ADHD: Symptoms in Adults

Topic Overview

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in an adult is often not noticed because the person may maintain relationships and hold a steady job. It is not unusual for a parent to discover he or she has ADHD when his or her child is diagnosed with the disorder. The key to the diagnosis of ADHD for an adult is the presence of symptoms before he or she was 7 years old.

Hyperactivity in adults is often seen as:

  • Fidgeting. Typically they swing their legs, shift in their seats, or tap their fingers.
  • Constant motion. They feel "revved up," on the go, and show little or no ability to relax until exhausted.
  • An inability to relax. They have difficulty trying to relax or to do quiet activities such as reading or watching television.

Inattention in adults is often seen as:

  • Difficulty completing tasks that they do not find interesting or easy. But these adults may become obsessed with activities that are interesting and enjoyable.
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships.
  • Difficulty focusing their attention on conversations, reading materials, or jobs. They may frequently move from one job to another.
  • Forgetfulness, misplacement, or loss of things.
  • Distractibility.
  • Impulsivity.

Symptoms of ADHD in adults may affect:

  • Job performance. Their work performance may be inconsistent because they have problems organizing their work, managing their time, and concentrating on one task at a time. They may be forgetful and misplace or lose things. They may quit their jobs out of boredom.
  • Personal relationships. Relationships may suffer for adults who have problems focusing their attention on conversations, "reading" the behavior and moods of others, and expressing their own feelings.
  • Temper. Becoming easily frustrated often is related to having difficulty tolerating stress. These adults may overreact and have a short, quick temper.
  • Problem-solving ability. Adults who have difficulty waiting for things they want may not be able to accurately foresee the consequences of their actions. As a result, they may engage in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, unsafe driving, alcohol and drug use, or unwise financial ventures.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised February 2, 2012

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