Is It Really Adult ADHD? The Top Signs It Might Be

You know the image of the hyper-active child with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – they’re loud, restless, can’t sit still or control their emotions and this leads to trouble in school and with peers.  According to the CDC, approximately 11% of children 4-17 years old have been diagnosed as of 2011, and that number continues to increase an average of 3% per year, with the average age of diagnosis being 7 years old.

But what about an adult that made it through childhood and adolescence without a diagnosis, and struggle with some of those same symptoms?  According to the Mayo Clinic, ADHD always starts in early childhood, but in some cases it’s not diagnosed until later in life, and symptoms can persist into adulthood for approximately 30-50% of patients.

WebMD defines Adult ADHD as a mental health condition exhibited by difficulty maintaining attention, as well as hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.  The following are the top signs that might indicate ADHD in an adult:


  1. Difficulty Organizing

Adult responsibilities like juggling household and medical bills, jobs, and children can make problems with organization more obvious than in childhood.  In fact, many patients report realizing their own ADHD symptoms when their children are diagnosed.  According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, when one member of the family has it, there’s a 25% – 35% chance that another family member does too.

  1. Difficulty Listening

This includes zoning out in work meetings, classes, or in conversations with loved ones to the point where whole pieces of conversations can be missed.  This can lead to repetitive misunderstandings, missed appointments or other daily difficulty.

  1. Procrastination

Difficulty starting tasks that require attention and focus is a primary complaint of ADHD sufferers.  When tasks are started, they are often abandoned before completion.

  1. Chronic Lateness

Difficulty arriving to appointments or work on time may happen consistently, possibly due to the compounded problems of organization and procrastination.

  1. Frequently Misplaced Items

Consistently loosing keys, phones, and other common household items on a daily basis can also be a sign of ADHD.  Dr. Martin Wetzel, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha describes ADHD as an “underpowered state of consciousness.”  Because the brain isn’t paying attention during  mundane daily activities, a memory of the event isn’t created.

  1. Relationship Trouble

The common symptoms adults with ADHD exhibit including procrastination, lateness, difficulty listening and organizing can make intimate relationships difficult, especially without a diagnosis.  Partners and family members can often feel the ADHD sufferer is simply insensitive or selfish.  In addition, ADHD sufferers have a hard time with the transition into a stable, long term relationship after the novelty of a new relationship wares off.

  1. Smoking, Alcohol and Drug Use

Interestingly, a study found about 40% of adults with ADHD smoke, compared to only 26% of the general population.  Dr. Wetzel reported that Nicotine is effective in treating or masking some ADHD symptoms.  Adults with ADHD are also more likely to use alcohol and other drugs, and at earlier ages, than people without ADHD – possibly as a form of self-medication.

  1. Difficulty in Early Academics

To confirm the diagnosis of ADHD, at least partial symptoms begin in childhood.  The common symptoms including difficulty sitting still, paying attention in class, and focusing on homework would create some type of academic problems early on – which adults may better understand in the context of an ADHD diagnosis.

Getting a proper diagnosis is critical for adults with ADHD.  Studies have shown these adults tend to have higher rates of accidents, substance abuse and lower incomes than adults without ADHD.

To learn more, or take an online quiz for adult ADHD symptoms visit:


  1. Linda K on July 13, 2015 at 3:20 am

    This is a well-written and provocative piece. After reading this, we could all point to adults within our friendship circle or workplace who deal with the effects of ADHD.