Adult ADD/ADHD

RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS, SYMPTOMS, AND EFFECTS

Adult ADD / ADHD Symptoms

Most children with ADD / ADHD don’t outgrow their disorders; rather, they become disorganized, inattentive adults. If you’re an adult with ADD / ADHD, your symptoms may be holding you back at work, impacting your relationships, and keeping you from accomplishing your goals. Happily, once you recognize the signs and symptoms of adult ADD / ADHD, you can begin to address your areas of weakness and make your strengths work for you.

ADD / ADHD in adults

Many people have a stereotypical picture in their head of what someone with attention deficit disorder looks like: hyperactive, loud, a whirlwind of energy and unchecked impulses. And let’s face it: it’s probably a kid they’re picturing in their mind’s eye. However, ADD / ADHD is not just a childhood disorder. Kids don’t simply grow out of ADHD, as if it’s a phase. In fact, the symptoms of ADD / ADHD typically get worse as children grow into adulthood and face life’s increasing pressures and demands.

Adults with ADD / ADHD struggle daily with self-regulation: regulating their attention, regulating their impulses in talking and action, and regulating their emotions. If you have trouble staying focused, getting organized, starting and completing your work, managing your time and money, and remembering all the little things in your daily life, you may very well be one of these people.

The chaos of living with unrecognized and untreated ADD / ADHD can take its toll: never-ending to-do lists, the stress of missed deadlines and forgotten appointments, aggravated friends and family members who just don’t understand why you can’t pull it together and self-recrimination over your lack of accomplishments.

The good news: life doesn’t have to be this way. Treatment can go a long way toward getting ADD / ADHD in check. But before you can manage the problem, you have to be able to identify it, starting with a thorough understanding of what ADD / ADHD looks like in adults.

Adult ADD Myths: Fact or Fiction

MYTH: ADD is just a lack of willpower. Persons with ADD focus well on things that interest them; they could focus on any other tasks if they really wanted to.

FACT: ADD looks very much like a willpower problem, but it isn’t. It’s essentially a chemical problem in the management systems of the brain.

MYTH: Everybody has the symptoms of ADD, and anyone with adequate intelligence can overcome these difficulties.

FACT: ADD affects persons of all levels of intelligence. And although everyone sometimes has symptoms of ADD, only those with chronic impairments from these symptoms warrant an ADD diagnosis.

MYTH: Someone can’t have ADD and also have depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric problems.

FACT: A person with ADD is six times more likely to have another psychiatric or learning disorder than most other people. ADD usually overlaps with other disorders.

MYTH: ADD doesn’t really cause much damage to a person’s life.

FACT: Untreated or inadequately treated ADD syndrome often severely impairs learning, family life, education, work life, social interactions, and driving safely.

MYTH: Unless you have been diagnosed with ADD as a child, you can’t have it as an adult.

FACT: Many adults have struggled all their lives with unrecognized ADD impairments. They haven’t received help because they assumed that their chronic difficulties, like depression or anxiety, were caused by other impairments that did not respond to the usual treatments.

Adult vs. childhood ADD / ADHD

The symptoms of ADD / ADHD change as someone with ADD / ADHD develops from a child into a teenager and then into an adult. While the core problems of hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inattentiveness remain the same, the specific symptoms manifest differently. Typically, the symptoms of hyperactivity decrease and become more subtle, while problems related to concentration and organization become more dominant.

Hyperactivity in adults:

  • inability to relax
  • restlessness, nervous energy
  • talking excessively

Impulsiveness in adults:

  • volatile moods
  • blurting out rude or insulting remarks
  • interrupting others

Inattentiveness in adults:

  • “tuning out” unintentionally
  • inability to focus on mundane tasks
  • constantly losing and forgetting things

Signs and symptoms of adult ADD / ADHD

According to Dr. Thomas E. Brown of the Yale University School of Medicine, “ADHD is essentially a name for developmental impairment of executive function.” Executive functions are the skills involved in planning, selective attention, motivation, and impulse control. Adults with ADHD have problems in six major areas of executive functioning:

  • Activation – Problems with organization, prioritizing, and starting tasks.
  • Focus – Problems with sustaining focus and resisting distraction, especially with reading.
  • Effort – Problems with motivation, sustained effort, and persistence.
  • Emotion – Difficulty regulating emotions and managing stress.
  • Memory – Problems with short-term memory and memory retrieval.
  • Action – Problems with self-control and self-regulation.


Signs and Symptoms of ADD / ADHD

Activation

  • Procrastination; difficulty getting started on projects
  • Excessive disorganization and messiness
  • Inability to prioritize tasks
  • Underestimating the time needed to finish a task


Focus

  • Inability to screen out distractions
  • “Zoning out” when others are talking
  • Randomly skipping from topic to topic in conversation
  • Reading words over and over in order to grasp the meaning

Effort

  • Difficulty sustaining effort over long periods of time
  • Starting multiple tasks, but never completing any of them
  • Missing deadlines
  • Trouble going to sleep at night and staying alert during the day.

