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Have you experienced challenges with concentration, impulsivity, restlessness, and organization throughout your life? Have you ever wondered whether you might have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Although ADHD is well known as a condition that affects children, many adults also experience it. ADHD can be harmful to an individual’s social relationships and work and school performance, but effective treatments are available to manage the symptoms of ADHD. Learn about the signs and symptoms of ADHD and when to discuss it with your health care provider.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a developmental disorder associated with an ongoing pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. The symptoms of ADHD can interfere significantly with an individual’s daily activities and relationships. ADHD begins in childhood and can continue into the teen years and adulthood.
What are the symptoms of ADHD?
People with ADHD experience an ongoing pattern of the following types of symptoms:
- Inattention–having difficulty paying attention
- Hyperactivity–having too much energy or moving and talking too much
- Impulsivity–acting without thinking or having difficulty with self-control
Some people with ADHD mainly have symptoms of inattention. Others mostly have symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity. Some people have both types of symptoms.
Signs of inattention may include challenges with:
- Paying close attention to details or making seemingly careless mistakes at work or during other activities
- Sustaining attention for long tasks, such as preparing reports, completing forms, or reviewing lengthy papers
- Listening closely when spoken to directly
- Following instructions and finishing duties in the workplace
- Organizing tasks and activities and managing time
- Engaging in tasks that require sustained attention
- Losing things such as keys, wallets, and phones
- Being easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
- Being forgetful in daily activities, such as paying bills, keeping appointments, or returning calls
Signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity may include:
- Experiencing extreme restlessness, difficulty sitting still for extended periods, and/or wearing others out with one’s activity
- Fidgeting with or tapping hands or feet or squirming in seat
- Being unable to engage quietly in leisure activities
- Talking excessively
- Answering questions before they are asked completely
- Having difficulty waiting one’s turn, such as when waiting in line
- Interrupting or intruding on others
Other mental disorders may occur with ADHD, including anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders.
How is ADHD diagnosed in adults?
ADHD is a disorder that begins in childhood and continues into adulthood. Adults who are diagnosed with ADHD experienced several symptoms of ADHD before the age of 12. As adults, they currently experience at least five persistent symptoms of inattention and/or five persistent symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity. These symptoms must be present in two or more settings (for example, home, work, or school; with friends or relatives; in other activities) and interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.
Adults who think they may have ADHD should talk to their health care provider. Primary care providers routinely diagnose and treat ADHD and may refer individuals to mental health professionals. If you need help starting the conversation, check out NIMH’s Tips for Talking With Your Health Care Provider fact sheet.
Stress, other mental health conditions, and physical conditions or illnesses can cause similar symptoms to those of ADHD. Therefore, a thorough evaluation by a health care provider or mental health professional is necessary to determine the cause of the symptoms and identify effective treatments. During this evaluation, the health care provider or mental health professional will examine factors including the person’s mood, medical history, and whether they struggle with other issues, such as alcohol or substance misuse.
A thorough evaluation also includes looking at the person’s history of childhood behavior and school experiences. To obtain this information, an individual’s health care provider may ask for permission to talk with partners, family members, close friends, and others who know the individual well. A health care provider or mental health professional may use standardized behavior rating scales or ADHD symptom checklists to determine whether an adult meets the criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD. An individual may complete psychological tests that look at working memory, executive functioning (abilities such as planning and decision-making), visual and spatial (related to space), or reasoning (thinking) skills. Such tests can help identify psychological or cognitive (thinking-related) strengths and challenges and can be used to identify or rule out possible learning disabilities.
How does ADHD affect adults?
Some adults who have ADHD don’t know they have it. These adults may feel it is impossible to get organized, stick to a job, or remember to keep appointments. Daily tasks such as getting up in the morning, preparing to leave the house for work, arriving at work on time, and being productive on the job can be especially challenging for adults with undiagnosed ADHD. These adults may have a history of problems with school, work, and relationships. Adults with ADHD may seem restless and may try to do several things at the same time—most of them unsuccessfully. They sometimes prefer quick fixes rather than taking the steps needed to gain greater rewards.
A person may not be diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood because teachers or family did not recognize the condition at a younger age, they had a mild form of ADHD, or they managed fairly well until they experienced the demands of adulthood, especially at work. Sometimes, young adults with undiagnosed ADHD have academic problems in college because of the intense concentration needed for college courses.
