ADHD in Adults: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatments, How To Cope

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 19 May 2022

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a term that many people are familiar with. It may bring to mind children who have difficulty paying attention, as well as those who are hyperactive or impulsive. Adults may also suffer from ADHD. It affects between 4% to 5% of adults in the United States. However, only a small percentage of people are diagnosed with it and receive treatment for it.

Adult ADHD

Everyone with ADHD as an adult had it as a child. Many people may have been diagnosed and are aware of it. However, some people may not have been diagnosed when they were young and learn about it later in life.

Although many children with ADHD develop out of it, about 60% of adults with ADHD still have it. Men and women seem to be similarly affected by adult ADHD.

There is no treatment for ADHD. If your doctor suspects you have it, they will work together with you to build a treatment plan that's tailored to your needs.

Adult ADHD Symptoms

If you're an adult with ADHD, you may find it difficult to:

  • Follow instructions
  • Recall information
  • Focus and concentrate
  • Organize tasks
  • Complete your work on time

These signs and symptoms can be mild to severe, and they can change over time. They can cause problems in many areas of life, including at home, work, and school. Seeking treatment for ADHD and learning how to handle it may be beneficial. The majority of people learn to adapt. Adults with ADHD will also achieve fulfillment by focusing on their own strengths.

Challenges People With Adult ADHD Face

You may struggle with the following if you have ADHD:

  • Anxiety
  • Chronic boredom v
  • Lateness and forgetfulness
  • Depression
  • Having difficulty focusing when reading
  • Having difficulty controlling your emotions, like anger
  • Workplace difficulties
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • Insecurity and low self esteem
  • Frequent changes in your mood – mood swings
  • Insufficient ability to organise
  • Procrastination
  • Issues in your relationship
  • Addiction or substance abuse
  • Low motivation

These may have a significant impact on you, or they may not. They can be a threat all of the time or only when certain situations arise.

There is no such thing as a typical ADHD person. If you're interested in or excited about what you're doing, you might be able to focus even if you have ADHD. However, some people with ADHD have difficulty concentrating in any situation, regardless if they’re passionate about the topic or not. Although some people seek stimulation, others resist it. In addition, some people with ADHD are socially withdrawn and antisocial. Others are sociable and jump from one relationship to the next.

Problems at School

Adults with ADHD may have previously experienced the following symptoms:

  • A background of poor academic performance and underachieving
  • Gotten in a lot of trouble
  • Failing subjects and needing to resit exams
  • Dropped out of school

Problems at Work

Adults suffering from ADHD are more likely to:

  • Change jobs often
  • Perform badly in their workplace
  • Feeling dissatisfied with their careers
  • Having less professional achievements.

Problems in Life

Adults suffering from ADHD are more likely to:

  • Get more fines and speeding tickets, have their license revoked, or be involved in more accidents
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Drink alcohol
  • Abuse drugs
  • Be careless with finances
  • Assume they have a psychological problem, such as depression or anxiety.

Relationship Problems

Adults who suffer from ADHD are more likely to:

  • Have a lot of marital issues
  • Have a higher rate of divorce or separation
  • Have a number of marriages


Find a psychiatrist who has experience diagnosing and treating ADHD patients.

The doctor may:

  • Request a physical examination to rule out any other underlying medical issues that may be causing the symptoms you experience.
  • Take some of your blood and run some tests on it.
  • Requests psychological tests
  • Ask about your personal medical history and your family history

Although experts disagree on the age at which ADHD may be diagnosed, they do agree that it should not newly appear in adults. As a result, when a doctor examines you, they will inquire about your behaviour and any childhood symptoms you might have experienced. In addition, they may:

  • Examine your personal report card when you were a child. They'll be looking for remarks about lack of concentration, lack of effort, or underachievement in comparison to your true ability.
  • Consult your parents to see if you had any symptoms as a child.

People with ADHD may have had difficulty getting along with others as children or struggling in school. It's possible that your teachers had to work with you. Perhaps you were required to sit at the front of the room.

They'll even inquire as to whether someone else in your family suffers from ADHD. This is important information because ADHD can run in families.


Medicine, counselling, education or learning more about ADHD, and family support may all be part of a treatment plan.

These factors combined will assist you in discovering new ways to carry out tasks that will make your day-to-day life simpler. This will make you feel better for yourself and make you feel better in general.

It is important that you have a complete physical examination by a doctor. This is because people with ADHD also have underlying contributing medical disorders. You may also be suffering from a learning disability, anxiety or another mental health condition, obsessive compulsive disorder, or a substance or alcohol addiction. Knowing the big picture will help you choose the best treatment plans for you.

Medications to Treat Adult ADHD


Stimulant drugs are often prescribed to adults with ADHD. According to studies, about two-thirds of people with ADHD who take these drugs see significant changes in their symptoms.

