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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Sharing a Diagnosis: When You and Your Child Have ADHD

ADHD in Children vs. Adults continued...

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 gone underground.”

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.

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