It is never too late to seek a diagnosis and treatment for ADHD and any other mental health condition that may occur with it. Effective treatment can make day-to-day life easier for many adults and their families.
What causes ADHD?
Researchers are not sure what causes ADHD, although many studies suggest that genes play a large role. Like many other disorders, ADHD probably results from a combination of factors. In addition to genetics, researchers are looking at possible environmental factors that might raise the risk of developing ADHD and are studying how brain injuries, nutrition, and social environments might play a role in ADHD.
What are the treatments for ADHD?
Treatment for ADHD includes medication, therapy and other behavioral treatments, or a combination of methods.
Stimulants are the most common type of medication used to treat ADHD. Research shows these medications can be highly effective. Like all medications, they can have side effects and require an individual’s health care provider to monitor how they may be reacting to the medication. Nonstimulant medications are also available. Health care providers may sometimes prescribe antidepressants to treat adults with ADHD, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved these medications specifically for treating ADHD.
As with all prescriptions, individuals should disclose other medications they take when discussing potential ADHD medications with a health care provider. Medications for common adult health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression, may interact with stimulants. In this case, a health care provider can suggest other medication options.
For general information about stimulants and other medications used for treating mental disorders, see NIMH’s Mental Health Medications webpage. The FDA website has the latest information on medication approvals, warnings, and patient information guides.
Psychotherapy and Support
Research shows that therapy may not be effective in treating the core symptoms of ADHD. However, adding therapy to an ADHD treatment plan may help individuals better cope with daily challenges. Therapy is especially helpful if ADHD co-occurs with other mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression.
Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, might help an adult with ADHD become more aware of attention and concentration challenges and work on skills to improve organization and use of time in completing daily tasks. For example, they might help individuals break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Psychotherapy also can help adults with ADHD gain confidence and control impulsive and risky behaviors. Some adults also may find it helpful to get support from a professional life coach or ADHD coach who can help with different skills to improve daily functioning.
Complementary Health Approaches
Some people may explore complementary health approaches, such as natural products, to manage symptoms of ADHD. Unlike specific psychotherapy and medication treatments that are scientifically proven to improve ADHD symptoms and impairments, complementary health approaches for ADHD generally have not been found to improve ADHD symptoms and do not qualify as evidence-supported interventions. For more information, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health website.
How can I find help?
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides theBehavioral Health Treatment Services Locator, an online tool for finding mental health services and treatment programs in your state. For additional resources, visitNIMH's Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.
If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or use the Lifeline Chat on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.
How can I help myself?
Therapy and medication are the most effective treatments for ADHD. In addition to these treatments, other strategies may help manage symptoms:
- Exercise regularly, especially when you’re feeling hyperactive or restless.
- Eat regular, healthy meals.
- Get plenty of sleep. Try to turn off screens at least 1 hour before bedtime and get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night.
- Work on time management and organization. Prioritize time-sensitive tasks and write down assignments, messages, appointments, and important thoughts.
- Connect with people and maintain relationships. Schedule activities with friends, particularly supportive people who understand your challenges with ADHD.
- Take medications as directed, and avoid use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
Where can I turn if I feel alone in my diagnosis of ADHD?
Adults with ADHD may gain social support and better coping skills by talking with family, friends, and colleagues about their diagnosis. If the people in your life are aware of your diagnosis, they will better understand your behavior. Psychotherapy for families and couples can help relationship problems and teach everyone involved about ADHD. There are also support groups for adults with ADHD.
What should I know about participating in clinical research?
Clinical trials are research studies that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditions. Although individuals may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, participants should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others may be better helped in the future.
Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct many studies with patients and healthy volunteers. Talk to your health care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you. For more information, visit NIMH's Clinical Trials webpage.
Where can I find more information on ADHD?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the nation’s leading health promotion, prevention, and preparedness agency. For more information about ADHD symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options, as well as additional resources for families and providers, visit CDC’s ADHD webpage.
This publication is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission from NIMH.Citation of NIMHas a source is appreciated. To learn more about using NIMH publications, please contact the NIMH Information Resource Center at 1-866‑615‑6464, email@example.com, or refer toNIMH's reprint guidelines.
For More Information
MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine) (en español)
ClinicalTrials.gov (en español)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
National Institutes of Health
NIH Publication No. 21-MH-3572
What you need to know about ADHD in adults? ›
Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus and prioritize, leading to missed deadlines and forgotten meetings or social plans. The inability to control impulses can range from impatience waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and outbursts of anger. Adult ADHD symptoms may include: Impulsiveness.What are the basic skills for ADHD? ›
ADHD: 7 Life Skills Your Child Needs to Master
- Independence. ...