Emotion

  • Easily bored
  • Low tolerance for frustration and stress
  • Unstable, unpredictable moods
  • Quick temper
  • Constant worrying

Memory

  • Trouble remembering things, even for a short time
  • Doesn’t recall conversations, things others said
  • Forgetting appointments
  • Constantly losing or misplacing things

Action

  • Inability to delay gratification
  • Speaking without thinking
  • Acting impulsively (e.g. impulsive spending, sudden change of plans) without regard for consequences
  • Jumping to conclusions

Effects of adult ADD / ADHD

Left untreated, ADD can wreak havoc in your life, disrupting everything from your career to your social life, love life, and financial stability.
Work

ADD / ADHD can be a big stumbling block on the road to career success. The symptoms of disorganization and inattention, in particular, pose problems in the workplace. If you have ADD / ADHD, you may:

  • be chronically late to work
  • miss or forget deadlines and meetings
  • have a hard time organizing projects and delegating work
  • have difficulty completing projects on time
  • spend hours at work, but get very little done
  • get distracted by trivial tasks, while neglecting the most important ones
  • have trouble paying attention in meetings or in conversations with your boss and colleagues


Relationships

ADD / ADHD can put a strain on your relationships. The chaos that surrounds the disorder is particularly hard on romantic relationships. The spouse or partner without ADD may feel resentful if he or she is the one who has to take care of all the planning, organizing, cleaning, bill paying, and other household responsibilities. And you may resent your partner’s constant nagging to tidy up, get organized, and take care of business.

Friends and family members may also take it personally when you tune them out, forget conversations or commitments, speak a little too bluntly, or keep them waiting.
Finance

The ADD / ADHD symptoms of procrastination, disorganization, and impulsivity can interfere with good money management. If you have ADD / ADHD, you may find that you:

  • forget to pay bills
  • run up huge balances on your credit cards
  • cannot save money
  • are unable to follow through on long-term financial goals
  • shop impulsively
  • have difficulty keeping financial paperwork in order
  • fail at budgeting and recordkeeping

Eating behaviors

The impulsivity of ADD / ADHD can extend to eating, and many adults with the condition also suffer from overeating, obesity, or disordered eating. talks about the connection between ADHD (ADD) and disordered eating:

If you have ADD / ADHD, you may:

  • eat snacks throughout the day, rather than eating at planned meals
  • be unable to stick with a diet
  • have intense cravings for carbohydrates and caffeine (in coffee and chocolate)
  • eat a lot of fast food and “junk food” (cookies, chips, soda, fries, ice cream)
  • ignore hunger signs, waiting until you’re too hungry to plan a healthy meal and then eating whatever you can find


The Connection between ADD and Disordered Eating

Healthy dietary regulation requires organization and planning—two areas of cognitive functioning that are typically difficult for those with ADD. Good eating habits also require self-awareness: awareness of when one is hungry, awareness of when one is full. Many individuals with ADD report that they skip meals because they were busy and distracted; these same individuals often report that later their hunger becomes so intense that they swing in the opposite direction, overeating well beyond the point of reasonable intake because they don’t know when to stop until they feel “stuffed.”

Positive characteristics of adults with ADD / ADHD

The symptoms of ADD / ADHD are not all negative. People with ADD / ADHD also have many POSITIVE traits that are directly tied to their active, impulsive minds:

  • Creativity – People with ADD excel at thinking outside of the box, brainstorming, and finding creative solutions to problems. Because of their flexible way of thinking about things, they tend to be more open-minded, independent, and ready to improvise.
  • Enthusiasm and spontaneity – People with ADD are free spirits with lively minds—qualities that makes for good company and engrossing conversation. Their enthusiasm and spontaneous approach to life can be infectious.
  • A quick mind – People with ADD have the ability to think on their feet, quickly absorb new information (as long as it’s interesting), and multitask with ease. Their rapid-fire minds thrive on stimulation. They adapt well to change and are great in a crisis.
  • High energy level – People with ADD have loads of energy. When their attention is captured by something that interests them, they can have virtually unlimited stamina and drive.


Hyperfocus: A Positive Symptom of ADD / ADHD

While adults with ADHD have great difficulty maintaining attention, those same individuals often are able to “hyperfocus” for long periods of time on tasks or projects that they find interesting. This is particularly true of interactive or hands-on activities. They may even be compulsive about it, spending hours immersed in the activity without a thought to anything or anyone else.

When they’re “in the zone,” people with ADD often lose all concept of time. Hours pass as if they are minutes. This single-minded ability to hyperfocus can lead to significant accomplishments, discoveries, and creative breakthroughs.

For more information, please visit : Adult ADD/ADHD

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