- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Symptoms in Adults
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common developmental disorder that begins in childhood, characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Symptoms may continue into adulthood.
Most adults who have ADHD were diagnosed as children, and the symptoms of the disorder continued into adulthood. For those diagnosed as adults, the prevailing belief is that they had ADHD as children, but symptoms were minor so the diagnosis was missed.
There is a newer school of thought that suggests adult-onset ADHD may be a completely different condition than childhood ADHD. More research is needed to determine if this is the case.
What Are Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Adults?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults is associated with an ongoing pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity that can interfere significantly with a person’s activities and relationships.
Symptoms of inattention may include:
- Difficulty paying close attention to details
- Making seemingly careless mistakes
- Problems maintaining attention for lengthy tasks
- Challenges listening closely when spoken to directly
- Difficulty following instructions and finishing work
- Difficulty organizing tasks and managing time
- Losing everyday things such as keys, wallets, and phones
- Being easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
- Forgetfulness of routine activities, such as bill paying, keeping appointments, or returning calls
Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity may include:
- Extreme restlessness, difficulty sitting still for extended periods
- Fidgeting or squirming
- Inability to quietly engage in activities
- Excessive talking
- Answering questions before they are asked completely
- Difficulty waiting one’s turn
- Interrupting or intruding on others
Anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders may also be present in adults with ADHD.
What Causes Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Adults?
The cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults is unknown, but it is thought genetics play a role.
Other possible causes and risk factors for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults include:
How Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Adults Diagnosed?
There is no single test used to diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults. A medical examination and hearing and vision tests may be performed. A thorough history of a person’s childhood behavior and past experiences in school is considered.
Psychological tests may look at:
- Working memory
- Executive functioning (abilities such as planning and decision-making)
- Visual and spatial or reasoning skills
The diagnostic criteria defined by the American Psychiatric Association for ADHD includes:
- Symptoms must be present before the age of 12 years
- Adults must currently experience at least five persistent symptoms of inattention and/or five persistent symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity
- Symptoms must be present in two or more settings (e.g., work, home, school, with friends or relatives, or in other activities)
- Symptoms must impair function, interfere with, or reduce the quality of function in work, academic, or social settings
What Is the Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Adults?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults is usually treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Medications used to treat ADHD include:
- Methylphenidate (Concerta, Focalin, Metadate, Methylin, Ritalin, Daytrana)
- Amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Vyvanse)
- Despite being stimulants, these medications do not cause people with ADHD to become more stimulated, but rather they work to improve attention, concentration, and self-control
- Atomoxetine (Strattera) is a nonstimulant medicine used as an alternative
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