- Time Management. ...
- Organization. ...
- Money. ...
- Medications. ...
- Relationship Skills. ...
- Wise Decision-Making.
- Get Organized. If you often spend your day trying to figure out where to start but wind up getting very little done by dinnertime, a new organizational approach might be in order. ...
- Follow a Routine. ...
- Make Big Tasks More Manageable. ...
- Minimize Distractions. ...
- Respect Your Limits.
ADHD, also called attention-deficit disorder, is a behavior disorder, usually first diagnosed in childhood, that is characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and, in some cases, hyperactivity.What does untreated ADHD look like in adults? ›
Untreated ADHD in adults can lead to mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. This is because ADHD symptoms can lead to focus, concentration, and impulsivity problems. When these problems are not managed effectively, they can lead to feelings of frustration, irritability, and low self-esteem.What jobs are best for someone with ADHD? ›
Fast-paced jobs that may be a good fit if you have ADHD:
- emergency responder (firefighter, EMT)
- retail worker.
- service employee.
These skills include learning how to manage your time, how to prioritize and remember your tasks each day, as well as healthy daily habits such as getting adequate sleep, regular exercise and good daily nutrition.What tasks are people with ADHD good at? ›
- Sales representative.
- Small business owner.
- Hospitality worker.
- Emergency first responder.
- Computer technician.
- Artist or writer.
Lack of Sleep
For others, anxiety, depression, and other conditions that come along with ADHD are to blame. Lack of sleep doesn't just make you tired. It can also worsen symptoms like lack of focus and problems with motor skills.
People with ADHD will have at least two or three of the following challenges: difficulty staying on task, paying attention, daydreaming or tuning out, organizational issues, and hyper-focus, which causes us to lose track of time. ADHD-ers are often highly sensitive and empathic.
Is ADD still a mental illness? ›
While ADHD is technically considered a mental illness, you may also hear it called a mental disorder, especially in clinical settings. Those with ADHD may also use different terms to describe this mental health condition. What's most important is getting an accurate diagnosis to find appropriate treatment.Is ADD considered a mental illness? ›
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. Symptoms of ADHD include inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought).Can you tell if someone has ADD? ›
Symptoms of Primarily Inattentive ADHD (Formerly ADD)
Often fails to give close attention to details, or makes careless mistakes. Often has difficulty sustaining attention. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish projects.
ADHD does not get worse with age if a person receives treatment for their symptoms after receiving a diagnosis. If a doctor diagnoses a person as an adult, their symptoms will begin to improve when they start their treatment plan, which could involve a combination of medication and therapy.Can you fix ADHD without medication? ›
However, there are plenty of other treatment options available for those who do not want their child to use ADHD drugs. Therapy on its own is shown to be highly effective at treating ADHD. Types of therapy used for ADHD include behavior therapy, talk therapy, and family therapy.Is ADHD considered to be a disability? ›
Yes. Whether you view attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as neurological — affecting how the brain concentrates or thinks — or consider ADHD as a disability that impacts working, there is no question that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers individuals with ADHD.What foods worsen ADHD? ›
Some of the common foods that can cause ADHD reactions include milk, chocolate, soy, wheat, eggs, beans, corn, tomatoes, grapes, and oranges. If you suspect a food sensitivity may be contributing to your child's ADHD symptoms, talk to your ADHD dietitian or doctor about trying an elimination diet.What is an ADHD meltdown? ›
ADHD meltdowns are sudden outbursts of frustration and anger that seem to come out of nowhere. If your child is struggling to control their emotions, there are ways to help them. For children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsivity can present in many ways.Does caffeine help ADHD? ›
Some studies have found that caffeine can boost concentration for people with ADHD. Since it's a stimulant drug, it mimics some of the effects of stronger stimulants used to treat ADHD, such as amphetamine medications. However, caffeine alone is less effective than prescription medications.Can you get benefits for ADHD adults? ›
ADHD is recognised as a condition which qualifies for disability benefits and funding.
