Adhd Diagnosis In Adults
To reach an ADHD diagnosis in an adult, a mental health professional will look for:
- five or more symptoms of inattention and/or five or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for more than 6 months
- symptoms present before age 12
- symptoms present in more than two settings
- symptoms that interfere with or reduce the quality of social, academic, or work functioning
- symptoms that cannot be explained by other mental health conditions or substance use
A diagnosis of adult ADHD involves a comprehensive evaluation, including a medical exam and review of current and past symptoms.
Mental health professionals diagnose adult ADHD using the same diagnostic criteria as childhood ADHD. However, the same symptoms may look quite different in an adult.
Symptoms will also vary depending on dominant ADHD type.
Performance Testing And Psychological Testing
Usually, the diagnosis of adult ADHD can be made from the history of childhood and adult symptoms. However, one DSM-IV-based rating scale for adults that may help the clinician affirm the diagnosis is the clinician-rated Conner’s Adult ADHD Rating Scale.30 There also are self-report behavior rating scales that may be helpful. These include the Copeland Symptom Checklist for Adult ADHD, a three-point severity rating scale for a broad range of cognitive, emotional, and social symptoms filled out by the patient 31 the Wender Utah Rating Scale, a retrospective five-point severity rating scale of childhood ADHD symptoms filled out by the patient 32 the Brown Adult ADHD Scale, a four-point frequency rating scale for cognitive symptoms associated with difficulty initiating and maintaining optimal arousal level completed by the patient 33 and the Pilot Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale , which is a frequency-based scale that matches the 18 items in the DSM-IV, has adult-specific language, and includes situational âcontextâ for describing symptoms.5
Trouble Concentrating And Staying Focused
Attention deficit can be a misleading label. Adults with ADHD are able to focus on tasks they find stimulating or engaging, but have difficulty staying focused on and attending to mundane tasks. You may become easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds, bounce from one activity to another, or become bored quickly. Symptoms in this category are sometimes overlooked because they are less outwardly disruptive than the ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivitybut they can be every bit as troublesome:
- Becoming easily distracted by low-priority activities or external events that others tend to ignore.
- Having so many simultaneous thoughts that its difficult to follow just one.
- Difficulty paying attention or focusing, such as when reading or listening to others.
- Frequently daydreaming or zoning out without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation.
- Struggling to complete tasks, even ones that seem simple.
- A tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work.
- Poor listening skills for example, having a hard time remembering conversations and following directions.
- Getting quickly bored and seeking out new stimulating experiences.
Hyperfocus: the other side of the coin
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Adult Adhd Signs And Symptoms
The signs of ADHD in adults may be similar to childhood ADHD. But some of these symptoms, especially hyperactivity, may decrease over time, making diagnosis in adults more difficult.
Symptoms in adults tend to be more subtle. As a result, ADHD can be harder to spot in adults than in children.
Its important to note that many of the symptoms of ADHD can be misinterpreted as personality flaws or character traits in adults. This can lead to internalizing a lot of negative feedback and trying to change things you really cant control without the proper treatment or learning tools.
Symptoms of ADHD in adults can be divided into two main categories:
Adult Adhd Symptoms: Its Not Too Late To Get Them Diagnosed
If you think youre experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of ADHD, its best to take your concerns to a trusted healthcare provider who can address them effectively.
Try to seek a professional specializing in treating and supporting adults with ADHD.
The ADDA adult ADHD test is a great starting point to screen yourself for signs of ADHD.
Check out ADDAs online resource hub if youd like to learn more about adult ADHD. Here, youll gain access to support groups, communities, and tips on how to live and thrive with ADHD.
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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 youre 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.
Adult Women With Adhd: You Dont Have To Struggle Alone
If you think you may be showing signs of ADHD, its best to reach out to a trusted healthcare professional to examine and diagnose your condition.
Check out ADDAs online resources, where you can connect with people who have ADHD, find support groups and coaches, and learn more about ADHD.
ADDAs Adult ADHD test is also a good starting point to screen yourself and detect if you may have ADHD.
Recognizing that you may have ADHD is an important step to getting a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Its never too late to take that first step!
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Procrastinating To The Extreme
ADHD brains are always on the lookout for activities that will cause a rush of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that leads to feelings of reward and pleasure and that tends to be lower in people with the disorder.
Because people with ADHD have trouble sustaining enough dopamine during routine tasks that arent as interesting to them, they might find themselves doing everything possible to avoid them.
