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Adult ADHD- What is it? Do I have it? What to do?

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Dr. Porrselvi A.P., Founder and Cognitive Neuropsychologist, Unified Brain Health Care

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, popularly called as ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder which affects the behaviour of a person. It is not just a childhood problem and can persist into adulthood. It is NOT an Autism Spectrum Disorder though many people can have both Autism and ADHD.

What is Adult ADHD?

Every adult who has ADHD must have had it as a child. It may or may not have been diagnosed when the person was a child. Many adults have not been diagnosed when they were young and only find out later in life. The possible reasons can be a lack of awareness about ADHD during the time when the current adult population were children or if the symptoms were mild or if the person had a strong supportive educational and parental system, While we do note that many children with ADHD outgrow it with the right kind of help from trained and qualified mental health professionals or educationists, about 60% still have it as adults.

Do you have it?

In an earlier article, I had described impulsivity in adults and children .

Though Impulsivity is a sign of ADHD, it is not the only feature of it. Inattention, Hyperactivity and Impulsivity form the triad that helps us describe ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Having said that, no two people with ADHD are alike. Their symptoms, difficulties and life situations are different. Some are easily overwhelmed and hence may prefer to lie in bed all day and be withdrawn while others may seek the excitement and stimulation of relationships and activities. Substance use is a common feature in adult ADHD.

Often Adults With ADHD have:

  • A history of not doing well in school and performing lesser than their potential

  • A history of getting into trouble with teachers and other students

  • Repeated a class or may have been forced to change schools due to failing a class

  • Dropped out of school/college/courses

Adults With ADHD are more likely to:

  • Be unemployed

  • May not be able to choose a career path and/or stick to it

  • May change jobs frequently or perform poorly at them

  • May be less satisfied with their job

  • May be frequently absent from work

  • May feel less enthusiastic about their jobs after a few months

  • Start using alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. They can easily get addicted to substance.

  • May have problem sexual behaviours

  • Driving safe may be difficult. Often drive rash or get into fights with fellow drivers.

  • May have psychological concerns like depression, anxiety

  • Avoid family and such gatherings

  • Face Relationship Problems

  • Have more marital problems

  • Get separated or divorced, some may cheat on their partners even when they don’t want to

  • Some quickly move on from one relationship to another

Some diagnostic features of Adult ADHD are:

  • Carelessness

  • Difficulty sustaining attention in activities

  • Doesn’t listen or follow through with action until the end goal is met

  • Is disorganized and has trouble planning, keeping appointments etc.

  • Avoids and dislikes activities that require constant and continuous mental effort/concentration

  • Misplaces objects, including important items/documents

  • Easily distractible and forgetful

  • Cannot say seated, feel restless and fidgety

  • Cannot slow down and can feel driven by a motor. Cannot function silently.

  • Talks excessively, blurts out before thinking

  • Cannot wait for turn, often cuts queues, gets into fights in queues

  • Interrupts and interferes with others’ work/conversations

These symptoms can range anywhere between mild or severe. Some may have all the symptoms. Some may have only a few. The severity and the symptoms can change across lifespan.

What happens if you have it?

There is no cure for child or adult ADHD. Successful management of ADHD often requires a multi-disciplinary approach.

There are medicines which will help in controlling and managing the symptoms and they must be prescribed by a trained neurologist or psychiatrist after objective evaluation of the person.

A qualified clinical psychologist or neuropsychologist can help the person learn cognitive and behavioural strategies to overcome difficulties in their daily life. This is what we call as life skills training. Some may require behavioural therapy as well. For children with ADHD, parent training forms a significant feature of therapy. For adults, we include partners or friends in the therapy. Occupational Therapy is also a main feature of rehabilitation of child ADHD.

For Adults, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Depression, Emotional management, and such psychological concerns are addressed during therapy. We aim to build the emotional resilience of the person to help them manage their career, work-life balance, their relationships, their living situations, and everyday life independently. It is imperative to train children and adults to self-advocate for themselves, know their limitations and how to work around them.

Contact Us or Book an Appointment with our Cognitive Neuropsychologist if you think you or someone you know needs support.

Unified Brain Health Care is one of a kind integrated Neuro Rehabilitation Centre in Chennai for adults and children offering in person and online therapy in Cognitive Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Psychiatry, Speech Therapy, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Clinical Nutrition, Career Counselling, Fitness Coaching and Educational Intervention. We also offer Family and Marriage Counselling, help for PCOS, care during pregnancy, post-pregnancy care for new moms, infant and early childhood stimulation, infant and young child nutrition, care for caregivers and promote holistic brain health.