There Are ADHD Symptoms In Adults Too? Really?

Yes!  Really!  In fact, about 4% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD…that’s about 10 million people!  But that’s just the people that have been diagnosed.  There are tons of adults out there with ADHD that have not been formally diagnosed.  Many that possibly don’t realize they have it.  Many, like myself, probably just think they’re…different.  When I was growing up, ADHD was just starting to be really researched and there weren’t that many kids that were diagnosed with it in comparison to today.  They were just seen as bad kids.  (Just ask my mom!)  😉  If you think about it, who takes their child to the Pediatrician and says, “I just can’t get her to clean her room!”  Normally, parents wouldn’t put the two together.  So today, there are many adults that have ADHD and weren’t ever diagnosed as a child.

Okay, so…if there are ADHD symptoms in adults…what are they?  How can you tell?  I read somewhere that ADHD adults tend to have lower incomes.  This isn’t a symptom, by the way, just a bit of knowledge.  It may be true that the standard is that ADHD adults have lower in comes, I can’t speak to that really.  My suspicion would be that they have lower incomes because of trouble keeping jobs.  That’s just a guess though.  I have Adult ADHD and I do not have a low income.  I also read that adults have a higher rate of accidents.  Well…I’m not sure if they were referring to car accidents or just accidents in general.  I’ve been involved in 3 car accidents in the entire 18 years that I’ve been driving.  I wouldn’t consider that a lot by any standards.  However, I cut my finger, stub my toe, drop stuff, run into walls, trip, knock stuff over…ALL THE TIME!  And each time, it’s purely accidental, I promise.  Just today I spilled half a bowl of hot chili all over my hand, the table, and the floor.  (Sorry Mom!)  Oops.  My brain was looking at one bowl and trying to set it down without spilling it while my other hand was holding a second bowl and spilling it everywhere.  See how that works?  ADHD.  Gotta love it!  The other bowl was out of sight…out of mind.

I’ve heard that ADHD adults tend to have unplanned pregnancies.  Well, I have one child.  He wasn’t planned around the time that I got pregnant because by that time I had given up on having children.  It was about 3 years prior to that when we were planning on getting pregnant.  So…I don’t think this really applies to me.  There is also a tendency for substance abuse problems in ADHD adults.  Okay, let’s be real here.  I do have a substance abuse problem.  I absolutely have to have my Mountain Dew everyday.  Period.  It’s my coffee.  I wouldn’t say I can’t live without it…but there’s a good chance people wouldn’t want me to.  Okay, on a serious note, I will say that when I was 19…I drank…heavily.  I was in the military and I was stationed overseas and miserable.  But then one morning, during that year, I woke up in my bed fully clothed, feeling like a train wreck, and couldn’t remember how I got there.  I haven’t drank since.

So anyway…what are the ADHD symptoms for adults?


RestlessYeah…this is a big one for me.  In children, hyperactivity is noticed by constant movement, lots of energy.  ADHD kids tend to run, jump around, and climb on things constantly.  My son was forever climbing on things.  He still does sometimes.  It’s also seen when they are in school.  They squirm or fidget a lot in their seats.  But for adults, it’s a little bit different.  It’s more like the inability to sit still.  When I’m laying down, my foot is shaking back and forth at a hundred miles an hour.  When I’m sitting down, my knee is bouncing up and down at a hundred miles an hour.  When I’m watching a movie, I get up several times, reposition several times, or just go to sleep.  I can’t just sit there and do nothing.  I’m restless, always.


ADHD Children

Child with ADHD

It’s true.  In many cases, adults with ADHD find out they have it when their child is diagnosed with it.  Why is that?  Well, because it’s fairly new research.  I mentioned before, when I was growing up, you didn’t see a lot of kids being diagnosed with ADHD.  And yet, I was diagnosed with it by my son’s Pediatrician…the same day he was diagnosed with it.  ADHD is a hereditary condition.  If your child has it, there’s a high likelihood that either you or your spouse has it as well.


Relationship Problems

Relationship ProblemsCheck.  I’m divorced.  Go figure.  There’s a lot of reasons and ways that relationships problem occur with ADHD adults.  I’ll speak to mine because that’s the experience that I have.  One of the biggest issues when I was married was that the two of us rarely spent quality time together.  As much as I would like to say we would have if we got along more often, I don’t think that would be true.  My ex-husband was into watching movies, watching TV, sports, typical man stuff.  He would get super frustrated with me because I wouldn’t sit down to watch anything with him very often.  Remember that restlessness thing?  Yeah.  Totally.  It’s the inattentive thing.  We would talk and my mind would go off in 50 other directions and it would make him mad.  It comes across as self-centered and lack of interest.  Oops.  Sorry!  Really can’t help it.



