If you are among the millions of adults in the U.S. who do not know they have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the past several months of social distancing have been a particularly steep battle. Our country was instructed to “sit still,” a command that children with ADHD hear every day in the classroom and at the dinner table.
This can be much harder for some than for others. For adults with undiagnosed ADHD, one silver lining to come from social distancing has been the rare opportunity to slow down and realize how easily they can be distracted and how difficult it is to stay on task.
It is a common misperception that ADHD, a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, only affects children. Research shows that nearly 11 million adults have ADHD. Only one in five is properly diagnosed. Symptoms are influenced by age and developmental level. For example, adults experience less hyperactivity and more executive functioning issues in comparison to children.
Raising much-needed awareness about ADHD by sharing information and resources can significantly enhance quality of life for millions of adults who were not diagnosed during childhood. It is important to note that 74% of ADHD diagnoses are linked to genetics, so if your child has ADHD, there is a good chance you might, too.
How do I know if I should be evaluated?
Adults with ADHD typically experience substantial challenges in one or more areas of daily living:
- Inconsistent performance in jobs or careers; losing or quitting jobs frequently
- History of academic and/or career underachievement
- Poor ability to manage day-to-day responsibilities, such as completing household chores, maintenance tasks, paying bills or organizing
- Relationship problems due to not completing tasks
- Forgetting important things
- Becoming easily upset over minor things
- Chronic stress and worry caused by failure to accomplish goals and meet responsibilities
- Chronic and intense feelings of frustration, guilt or blame
How is ADHD diagnosed in adults?
While ADHD begins in childhood, certain individuals can compensate for their symptoms and do not experience issues until high school, college, in pursuit of career aspirations or even in retirement. In some cases, parents may have provided a highly protective and structured environment, minimizing the impact of ADHD symptoms in children.
Proper diagnosis requires a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified health care professional who can thoroughly assess signs and symptoms, rule out other causes, and determine the presence or absence of coexisting conditions. ADHD is often misdiagnosed because it can mimic numerous other conditions, including anxiety, depression, learning disorders, sleep difficulties, side effects from medications and more. Seek out a professional with specific experience in ADHD.
Where do I turn if I think I have ADHD?
ADHD is highly manageable with proper identification, diagnosis and treatment. If you have ADHD or think you might, CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) can help. The nonprofit organization provides support, training, education and advocacy for children and adults with ADHD, their families, educators and health care professionals. As home to the National Resource Center on ADHD, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CHADD offers reliable, science-based information, and comprehensive programming and support at the national and local levels. Call the helpline at 866-200-8098 or visit CHADD.org to access resources, including how to find a specialist where you live.