often causing problems in relationships and interactions with others. Impulsiveness can also result in financial problems because of impulsive spending.
You remember have difficulties in school as a child. ADHD doesn’t develop once you are an adult. You can probably recall struggling in school, having a hard time paying attention, forgetting to hand in assignments or handing them in late. You might recall being consistently told that you weren’t living up to your potential or should "just try harder."
"A Focus on Adults: Living with Chronic ADHD, 2013, April 2, Interview with Terry Matlen and Dr. Russell Barkley, NPR
"Pay Attention to Me," 2012, March, Kirsten Weir, American Psychological Association
"Diagnosis of ADHD in Adults (WWK9S), 2004, Staff Writer, National Resource Center on ADHD