The average person might feel bored by a routine task, but with ADHD, the negative feeling is more extreme and so, too, the avoidance of it, OShea said. It can be missed as a potential ADHD symptom because it looks like intentional laziness and lack of motivation.
How Effective Are These Treatments
Less research has been done into the medication treatments for adults with ADHD, than with children, so some medications are not yet licensed in adults, even though they are commonly used. Your psychiatrist can still prescribe them, but may need to make it clear that the prescription is ‘off license’.
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Diagnostic Criteria For Adult Adhd
ADHD can be diagnosed by a qualified healthcare provider such as a primary care physician, a therapist, or a psychiatrist. In some cases, the primary care physician may refer a patient to a mental healthcare provider, if they suspect the person has ADHD.
The healthcare provider will assess the person and determine whether they meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The manual, published by the American Psychiatric Association, helps healthcare providers diagnose and treat mental health conditions such as ADHD.
These are the diagnostic criteria for ADHD listed in the DSM-5, for people over the age of 17:
- Having at least five symptoms of inattention for over six months
- Having at least five symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity for over six months
- Experiencing several of these symptoms since before the age of 12
- Exhibiting symptoms in two or more different settings, such as at home, at work or school, with friends or family members, or during other activities
- Facing disruptions to their daily life or reduced ability to function at work or in social settings due to their symptoms
- Behaving in ways that are inappropriate for their age and developmental level
- Not having any other health condition that would account for the presence of these symptoms
How Many People Have Adhd
Some of the
- habitual lateness
- not listening when people talk, or forgetting what they say
Adult ADHD may also affect your communication style. Some adults with this condition may present with the following:
- a compulsion to finish other peoples sentences
- frequently interrupt others while theyre talking
- trouble seeing during a conversation
- impatience when waiting for something
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’15 Tips To Help Yourself’
Adapted from 50 tips by American psychiatrist Ed Hallowell in Driven to Distraction.
- tell people: but dont use the diagnosis as an excuse
- ask for help from your friends and family: but say exactly what you need
- get feedback about how you affect others: and ask for feedback about when you do things well
- use structure and prioritise:
- break down big goals into smaller, manageable tasks
- ADDISS: Charity providing information and resources about ADHD for parents, sufferers, teachers and health professionals.
- Adders: Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Online information service.
- UK Adult ADHD Network: Professional body that aims to support practitioners in rolling out the NICE clinical guideline 72 and establish clinical services for adults in the UK.
Common Adult Adhd / Add Symptoms
The following are some of the most common symptoms of ADHD / ADD explained.
Difficulties with concentration:
- Carelessness and lack of attention to detail
- Continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
- Poor organisational and time management skills
- Inability to focus zoning out in conversations and finding it hard to listen
- Continually losing or misplacing things
- Restlessness, edginess and difficulties relaxing
- Depression when inactive
I have struggled with mood swings for over 20 years and have been given many diagnoses including bipolar. This is the first time I have had a comprehensive assessment Dr Jeczmien was able to give me a diagnosis of ADHD and recommended treatment which has made a dramatic change in my life. I now have the ability to function according to my true capacity and ability.
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Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is marked by a persevering excessive restlessness, difficulty keeping focus, impulsive behavior, and/or hyperactivity. These issues are pervasive and impairing in multiple contexts.ADHD is sometimes considered a childhood disorder an individual failed to overcome in adolescence. In fact, its symptoms often start in early childhood and continue into adulthood. However, in many cases, ADHD is actually not recognized or diagnosed until the individual reaches adulthood.
According to the USA’s leading organization that protects public health – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ,attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is more common in boys and men than in girls and women. Males are much more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder than females. It is also worth noting that women display the symptoms of ADHD differently compared to men.If you think you or your child might have ADHD, we highly recommend you take this accurate and free Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Test. Remember that even though this test is a powerful assessment tool, it is not an official diagnosis. Only a licensed mental health professional – a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a neurologist – can diagnose someone with ADHD. In some cases, primary care providers can identify the condition, give the diagnosis, and treat ADHD too.
Symptoms Of Adhd* Include:
- Dislikes doing tasks that require focus or attention for a long period, and often avoids these tasks
- Distracted easily
- Easily loses things needed for activities or tasks such as cell phone, wallet, keys, paperwork, schoolbooks, etc.