Stimulant drugs include the following:

  • Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
  • Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Adderall XR)
  • Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • Methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate, Methylin, Ritalin, Quillivant XR)

However, stimulants aren't always the best option. They might be:

  • Addictive: Stimulants are compounds that are strictly regulated. As a result, they can be abused. Some people with ADHD have or have had drug abuse issues in the past.
  • Hard to remember to take: Short-acting stimulants (as opposed to long-acting stimulants) can wear off quickly. Since people with ADHD are prone to forgetfulness, remembering to take their medications many times a day can be difficult.
  • Hard to time doses: People who avoid taking them in the evening can find it difficult to concentrate on housework, expenses, helping children with homework, or driving. However, if they take them later in the day, they can be tempted to “relax" with alcohol or other substances.

Non stimulants

Doctors can also suggest that you take a non-stimulant drug, either alone or in combination with a stimulant. They include:

  • Atomoxetine (Strattera)
  • Clonidine (Kapvay)
  • Guanfacine (Intuniv)

Therapy and Other Behavioral Treatments

You may also inquire about incorporating these in your treatment plan:

  • Cognitive and behavioural therapy: It may aid in the development of self-esteem.
  • Stress management and relaxation management: Anxiety and depression can be reduced by using these.
  • Life coaching: It could assist you in setting objectives. It can also assist you in learning new ways to remain structured at home and at work.
  • Mentoring or job coaching: This could be beneficial to you at work. It will help you develop your working relationships and your success on the job.
  • Family education and therapy: This will help you and your loved ones better understand ADHD. It can also assist you in determining how to minimise the impact on everyone's life.

Other Tips For Coping With Adult ADHD

Even basic tasks like grocery shopping or paying bills can become daunting when you have ADHD. Mood swings, lack of concentration, and difficulty keeping organised can happen to everyone, but if you have ADHD, you can experience these on a daily basis.

Your doctor can prescribe drugs or other treatments to help you concentrate better, but there are also things you can do on your own to make living with ADHD easier:

  • Take medications as directed: If you're taking medicine for ADHD or another disorder, follow the directions to the letter. Taking two doses at the same time to make up for missing doses can be harmful to you and others. If you experience any side effects or have any other concerns, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Organize: Choose a calm and unhurried moment, such as before bedtime, to map out the next day, down to the last detail. Create a checklist that you can accomplish in a reasonable amount of time. To keep your mind busy, alternate what you want to do with what you don't want to do. When you need to recall an appointment or other thing, use a daily planner, reminder app, timer, leave notes for yourself, and set your alarm clock.
  • Be realistic about time: Since your brain is wired differently than others', it can take you longer to complete tasks. That's fine. Calculate a reasonable time period for your everyday activities, and remember to have time for breaks if you think you'll need them.
  • Breathe slowly: If you have a habit of doing things you later regret, such as interrupting others or being mad with others, learn to control your impulses by pausing. Rather than acting out, count to ten while slowly breathing. The urge would usually pass as quickly as it appeared.
  • Cut down on distractions: Remove all distractions when it's time to focus and get something done. Switch off loud music or the television if it is distracting you, or use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to block out the noise. Turn your phone to silent mode. Move to a quieter area or enlist the aid of others to make it less noisy. If possible, operate in a space with a closed door. Make your workspace conducive to concentration.
  • Control clutter: Another way to calm your mind is to clear your room of unnecessary things. It will reduce distractions and help you stay organised by reducing the amount of stuff you have to clean up. Remove your name from spam mailing lists and pay bills online to go paperless. Invest in certain organisational aids, such as under-the-bed storage bins or over-the-door hooks. If you feel like you're floating in a sea of debris and don't know where to begin, enlist the help of a friend.
  • Burn off extra energy: Exercise is beneficial to all, but if you have ADHD, it will do more than just improve your heart health. Even a small amount of physical exercise can help to alleviate ADHD symptoms. If you're hyperactive or anxious, you might need a way to expend some energy. Exercise, a hobby, or any activity may all be beneficial. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day. If you work in an office, a brisk lunchtime walk may be just the thing to get your brain out of its afternoon slump. You'll feel more concentrated and have more motivation to remain on task after you exercise.
  • Learn to say no: ADHD can trigger impulsive behaviour as a side effect. This indicates that your brain may take on more than it can handle. If you're feeling overburdened, consider saying no to a few things. Ask yourself, “Am I really going to be able to finish this?" Be frank with yourself and others on what is and is not possible. You'll be able to appreciate the stuff you say yes to even more because you've gotten used to saying no.
  • Reward yourself: If there's a mood booster at the end of a task, it's easier to stick to it. Decide on a reward for yourself when you finish a project before you start it. Positive reinforcement will assist you in staying on track.
  • Ask for help: We all need assistance from time to time, and it is important that we do not hesitate to ask for it. If you're having trouble controlling your emotions or actions, meet a psychologist and see if they have any suggestions.


Referenced on 3/5/2021

  1. Mayo Clinic: “Adult ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder)."
  2. Attention Deficit Disorder Association.
  3. “Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)."
  4. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “NINDS Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder Information Page."
  5. National Institute of Mental Health: “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)."
  6. Understood: “Understanding Executive Function Issues.”
  7. Additude: “Executive-Function Deficits in Children.”
  8. Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada: “ADHD in the Workplace.”
  9. CHADD of Northern California: “How Adult ADHD Affects Relationships: Strategies for Coping.”
  10. CHADD: “Organization and Time Management.”

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