Understanding Mental Illness: Five Common Traits of ADHD in Adults

ADHD in adults

Most of the time, if someone were to bring up the idea of ADHD your first thoughts would be of a children’s disorder. However, up to 5% of adults in the world are currently living with ADHD. Sometimes adults with ADHD were misdiagnosed when they were younger. Other times they had no diagnoses at all as professionals missed the ADHD traits. All adults who are living with ADHD had the disorder as children. While it is possible to outgrow ADHD up to 60% of those who had the disorder as children still have traits as adults.

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 Not knowing that you have ADHD can make life very difficult for a number of reasons. For one, you may have no idea that there is a reason behind many of your shortcomings or the things that you do. Secondly, you may have a significant decrease in functioning without proper treatment. This may include medication, therapy, coaching, or any combination of the three.
Below you will find a list of common traits found in adults with ADHD. However, it is important to note that these traits occur in almost all adults at one time or another. There is one big aspect that makes a difference, though. In adults with ADHD, these traits are long-lasting and have a significant impact on more than one area. This could be a decrease in performance at work or school or a lack of strong interpersonal relationships.
ADHD in adults

ADHD in Adults Can Lead to Frustrations

Living with ADHD as an adult can be frustrating. This is especially true if you find yourself undiagnosed and well into your 30’s. I was 37 when I received my ADHD diagnosis. I was researching information for my daughter who has DMDD when I ran across warning signs of ADHD.
The more I read the more I realized “this is me”. It was so validating to learn that there was a reason why my life had been filled with so much confusion and feelings of failure. I was so relieved to learn that it wasn’t me. Of course, I spoke to a clinician who did the professional diagnosis. Even they seemed amazed that I wasn’t diagnosed before.
This can be a common theme for many in my generation. The level of testing that they have now was not available when I was younger. In addition, although stigma still remains around mental illness it was much worse when I was young. In contrast to my children’s classrooms, it was almost unheard of for someone to have ADHD in one of mine. It is likely that this condition was just as prevalent in my generation. However, it just wasn’t as easily diagnosed and treated as it is now. 
ADHD in adults

Common Traits of ADHD in Adults

Many of these traits of ADHD in adults can overlap those of the disorder in children. However, the can have a great impact on things such as work performance, family life, and much more in an adult’s life.

Inability to Focus

– This trait of ADHD in adults can lead to lowered work performance, poor reading skills, and disorganization. It can cause anxiety because although one wants to focus they find it nearly impossible. It can lead to starting multiple tasks because they become bored quickly with one then jump to another. It can be hard for adults with ADHD to follow directions or complete projects. This is because it is difficult for us to focus on verbal lists or written instructions. Organizing tasks and finishing work on time can be difficult for adults with ADHD as well.

Impulsivity and Hyperactivity

– This trait can lead to increased anger and a lower tolerance for stress or sensory stimulation. It can cause the adult with ADHD to be more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. Many adults with ADHD have more speeding tickets than their neurotypical peers. They may be more likely to make drastic changes to their environment or appearance as well.

Poor Organizational Skills

– This can lead the adult with ADHD to feel as though they are constantly playing a game of catch up. The inability to organize their thoughts can lead to forgetfulness. Low self-esteem can stem from being unable to complete work on time on the job or in school. Procrastination can arise from a desire to want to do things right or a fear of failure.

Interpersonal Problems

– Adults with ADHD are more likely to have marital problems or an increased number of marriages. They can be seen as unreliable due to chronic lateness or forgetfulness. Difficulties with controlling anger can lead to trouble with relationships as well. Impulsivity can lead to poor decisions when it comes to marriage and friendships.

Depression and Anxiety

– Many times ADHD is seen in individuals who have other mental health issues such as bipolar disorder. However, the inability to focus or complete tasks can lead to depression and anxiety as well. The person with ADHD can notice that they are unable to function as their peers. However, without a diagnosis, they may be unsure why that is and become depressed over their struggles.
ADHD in adults

Finding Treatment for ADHD in Adults

Living with undiagnosed ADHD can lead to a life of frustration as an adult. The good news is that there are ways to make life easier if you are an adult with ADHD. These include medication, therapy, job and family coaching, or any combination of these. Some believe that burning off extra energy can be helpful in managing ADHD. The use of tools like planners can be helpful in managing adult ADHD as well.
If you are an adult with ADHD there are ways to find diagnosis and treatment. Speaking with a psychiatrist can help in pinpointing a diagnosis. This can be difficult at times because adult ADHD can have symptoms shared by many other mental illnesses. For example, the inability to focus can be a symptom of anxiety or depression. The hyperactivity and impulsivity can be a symptom of hypomania in bipolar disorder. It can be hard to tell exactly what is causing the symptoms you are having unless you are trained to do so. This is why it is important to visit a psychiatrist who can help you sort out exactly what is going on.
A great tool to help find a psychiatrist in your area is the search function at Psychology Today. This helpful tool can get you the contact information of a local psychiatrist in minutes and have you on your way to living a more productive life despite adult ADHD.
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Do you feel like you can never focus? Perhaps you're always having trouble finishing a task? You could be living with undiagnosed ADHD. #adultADHD #ADHDinadults #mentalhealth
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