Why do adults with ADHD have trouble with organization? ›
Adults with ADHD often have trouble with filing because they create too many categories. Better to keep your categories broad, and use subfolders where necessary. For instance, you might label one folder “insurance,” and fill it with subcategory folders for life insurance, car insurance, and health insurance.Is it hard to hold a job with ADHD? ›
People with ADHD change jobs frequently — often impulsively — and are more likely to be fired, to miss work, and to have troubled relationships with co-workers. It doesn't have to be that way: Adults with ADHD frequently excel in the workplace, once they adapt to their disability and develop coping skills.What helps adults with ADD focus? ›
- Narrow your line of sight. While at your desk, keep only what you're working on in front of you. ...
- Give yourself a message. ...
- Withhold criticism. ...
- Make a list. ...
- Ask for a friendly reminder. ...
- Get regular exercise. ...
- Know your limits. ...
- Set a goal.
“A person with ADHD must show that the ADHD symptoms substantially limit one or more major life activities, such as thinking, working, seeing, breathing, [or] walking,” he adds. The level of accommodations or benefits a person with ADHD may receive ranges depending on the severity of a person's ADHD.What is the ADD test like for adults? ›
Most evaluations will include a patient interview, possible interviews with or questionnaires for friends or family members and a written assessment form, such as the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale, Barkley Adult ADHD Rating Scale-IV or the Connors for adults.Are people with ADHD tired? ›
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms associated with ADHD — and one of the least talked about.Do people with ADHD have trouble with jobs? ›
One national survey showed that only half of adults with ADHD were able to hold down a full-time job, compared to 72% of adults without the disorder. When they were able to secure a job, they tended to earn less than their peers without it. Those job problems translate into nearly $77 billion in lost income each year.What foods help calm ADHD? ›
Foods rich in protein — lean beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, soy, and low-fat dairy products — can have beneficial effects on ADHD symptoms. Protein-rich foods are used by the body to make neurotransmitters, the chemicals released by brain cells to communicate with each other.What is an ADHD friendly breakfast? ›
She suggests that breakfast include lean proteins and slow-digesting whole carbohydrates, such as steal-cut oats, Greek-style yogurt, and fresh fruits, or scrambled eggs with vegetables. When it comes to ADHD, the same foods can also help support attention through the morning and into the rest of the day.What triggers ADHD meltdowns? ›
While many children have tantrums at some point, it is especially common for children with ADHD to feel irritable. They may have trouble concentrating at school, managing their emotions, or controlling impulses, all of which can cause anger and frustration. This may contribute to tantrums.
Does ADHD cause overthinking? ›
Overthinking can be an all-natural process, it can also be the result if the creative and overly active ADHD brain. While most believe overthinking to be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, it' actually relates more to ADHD.Does clutter make ADHD worse? ›
Clutter and ADHD Often Go Together.
Clutter often makes ADHD symptoms feel worse because it is hard to focus and concentrate with piles of belongings everywhere. Plus, a disorganized environment can leave you feeling overwhelmed, anxious and even depressed.
A: ADHD brains need more sleep, but find it doubly difficult to achieve restfulness. It is one of those ADHD double whammies: ADHD makes it harder to get enough sleep, and being sleep deprived makes it harder to manage your ADHD (or anything else).Do people with ADHD have anger issues? ›
Problems with emotional dysregulation, in particular with anger reactivity, are very common in people with ADHD. You are not alone in struggling in this area. Anger may indicate an associated mood problem but often is just part of the ADHD. Either way, changes in traditional ADHD treatment can be very helpful.Can you live a normal life with ADD? ›
Living with ADHD is about monitoring your symptoms and actively working toward finding what works best for you. With the right support and treatment, you can create a life that allows you to reach your greatest potential.Is ADD obsessive? ›
Obsessing and ruminating are often part of living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). No matter how hard you try to ignore them, those negative thoughts just keep coming back, replaying themselves in an infinite loop. You know it's not healthy, but you can't seem to stop yourself. It makes sense.What is the life expectancy of someone with ADD? ›
ADHD can reduce life expectancy by as much as 13 years, but its risk is reversible. Learn how to mitigate the risks in this video, with Russell Barkley, Ph. D.Do people with ADD have anxiety? ›
ADHD and mental health disorders
Adults with ADHD are likely to have an anxiety disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, or other comorbid psychiatric disorder. (The term “comorbid” refers to a condition that exists with another.) About 50 percent of adults with ADHD also suffer from an anxiety disorder.
