The idea that attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder is confined to children is false — the prevalence of ADHD among adults in the United States stands at 4.4%. But for adults, there can be some subtle differences in how the condition presents.
ADHD presents many of the same symptoms at any age, but there are subtle differences.
Historically, ADHD has been difficult to diagnose in children since many of the symptoms (namely inattention and hyperactivity) are part of growing up. Thanks to a better understanding of ADHD, we have improved diagnostic criteria for identifying ADHD in children, but some still go undiagnosed and carry the symptoms into adulthood.
Another issue we face in diagnosing adult ADHD is that adults have become better at hiding the symptoms. With socialization and entry into the “real world,” adults are more adept at controlling the outward signs of ADHD, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t struggling inside. In fact, there’s a case to be made that undiagnosed ADHD in adults is more problematic because of this internalization.
Another difference between childhood and adult ADHD that is of note is that hyperactivity tends to wane with age. Instead of acting out hyperactivity physically, adults can be fidgety, excessively talkative, or impulsive.
In light of what we discussed, signs of ADHD can be more subtle in adults. Some of the signs include:
One side effect of ADHD that may seem out of place in the list above is hyperfocus. That symptom is often seen in adults and describes a condition in which the person is intent on one thing and blocks everything else out. The hyperfocus may be a way of managing the racing thoughts and “white noise” of ADHD.
If any of what we’ve described above sounds familiar, we urge you to schedule an appointment at our office in Niwot, Colorado (serving the Boulder and Longmont areas), for an evaluation with one of our ADHD experts. Like childhood ADHD, there are solutions that can help you better navigate your world.