We usually think of ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, as a children’s condition. However, it is estimated that about 8 million American adults may also have ADHD and have gone untreated because they were never diagnosed as children. In adults, ADHD is sometimes written off as a personality quirk or a bad habit, but it can really affect important things in your life, like your career or marriage. It may even lead to substance abuse.
ADHD is easier to spot in kids because the symptoms are external and parents are monitoring closely for developmental problems. So when a child cannot sit still, a parent is there to monitor this condition developing. For adults, because this screening process is not in place, symptoms get written off as personality flaws or sometimes the symptoms are mostly internal. Many describe a feeling of inner restlessness, or unhappiness, during inactive times. This is why ADHD in adults is often confused with other conditions like depression or anxiety.
So how does ADHD translate into adulthood? Underachieving is the word experts use to describe the primary effect on adults. In college, adults with ADHD may have a history of poor performance or they may drop out entirely. At work, adults with ADHD may change or lose jobs frequently, have repeated bad reviews for not completing tasks or have bad reviews for abrasive interactions with colleagues. Relationships can suffer too. People with ADHD may have more marital problems, and have higher rates of divorce. Socially, adults with ADHD are more likely to have more traffic violations, suffer from alcohol or drug addiction and have trouble with their finances.
There can be some positives if the condition is well-managed. Many adults have found ways to control it and excel at multi-tasking, problem solving or handling crisis situations. The key to managing ADHD is recognizing it and getting treatment.