In past decades, adults with ADHD were ineligible to receive disability benefits. Fortunately, today, adults with ADHD symptoms that are considered disabling by the Social Security Administration (SSA) may be eligible to receive benefits from the federal government.How do you act if you have ADD? ›
Adults with ADHD may have trouble prioritizing, starting, and finishing tasks. They tend to be disorganized, restless, and easily distracted. Some people with ADHD have trouble concentrating while reading. The inability to stay focused and follow through on tasks can derail careers, ambitions, and relationships.
What does undiagnosed ADD look like in adults? ›
Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus and prioritize, leading to missed deadlines and forgotten meetings or social plans. The inability to control impulses can range from impatience waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and outbursts of anger. Adult ADHD symptoms may include: Impulsiveness.Do people with ADD feel love? ›
Kids with ADHD often feel emotions more deeply than other kids do. When teens with ADHD fall in love, the feelings of joy and excitement can be even more intense for them. Teens might feel a deep sense of intimacy and acceptance, perhaps for the first time.What undiagnosed ADD looks like? ›
Adults with undiagnosed ADHD often seem disorganized or even scattered. These organizational struggles can affect many areas, from prioritizing tasks to keeping track of personal items. Common signs of organization problems include: Always looking for items they can't find.What are the 3 types of ADHD in adults? ›
- ADHD – inattentive. Inattentive ADHD, commonly known as ADD, accounts for about 33% of all ADHD in adults. ...
- ADHD – hyperactive & impulsive. Hyperactive and impulsive ADHD accounts for 7% of all ADHD in adults. ...
- ADHD – combined.
- being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings.
- constantly fidgeting.
- being unable to concentrate on tasks.
- excessive physical movement.
- excessive talking.
- being unable to wait their turn.
- acting without thinking.
- interrupting conversations.
Can Your ADHD Get Worse as You Age? ADHD is a developmental disorder that's typically diagnosed during childhood. While the symptoms of ADHD may change with age, this condition often persists into adulthood. Rather than intensifying with age, ADHD tends to improve, especially with ongoing treatment and management.Is ADHD obvious in adults? ›
You can still have ADHD even if you were not diagnosed as a child. Commonly, symptoms of poor focus, hyperactivity, and impulsivity remain manageable thanks to well-honed coping mechanisms that fall apart with a major life event — like obtaining your first job, getting married, or starting a family.At what age does ADHD peak? ›
The symptoms may peak in severity when the child is seven to eight years of age, after which they often begin to decline. By the adolescent years, the hyperactive symptoms may be less noticeable, although ADHD can continue to be present.How does ADHD affect a person mentally? ›
We know that if you have ADHD you're more likely to experience a mental health problem. There's evidence that anxiety, depression, conduct disorder (persistent patterns of antisocial, aggressive or defiant behaviour), substance abuse, and sleep problems are all more common with people who have ADHD.Is ADHD a mental illness in adults? ›
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a mental illness that affects the way you act and focus. ADHD is usually diagnosed in school-aged children, but it can continue to cause problems into adulthood. About two-thirds of people living with ADHD continue to experience symptoms as an adult.
Is ADHD a form of Autism? ›
Autism spectrum disorder and ADHD are related in several ways. ADHD is not on the autism spectrum, but they have some of the same symptoms. And having one of these conditions increases the chances of having the other.What does ADHD trigger? ›
Common ADHD triggers include: stress. poor sleep. certain foods and additives. overstimulation.How does high functioning ADHD look like? ›
High-functioning ADHD could mean: you experience severe symptoms but have developed “work arounds” to carry on with daily tasks and responsibilities. your symptoms are mild, and you're able to function with minimal impairment. symptoms are greatly impairing in some areas but you're highly functional in others.What foods are bad for ADHD? ›
Some of the common foods that can cause ADHD reactions include milk, chocolate, soy, wheat, eggs, beans, corn, tomatoes, grapes, and oranges. If you suspect a food sensitivity may be contributing to your child's ADHD symptoms, talk to your ADHD dietitian or doctor about trying an elimination diet.Do adults with ADHD talk to themselves? ›
In his own investigation, he found that others with ADHD tend to get carried away in their hyper self-talk, while those without ADHD sometimes report not even being aware of any self-talk or internal dialogue (what he refers to as being hypo-neuro-vocal).Are adults with ADHD smart? ›
However, there is no correlation between this condition and intelligence. In fact, according to one study , ADHD affects people in the same way across high, average, and low IQ score ranges. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that can make it difficult for people to focus and to control impulsive behaviors.Do ADHD people have a hard time relaxing? ›
ADHD and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. Research indicates that nearly half of adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. A hallmark of both is the inability to relax.