13 Ways that ADHD Presents in Adults

13 Ways that ADHD Presents in Adults

Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often experience a number of symptoms that can significantly impact their day-to-day lives. ADHD presents differently in adults than it does in children, as adults have had more time to develop coping mechanisms and life skills that can help to manage the disorder's effects. 

However, the symptoms of ADHD can still be challenging to manage and can have a negative impact on an adult's day-to-day life. This article will discuss 13 ways that ADHD presents in adults, providing insight into how the disorder affects individuals over time. With this information, adults with ADHD can better understand their condition and develop strategies for managing it more effectively to find more ease in life.

#1 Difficulty focusing and prioritizing 

One of the most common symptoms of ADHD in adults is difficulty concentrating. Adults with ADHD often have trouble focusing on tasks for long periods of time and may be easily distracted by external stimuli or even their own thoughts. They may also struggle to prioritize tasks, leading to an inability to complete tasks in a timely manner or feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they need to do. 

#2 Impulsiveness 

Adults with ADHD are often prone to making impulsive decisions. They may act in the moment without thinking and make choices that they later regret. Impulsivity can also manifest in the form of blurting out comments or thoughts in inappropriate situations, or engaging in activities that have a high risk of negative consequences (see #12). 

#3 Lack of attention to detail

They may struggle to pay attention to detail, leading to incomplete or inaccurate work. They may also be disorganized in their approach to tasks, making mistakes or overlooking important details. 

#4 Poor organization skills

Organization is often a challenge for adults with ADHD. They may be unable to keep their workspace and living area tidy, resulting in clutter. Poor organizational skills can also manifest as difficulty adhering to schedules or planning tasks effectively. 

#5 Starting new tasks before finishing previous ones 

Adults with ADHD may become quickly bored or frustrated with tasks, leading them to start new tasks before finishing the ones they’ve already begun. This can lead to an inability to complete projects in a timely manner and difficulty meeting deadlines. 

#6 Losing belongings and forgetfulness

It’s common for adults with ADHD to lose or misplace their belongings more often than their peers. They may also struggle to remember important tasks or appointments, leading to missed deadlines and opportunities.

#7 Mood swings

Adults with ADHD may have difficulty regulating their emotions and can experience sudden, unpredictable mood swings. They may be easily overwhelmed by personal or professional stressors. If you pair this with their hardship completing tasks, it becomes clear how this can all add up.

#8 Impatience and irritability

Adults with ADHD may become impatient and easily frustrated, leading to outbursts of anger. This can lead to strained relationships with friends and family members or difficulty in professional settings. 

#9 Difficulty managing stress 

Stress is another common symptom of adult ADHD, as it can be difficult for individuals to manage multiple tasks at once or stay organized when faced with the demands of day-to-day life. Adults with ADHD may become overwhelmed by stress and struggle to find effective ways to manage it. 

#10 Difficulty listening and following directions

Because adults with ADHD have a hard time focusing, they often have a hard time listening and following instructions, as well. They may struggle to maintain focus during conversations or become easily distracted by external stimuli. This can lead to difficulties at work, as well as misunderstandings in personal relationships. 

#11 Restlessness and fidgeting 

Adults with ADHD often struggle to sit still for long periods of time and may feel restless or fidgety. They may also have trouble sleeping due to their inability to relax or clear their mind. 

#12 Risky activities like driving dangerously (sometimes related to impatience)

It’s somewhat common for adults with ADHD to engage in risky behaviors, such as reckless driving. This is often attributed to two traits that adults with ADHD have: 

  • Delay-aversion: not wanting to wait 
  • Sensation-seeking: desiring immediate sensation

    For these reasons, people with ADHD are more prone to drink, do drugs, or have unprotected sex. One in four adults treated for alcohol and substance abuse have ADHD. These risky behaviors could lead to injury, illness, or legal trouble. 

    #13 Procrastination

    Another symptom commonly associated with adult ADHD is procrastination. Adults with ADHD may find themselves unable to start projects or make decisions due to their difficulty in focusing and prioritizing tasks, or difficulty transitioning from one activity to another. This can lead to chronic procrastination, which can cause further stress and anxiety related to completing tasks on time.

    Next steps 

    Oftentimes, people with ADHD don’t get diagnosed until they’re adults—especially if they are women. Here’s why:

    • Some traits of ADHD like disorganization or impulsivity are common in children and not necessarily taken seriously at younger ages. 
    • Many children with ADHD are put in gifted programs when they may also need treatment. They tend to go through childhood not receiving the support they need and become adults who don’t realize they have ADHD until they receive a diagnosis.
    • Children (and adults) are sometimes not diagnosed due to stigmas. For example, symptoms in girls are often ignored as they present differently  ADHD than men. 
    • Sometimes the symptoms of ADHD are not obvious or visible because they are internal, or because a person has learned to use masking to hide them.

    Keep in mind that these are just a few of the ways that adult ADHD can present itself. And while these symptoms are tough, there are many coping mechanisms and therapies available to people with ADHD to help them. 

    By understanding how the disorder affects adults, individuals with ADHD can learn to better manage their symptoms and create strategies for living a successful life despite their diagnosis. With the right tools, or the support of a therapist, individuals with ADHD can live happy, healthy lives despite the challenges they face.

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