SmokingTobacco.  It’s estimated that 26% of the U.S. population smokes…how about 40% of ADHD adults?  Yep.  Really.  There’s a reason for that.  Nicotine is highly effective in the focus and concentration area.  I’ve been a smoker for 22 years.  I’m ashamed to admit that.  But it’s true.  I hate that it affects my son.  And I hate that it’s unhealthy.  But I do enjoy it.  I’ve tried to quit several times.  My next quit date is set for January 1, 2014.  Not because it doesn’t help, but because my son really wants me to quit.  And I really do enjoy breathing.  I kind of rely on the ability to breathe.  So I must quit.  And I will.  At any rate, that’s why smoking is more prevalent in ADHD adults.  It helps with concentrating.


Academic Problems As A Child

Academic ProblemsDoes coloring in class during high school history count as an academic problem?  I suppose not.  But I’m sure skipping almost every day of my Junior and Senior year probably is.  I skipped a lot in middle school too.  But I didn’t skip high school history because he let me color.  (Thanks Mr. Bixler!)  And you know, I retained so much more knowledge in that class.  Passed the tests even!  My teachers may not have recognized me when I went to class, but I passed the classes because I had no problem doing the work.  I just couldn’t stand sitting through class and being scolded for falling asleep, bouncing my leg, tapping my pencil, throwing my test tubes (that detention was awful!), etc.  My grades were inconsistent.  I was never really a straight A student.  I would make A’s and B’s one semester and D’s and F’s the next.  I did make honors a couple of times though. Yay me!


Procrastination Mastery

ProcrastinationCheck.  Yep, that’s me!  (Just ask my mom)  “How many times have I told you to clean your room?”  “I WILL!”  Hey…that wasn’t my fault…she didn’t set a deadline.  Totally her fault!  Oh and at work…I never start a task when it’s assigned.  I start it either the day before or the day of it being due.  (My mom’s reading this right now and I’m sure she just laughed a little and shook her head!)  But you know what, the quality of my work is over the top compared to anybody else I work with.  I’ve earned “exceptional performer” status 4 years in a row now” and there’s nothing my boss ever has to tell me about my performance other than “Keep up the good work.”  Not to brag or anything, but I got the procrastination thing mastered.  Another example, my doctor ordered lab work for me back in August…I wonder if they’ll still let me do it in January?  Oops.  The thing is, ADHD adults focus better when the pressure is on to get it done.  That’s just the way it is.


Stimulation Seeking


Yeah…okay so it’s said that ADHD adults are known to get involved in highly stimulating activities.  This could be gambling, love affairs, driving fast, skydiving, etc.  This can be a source of job problems too, which we’ll talk about a bit later.  I can’t say I’m much of a thrill seeker.  I do have a tendency to drive fast though.  And I do like challenging things that test my limits.  I don’t jump off of anything unless it’s only a few feet off the ground.  If I had easy access to gambling, I would probably do that…a lot!  Love affairs…not so much.  I try to stay out of situations that would cause high anxiety.  That would be one of them.


Losing Things

Losing ThingsYep.  Totally.  Some doctors call it an “underpowered state of awareness.”  When you’re not focused on setting your keys down, your memory doesn’t write it into the event log, so there’s no record of it.  This also ties into being organized…which is not something ADHD adults are often accused of.  But we’ll talk about that more in a bit.  I lose things when I don’t make a mental note of them when I set them down.  I remember where things are by scanning through my photographic memory and pulling out the picture that has the tag line titled whatever it was that I was setting down at the time.  True story.  A little self discipline helps with this.  I don’t lose my keys because I make it a point to set them down in the same place, every time.  Same for my phone.


Quick Tempered

Quick temperedThis is not to be mistaken for “hot tempered.”  With ADHD adults, the temper is quick.  For example, I can be irate and yelling one minute and then be cool and calm the next.  Personally, I think this is a good trait to have.  However, this symptom can often represent Bipolar disorder.  In fact, ADHD and Bipolar are often mixed up.  I’m very careful with this because both of them run in my family.  However, I don’t have the full on mood swings and anxiety and stuff.  And I’m a classic ADHD case.  My son is as well.  Don’t get me wrong, I can get mad and stay mad if it’s something that means a lot.  But, for example, when I’m mad at my son…I can yell at him in one breath and then love up on him the next.  I don’t stay mad long.


