How ADHD Presents Differently in Adults

How ADHD Presents Differently in Adults

ADHD Presents Differently in Adults: Differences You Should be Aware of 

Adults often have much more subtle ADHD symptoms than children, and may not fit the usual stereotype or image of a person with ADHD. Adults with ADHD are likely equipped at “masking” or hiding their symptoms so that they are not obvious to others. Often, individuals may not even know that they have ADHD themselves. They may have built compensatory strategies to cope with organisation, focusing, and time-keeping difficulties, but may struggle to consistently keep up with them.

Common symptoms of ADHD in adults include:

  • Poor organisation – difficulty keeping a schedule, managing admin tasks and obligations
  • Overwhelmed due to difficulties managing obligations and prioritising
  • Relationship difficulties – may be due to missing social cues, listening, and impulsivity. Others may describe you as unreliable
  • Reckless behaviour and making impulsive decisions
  • Difficulty controlling emotions (e.g., anger, aggression, panic attacks)
  • Distractibility to noises, external stimuli, notifications, and thoughts
  • Zoning out and poor listening skills which may lead to misunderstanding or not registering key information
  • Restlessness and trouble winding down – hyperactivity in adults usually presents as an inner feeling of restlessness and anxiety if forced to sit still. 
  • Difficulty getting motivated or started on a task which may lead to chronic procrastination.
  •  Always late for meetings and appointments or constant anxiety about being late. 
  •  Hyperfocusing on particular interests and losing track of time

Often, adults don’t realize that many of the problems are caused by ADHD and internalise feelings of personal failure, hopelessness, and disappointment which can lead to low-self esteem. They may believe that they will never be able to live up to their potential. This relates to the high rate of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other mental health issues that are often comorbid or misdiagnosed. Therefore, a diagnosis of ADHD can be greatly validating for the individual and give a sense of hope for the future. 

Adult ADHD Assessment

It is important that an exhaustive differential diagnosis is carried out in order to screen for other symptoms that may be better explained by a different mood disorder, learning disorder, or another condition. There are two types of assessments and your psychologist will help you decide which one is best for you.

What happens next?

Your psychologist can also provide behavioural strategies and intervention that can help in improving self-management and coping skills. Medications from a GP or psychiatrist may be suitable for some individuals.

Helpful resources for those considering or waiting for an ADHD assessment: