Your son or daughter was just diagnosed with ADHD, or attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder. And as you sat there in the office, listening to the
doctor tick off the symptoms – the attention problems, the disorganization, the
fidgeting – you recognized yourself. Suddenly, you wonder: Could I have adult
You very well might. ADHD runs in families, and experts say that for any
child with ADHD, there’s a 30% to 40% chance that one of the parents has
Kids with ADHD have "gifts" -- and by helping them develop these gifts, parents give their children more control of problem behaviors, a child psychologist argues in her popular book.
In The Gift of ADHD, child psychologist Lara Honos-Webb, PhD, tells parents not to focus on the disturbing words "deficit" and "disorder" in their children's ADHD diagnosis.
"I tell parents it is a brain difference, not a brain disorder," Honos-Webb says. "Children's sense of identity is not yet formed at the time...
But for many adults, the idea never occurs to them until their children get
It’s a common pattern, says David W. Goodman MD, assistant professor of
psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “I might treat a
16-year-old with ADHD,” Goodman tells WebMD. “The next thing you know, his
40-year-old father gets diagnosed, and then his 43-year-old uncle. ADHD becomes
part of the family tree.”
Since adult ADHD can have a profoundly negative impact on your life, it’s
important to get help, especially since you’re not the only person in the
family who has the condition. Here’s what you need to know.
ADHD in Children vs. Adults
If you think of ADHD as a childhood condition that kids grow out of, you’re
hardly alone. But you’re wrong.
While ADHD always starts in childhood – symptoms appear before age 7 – it
usually doesn’t end there. “Two out of three children with ADHD will continue
to have ADHD as adults,” says Lenard Adler MD, a professor of psychiatry and
director of the Adult ADHD Program at the New York University School of
Many adults with ADHD were never diagnosed as kids – their symptoms were
just missed. That’s especially common in girls, says Adler. Teachers and
parents are more likely to focus on the noisy, disruptive boys than the
Other people with undiagnosed adult ADHD were actually diagnosed as
kids. But back then, pediatricians told people they’d grow out of it, says
Goodman, who is also director of the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center of
Maryland in Baltimore. It may have seemed that way. A first grader with
ADHD who used to get in trouble for standing on his chair and shouting during
story time might seem a lot calmer by the time he gets to college. But in many
cases, the ADHD isn’t gone. The symptoms have changed.
That’s one of the key reasons that ADHD in adults is so often missed,
experts say. Adults may not have much of the “H” in ADHD -- hyperactivity -- at
least not overtly. “You don’t see ADHD adults in graduate school standing on
their chairs,” says J. Russell Ramsay, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry
at the University of Pennsylvania and co-director of the Penn Adult ADHD
Treatment and Research Program in Philadelphia. “But the hyperactivity has just