Written by Home Doctor Brisbane Team

Many of us have heard of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Maybe remember it from school (back then also called ADD) as a label given to kids who found it hard to pay attention in class or follow the rules. While it’s more common in children and teenagers, ADHD symptoms can continue into adulthood and last for years, even a lifetime.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some people with ADHD have fewer symptoms as they age however others continue to have major symptoms that interfere with daily functioning.

“Many adults with ADHD aren’t aware they have it…they just know that everyday tasks can be a challenge,” it published.

According to Better Health, ADHD affects around one in 20 adults.

“Until recently, scientists thought that children outgrew ADHD during adolescence due to developmental changes in their brain chemistry,” it said.

“ But now they believe that seven out of 10 children with ADHD will mature into adults with ADHD.”


Adults with ADHD: what are the symptoms?

The Mayo Clinic says the symptoms of adult ADHD include difficulty paying attention, impulsiveness and restlessness.

“Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus and prioritise. This may leading to missed deadlines and forgotten meetings or social plans,” it wrote.

“The inability to control impulses can range from impatience waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and outbursts of anger.”

It lists other common symptoms on its website including:

  •  Disorganisation and problems prioritising
  •  Poor time management skills
  •  Problems focusing on a task or multi-tasking
  •  Excessive activity or restlessness
  •  Poor planning
  •  Low frustration tolerance
  •  Frequent mood swings
  •  Problems following through and completing tasks
  •  Hot temper
  •  Trouble coping with stress.

How to tell what’s ‘normal’ and what’s ADHD

We’ve all probably struggled with ADHD-like symptoms at one time or another. If you’re finding ‘adulting’ hard (as we do at times), how do you know if it’s ‘normal’ or an underlying mental health disorder like ADHD?
Qualified professionals must diagnose these kinds of illnesses which can take time. It involves at the very least a trip to the GP and an in-depth assessment by a psychologist or psychiatrist.

But the Mayo Clinic puts it in perspective. It says you’ll only be diagnosed when symptoms are severe enough to cause ongoing problems in more than one area of your life (think work and social life) and if persistent and disruptive symptoms can be traced back to early childhood.

“Diagnosis of adults with ADHD can be difficult because certain ADHD symptoms are similar to those caused by other conditions, such as anxiety or mood disorders,” it published.

This is where it gets more complex. A ‘what came first, the chicken or the egg?’ situation.
According to Better Health, people with ADHD are also more likely to develop personality disorders and other psychological problems, such as anxiety or mood disorders, often after struggling with the illness unknowingly for long periods of time.

ADHD affects a person’s quality of life

Better Health says people with ADHD may find it difficult to maintain relationships or keep a job because they have trouble sticking to a routine or corporate ‘9 to 5’ lifestyle.

“If their condition was undiagnosed and untreated in childhood, they may have done badly in school,” it published.

“A lifetime of grappling with this behavioural disorder often means the person has low self-esteem.

“Some people with ADHD turn to drugs or alcohol to try and cope with their feelings of frustration and failure.

“On the other hand, an adult with properly managed ADHD often shows great imagination and creative flair.”

If you are struggling with issues related to mental health or are in need of support please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. Alternatively, you can call beyondblue on 1300 224 636.