Task Completion…or lack thereof

Completing TasksIt’s true, ADHD adults tend to have trouble completing tasks.  I refer to it as the “begun and never done” pile.  I have tons of examples of this.  I enjoy crafting.  I started decorating candles and I expressed interest (to my mom) about learning how to make candles.  So for Christmas last year, she bought me a complete candle making set.  One day I’ll take it all out of the bag.  (Sorry Mom!)  I have a total of five blogs…that I rarely ever post to.  When I do, it’s in spurts that last a few days or so.  I created a movie for my family this year and made 13 copies to give to specific family members for Christmas.  Today is the 14th of December and the movie was finished in October.  I have a week and a half left to wrap them and ship them.  (Yikes!)  And there they sit.



Impulsive Shopping

Guilty!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to rob Peter to pay Paul simply because I bought something on the fly before thinking it through.  I’m definitely an impulsive shopper.  Aside from that, my impulsiveness really shines through when I’m angry.  I’ll tell someone off quick like if they strike that anger switch.  And then later I’ll regret everything I said…because I’m vicious.  But it’s very rare that I get that angry.



No Relaxation

Can't relaxAnd by no, I mean none, unable to, almost impossible.  For real.  Many adults with ADHD would find it impossible to do something like meditate.  I’ve tried…and failed miserably.  The problem is that relaxation and meditation requires the mind to be quiet.  And it’s not.  When I try to relax, my brain goes to all of the things I should be doing instead or oooh a butterfly!, oh I left the lawn mower out and it’s going to rain, let me go put that in…oops it made a mess on the patio, let me just sweep that up real quick…I need to remember to call about the warranty on the vacuum cleaner, speaking of warranties…the truck needs an oil change…see how this works?  Relaxation doesn’t happen, no matter how hard we try.  I’ve found that I suddenly start to remember things…while I’m failing to relax.



ButterflyRemember that butterfly?  So let me walk you through a typical day of house cleaning.  The kitchen is a mess.  I go in and rinse out my soda can to put it in the recycling.  I take it out to the garage and throw it in the recycling bin.  Oh look!  There’s the squigee I was looking for last week!  I pick it up and clean the windows on the truck like I wanted to do last week.  Open the door of the truck to put the squigee away.  Wow man, the truck is a mess.  I grab my son’s toys from the truck and take them up to his room.  Look at all that laundry!  I get the laundry and take it downstairs to start washing.  I turn the washer on.  What was I doing again?  I don’t remember but I need to water the plants…  Now here’s the thing about ADHD, white noise tunes the brain out.  If I would’ve remembered to turn the stereo on first, the kitchen would’ve gotten clean.  But that wasn’t on the task list.


Problems at Work

Trouble on the jobADHD adults often have problems at work because of a lot of the symptoms I’ve listed here.  Disorganization, losing things, procrastination, restlessness, getting distracted…they can all affect job performance.  I’ve taught myself how to accomplish what needs to be done in spite of all of these.  However, there is one that has plagued me in the past.  Repetitive tasks.  When I started the job I’m currently at, my job was to sit and take phone calls…all day…every day.  I didn’t last three months.  It drove me absolutely bonkers to do that.  I need stimulation, remember?  It was so mundane.  So I worked my way out of that position, within the first three months on the job.  My first promotion got me into a position where there were real challenges and a lot of different and somewhat interesting things that needed to be tackled.  And here I am, 5 years later, in the same position…accepting new challenges but taking no phone calls.



Desk RightDesk 1

Remember those keys?  They are actually in the picture on the left.  So is the Christmas lights timer that my mom gave me two weeks ago.  And a book I started reading last year…and haven’t finished yet.  This is my desk.  This is how it looks as I type this post.  Obviously it’s disorganized.  But it’s functional.  I know exactly where everything is on it.  And to the right is the other side of my desk.  The Pop Tart box has been there for about a month and a have (don’t ask me why).  And that shirt was from when I got home from work on Monday…two weeks ago.  I clean off my desk once a month.


So there you have it…those are the ADHD symptoms that adults have to learn to live with.  Personally, I find ways of coping with each.  Such as setting my keys down in the same place every time.  Because I know if I don’t, I’m searching the entire house for them.  I found my debit card in the trash once.  I have no idea how it got there.   It’s kind of crazy.  I really wish there was a way for people without ADHD to live for just one day in the shoes of someone who does.  Otherwise, it’s real hard to understand.  ADHD is a neurological disorder.  It’s a wiring issue in the brain.  It’s not something we can really change.  All we can do is accept it and teach ourselves how to be successful despite the disorder.  I’ve done that.  I’m successful for the most part.  Therefore, I want to share with those that may be struggling to find their own way with the disorder.  That’s why I’m here.

So if you can relate to this post and you have some questions or just want to say, “Yeah! That’s exactly what I go through!”  Please do leave a comment and share your own experience.



If you have any questions or would like to share your personal experience, please be sure to leave a comment below by clicking on the response link next to my name.  I welcome all feedback and will respond to each comment.