About 4 percent of adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and many others have never been diagnosed. (About half of kids with ADHD still have it in adulthood.)
A diagnosis can be important. Adults with ADHD tend to have lower incomes as well as higher rates of accidents, unplanned pregnancies, and substance abuse than those without it, says Martin W. Wetzel, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha.
Here are 15 signs of adult ADHD.
Children with ADHD can be overly energetic, but adults may just feel edgy or restless.
"Adults don't show the more obvious signs such as running and jumping," says Colette de Marneffe, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Silver Spring, Md. "Hyperactivity presents more subtly in the form of restlessness."
However, you may recall a rambunctious childhood. Dr. Wetzel had a patient who recalled spending a lot of time in the school hallways because "he couldn't sit still." It's a "classic story," he says.
You have a child with ADHD
ADHD appears to have a genetic component. When one member of the family has it, there's a 25 percent to 35 percent chance that someone else in the family does, too, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association.
When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, some adults, who may have had the same symptoms when they were children, realize that they may have always had the condition without realizing it.
You have relationship trouble
A newly minted relationship is often exhilarating, but the novelty can wear off in time.
"Oftentimes adults with ADHD really have a hard time with that transition," notes de Marneffe. "When the relationship becomes more stable and predictable, conflicts tend to emerge."
Being easily distracted or inattentive can also sabotage existing relationships with family, friends, and significant others who view their loved one's behavior as self-centered, Dr. Wetzel adds.
About 40 percent of adults with ADHD smoke, versus only 26 percent of the general population.
"Nicotine is very effective for a lot of ADHD symptoms and it's not uncommon for me to see someone for the first time after they quit smoking," says Dr. Wetzel. That's because they often start to have more problems with focus and concentration, he explains.
Adults with ADHD are also more likely to use alcohol and other drugs, and at earlier ages, than people without ADHD.
You had academic problems as a child
If you suspect you have ADHD as an adult, an early history of ADHD symptoms (difficulty sitting still, paying attention to the teacher, and focusing on your work, for example) can confirm the diagnosis.
"What adult patients will tell you over and over and over again is that they had to work twice as hard as their peers to get half as much done in school," Dr. Wetzel says.
You're a champion procrastinator
Do you live deadline to deadline?
"I can't tell you how many times a patient has told me, 'I'm the king of procrastination,' or 'I'm the queen of procrastination,' because they feel like no one else can put things off like they can," says Dr. Wetzel.
It makes sense, he adds, because when people with ADHD are under the gun and anxious, that's when they can focus. Constant anxiety, however, can be very stressful.
You're a thrill seeker
People with ADHD are often drawn to activities that are stimulating. They may engage in risky behaviors, like fast driving, gambling, and even extramarital affairs.
The key is to channel that desire for excitement and novelty into activities that don't jeopardize your work and family life, says de Marneffe. Parasailing or other high-adventure activities may be good outlets.
adhd and add help
More adults are now being diagnosed with ADHD, partly due to an increased awareness of the problem. If your symptoms aren't severe, you may want to consider these treatment options.
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