- Forgetful in daily tasks and activities
- Loses focus or gets side tracked when performing workplace duties, chores or schoolwork
- Problems with attention to details, makes careless mistakes at work, school or with other activities
- Trouble keeping attention on play activities or other tasks
- Trouble organizing activities and tasks and may forget the proper sequence of tasks
- When spoken to directly, seems to not be paying attention or listening
- Gets up when expected to remain seated
- Interrupts or intrudes on the games or conversations of others
- Squirms in seat, fidgets or taps with feet or hands
- Talks excessively
- Unable to participate in leisure activities or play quietly
*This list is only for reference purposes. Only a qualified health care professional can diagnose ADHD.
In order to receive an ADHD diagnosis, children up to 16 years of age must have six or more symptoms of inattention and/or six or more symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity, according to the CDC. For people ages 17 and older, a diagnosis requires five or more symptoms.
Other conditions necessary for diagnosis include:
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Feeling Fatigued At Work
Exhaustion during the workday can be a result of ADHD. âIf you have untreated ADHD, you have to really work at making yourself focus,â says Sarkis. âThis can lead to you being exhausted at the end of the day.â Meyer adds that fatigue is also often a result of sleep issues, which people with ADHD might also go through.
Causes And Risk Factors
Much like mental disorders such as depression or anxiety, researchers arent sure what causes ADHD. Several environmental and genetic factors could increase a persons risk of having ADHD.
More males than females have ADHD, and symptoms manifest differently in females and males. Females are more likely to have inattention symptoms.
Mothers who smoke, drink or use drugs during pregnancy have an increased risk of having a child with ADHD, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. For example, a study in Pediatrics found that children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy have a 60 percent increased risk of having a child with ADHD.
Genetics and family history are also risk factors. For example, 25 percent of parents of children with ADHD also have it, according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
Other developmental risks include low birth weight, brain injuries and exposure to toxins during pregnancy.
Taking some medications while pregnant may also increase the risk of having a child who develops ADHD. A 2017 study by Eivind Ystrom and colleagues in Pediatrics found that taking acetaminophen while pregnant was associated with a greater risk of ADHD in children.
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Adhd And Quality Of Life
ADHD can affect a persons quality of life. People with ADHD may find it difficult to maintain relationships or keep a job. If their condition was undiagnosed and untreated in childhood, they may not have done well in school. A lifetime of grappling with this behavioural disorder sometimes causes low self-esteem. Some people with ADHD experiment with drugs or alcohol to try and cope with their feelings. People with ADHD are more likely to have personality disorders and other psychological problems, such as anxiety or mood disorders. On the other hand, being neuro-atypical can also have its advantages. Adults with properly managed ADHD often show great imagination and creative flair. New ways of working are leading to the design of working environments better able to suit people with ADHD.
Related Conditions In Adults With Adhd
As with ADHD in children and teenagers, ADHD in adults can occur alongside several related problems or conditions.
One of the most common is depression. Other conditions that adults may have alongside ADHD include:
- personality disorders conditions in which an individual differs significantly from the average person in terms of how they think, perceive, feel or relate to others
- bipolar disorder a condition affecting your mood, which can swing from one extreme to another
- obsessive compulsive disorder a condition that causes obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour
The behavioural problems associated with ADHD can also cause problems such as difficulties with relationships and social interaction.
Page last reviewed: 24 December 2021 Next review due: 24 December 2024
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Inattentive Symptoms Of Adult Adhd
There are two kinds of attention at play here:
- Automatic attention occurs when we pay attention to things we love, know and desire. On a sunny day, for example, you may feel the need to be outside because its an easy and natural activity to do.
- Directed attention or effortful attention requires you to be intentional with your focus. So maybe it is sunny outside, but you have homework or an assignment to finish, so you instead direct your attention to the thing you dont want to do. This effort to finish your task requires your executive control in order to get it done.
We all use these two forms of attention to various degrees, but when our ability to direct, hold and maintain our attention is hindered or interrupted, it can cause the nine symptoms listed below.
People with ADHD have impaired directed attention, says Dr. Manos. Theyre not able to easily use effortful attention. Instead, they avoid it and they engage in automatic attention tasks instead.
1. Lack of attention to details
2. Difficulty staying on task
Its easy for you to bounce around from one task to the next, maybe for no other reason than you have a lot going on. I mean, youve always claimed youre really good at multitasking. But if you have six projects, assignments or activities that are all 40% complete, and youre feeling the pressure to just get one thing anything finished, this might be a problem for you.
3. Trouble listening
4. