ADHD in Adults
What is ADHD?
ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) is a label used to describe individuals whose early brain development and overall brain style appear - from a neurotypical viewpoint – to: 'show persistent patterns of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity which interfere with development and functioning.'
That’s the label, but if you asked a neurodiversity-affirming psychologist, or a psychologist with lived experience of ADHD to define what ADHD actually is, they might say something like: ADHD is a human neurotype in which the dopamine regulation system prioritizes novelty, interest, challenge and urgency. Aka: it is the perfect brain style for leadership during the hunter-gatherer era.
Unfortunately, today’s world is more predictable, orderly, and structured (*cough* - boring) than the hunter-gatherer era was, meaning that these traits aren't as valued and rewarded by society as they used to be. Instead, they are seen as ‘not fitting the system,’ or ‘too disruptive’ which, let’s be real, could just as easily be said about a cat who has been thrown into the ocean to live life as a fish… But that’s a discussion for another time.
Doesn’t ADHD only happen in children?
No. ADHD is most often identified in children, but that doesn't mean that children are the only ones with ADHD. In fact, ADHD is life-long - so if you are born with it, it’s here to stay and that’s okay!
Can you be diagnosed with ADHD as an adult?
Yes. You’d be surprised how many ADHDer’s are not identified in their school years. Most often, this is because they possess more inattentive signs of ADHD and were not highlighted for being 'disruptive' to other people in school. Or it’s because they have gone through their entire lives consciously and/or subconsciously masking all possible signs of being different (aka: having an ADHD brain). These people have had ADHD all along but just haven’t known it. It's never too late to be identified.
Is ADHD different for adults?
ADHD is ADHD at any age, but adults who are diagnosed later in life or not at all, do face some extra challenges and here's why. The world is currently neurotypical-favouring. So, going through life in this world with an unidentified, unsupported, and most importantly, unembraced ADHD brain, does put an individual at risk for developing a negative self-narrative.
Unidentified ADHDer’s might know that they have loads of potential, and yet, always feel like they are not socializing, performing, or 'adulting' at the levels they ‘should’ be. Much of the time, they find themselves sacrificing their wellbeing, morals, health, and free time just to match the performance of their neurotypical peers. Other times, they just give up on trying all together. As a result of living unsupported and unembraced, most unidentified and late-identified ADHDer's will have developed various mental health concerns by the time they find out about their ADHD, such as: chronic depression, anxiety, eating disorders, complex trauma, perfectionism, rejection sensitive dysphoria, and more.
What are the signs of ADHD?
ADHD is diagnosed in individuals who possess traits classed as ‘inattentive’ and/or ‘hyperactive’ by the DSM 5. In the following table, we list the ADHD traits mentioned in the DSM 5, with some examples on how they may present in adults who mask.
DSM ‘Inattention’ Symptom
Making careless mistakes/lacking attention to detail
Excessive checking to prevent mistakes
Difficulty sustaining attention
Needing coffee, music, or distraction to focus
Not seeming to listen when spoken to directly
Mentally finishing people’s sentences
Failing to follow through on tasks and instructions
Pulling all-nighters to ‘keep up’ with work
Exhibiting poor organization skills
Obsessively writing to-do lists
Avoiding/disliking tasks requiring sustained mental effort
Painful agitation at check-outs or in traffic
Losing things necessary for tasks/activities
Asking “where’s my …?!” all the time
Easily distracted (including unrelated thoughts)
Telling multiple side-stories within one main story
Forgetfulness in daily activities
Setting alarms for every 5 minutes in the morning
DSM 5 ‘Hyperactive/Impulsive’ symptom
How it might present in adults
Fidgeting with or tapping hands or feet, squirming in seat
Looking around, fidgeting in subtle ways
Leaving seat when remaining seated is expected
Staying seated and feeling uncomfortable
Experiencing feelings of restlessness
Using substances to dull discomfort
Having difficulty engaging in quiet, leisurely activities
Going out every night/constant productivity
Being “on-the-go” or acts as if “driven by a motor”
Needing a fast-paced work environment
Being overly anxious about over-sharing
Blurting out answers
Focusing on not interrupting & forgetting to listen.
Having difficulty waiting one’s turn
Waiting while feeling tense and uncomfortable
Interrupting or intruding on others
Excessive apologizing/extreme independence
Want to find out more?
To learn more or to enquire about our ADHD assessments, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call on (02) 9555 4810.