Sharing a Diagnosis: When You and Your Child Have ADHD
ADHD in Children vs. Adults continued...
So what are the telltale adult ADHD symptoms?
- Attention problems. Many adults with ADHD say that they’re easily
distracted by noise or activity. But it’s not really that adults with ADHD
actually have a deficit – a lack – of attention, says Adler. They may focus
intensely on certain things that interest them but are less able to pay
attention to tasks that are dull or too complex.
- Disorganization & procrastination. Adults with ADHD often have
trouble starting tasks and put them off until the last minute, regardless of
the consequences. They run late and lose track of time.
- Forgetfulness. Some adults with ADHD lead obviously chaotic
lives, forgetting and misplacing everything. Others may do well in most ways
but get tripped up by details. An employee might do good work on a project, but
then get in trouble for not filling out her timesheet. A college student might
spend all night on a paper, but then forget to bring it to class.
- Restlessness & impulsivity. Adults with ADHD may not be jumping
around like hyperactive kids, but they could have other problems. They might
make rash decisions or blurt out things without thinking. They might interrupt
people because they have trouble waiting their turn to speak. They might fidget
or bounce their knees when sitting.
Keep in mind that not everyone with ADHD will have all these symptoms.
There’s also a lot of variation in the severity. Some people just have mild
ADHD symptoms and do all right, while others will be severely impaired.
Impact of Adult ADHD
The consequences of adult attention deficit disorder are numerous. “ADHD has
a ripple effect,” says Ramsay. “It impairs many aspects of your life, from your
relationship with your spouse, to your role as a parent, to your job.” The
results can be serious.
“ADHD is not a benign disorder,” says Adler. He points out that adults with
ADHD have higher rates of divorce, unemployment, substance abuse, and even car
“The effects of ADHD even extend to the pocketbook,” says James McCracken,
MD, director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at UCLA’s Semel Institute in
Los Angeles. “When compared with people who have the same type of jobs,
adults with ADHD make significantly less money.”
But most of these adults never get an ADHD diagnosis. Many don’t consider
the possibility, so they never ask about it. Doctors may not help much,
“Unfortunately, more or less the entire medical and professional community –
internists, adult psychiatrists and psychologists – have almost no background
in the diagnosis or treatment of adult ADHD,” says McCracken. As a result, the
majority are never diagnosed, and fewer than three out of four adults with ADHD
are getting any treatment.
So what happens to these people? They may try to get help, but wind up
misdiagnosed. They may be prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety medicines.
In some cases, these drugs may help a bit -- many people with ADHD have
overlapping depression or anxiety. Others might be told by their doctors to go
into counseling – maybe for job skills training or couples therapy. But in all
of these cases, the core underlying problem is missed.