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The Most Common Symptoms of ADHD in Adults

written by: M. Staker • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 7/20/2010

Adult ADHD is often misdiagnosed, so it is important to know what to look out for. In this article we'll explore the most common symptoms of ADHD in adults so you will be able to see if any or all of them apply to you.

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    Are the Symptoms of ADHD in Adults the Same as They Are in Children?

    Studies show that up to 60% children who are diagnosed with ADHD will continue to have symptoms of the disorder when they reach adulthood. However, while ADHD in children is more common in boys than girls, there seems to be an even ratio among adults. While adults have many of the same symptoms as children, their symptoms are not typically displayed in exactly the same way. The symptoms of ADHD in adults are usually more subtle than they are in children. For example, the hyperactivity that is often associated with ADHD will be much more prominent in children than it is in adults. Children who are hyperactive will be more likely to run around, while hyperactive adults will just be fidgety.

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    What are The Most Common Symptoms of ADHD in Adults?

    Poor concentration is the most common symptom among adults with ADHD. They often have a difficult time focusing on and completing common tasks, even if the tasks are simple and mundane. Because they easily become bored with one task, they have a tendency to bounce around from one activity to another. They also tend to lose focus during conversations or while listening to instructions. Because of their poor listening skills, adults with ADHD often overlook the details of a task or project that they are working on, causing their work to either be incorrect or incomplete. On the other hand, adults with ADHD may also experience hyperfocus, from time to time, if the activity or task that they are engaged in is particularly interesting or stimulating to them. In these cases, they may become so involved in the activity that they block out anything else that is going on around them. Depending on the activity, hyperfocus can either be a positive or a negative thing.

    Disorganization and forgetfulness are also common symptoms of ADHD in adults. An adult with ADHD typically has trouble organizing and prioritizing their responsibilities. Because of this, it is extremely difficult for them to get started on a project, or to complete a project once they do get it started. Many adults with this disorder will have a messy home or car, and have a tendency to be late for appointments and other obligations. They also frequently miss deadlines or forget about important engagements and due dates. Misplacing items like car keys, credit cards, and important documents is also something that adults with ADHD do. This disorganization and forgetfulness can lead to financial problems and problems in the workplace.

    Impulsivity is another symptom that many adults with ADHD experience. Signs of impulsivity are acting or speaking without thinking, frequently interrupting others while they are speaking, and a lack of patience. This impulsive behavior may also lead to drug or alcohol dependency because these substances provide instant gratification.

    Adults with ADHD often have trouble controlling their emotions. They may anger easily or be overly sensitive to criticism. They become easily frustrated when trying to complete a task, which causes them to have a low self esteem. Often, adults with ADHD have frequent mood swings, making it difficult to maintain meaningful relationships with others. Depression and anxiety disorders are much more common among individuals with ADHD than they are in individuals without the disorder.

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    Do All of These Symptoms Have to be Present in Order to Have Adult ADHD?

    Not every adult with ADHD will have all of the symptoms of the condition. Even if only a few of the symptoms are present, but are severe enough to cause problems at home or in the workplace, it could still be adult ADHD. Only a doctor can give an official diagnosis, so adults with these symptoms should seek medical attention if they suspect that they could have the disorder.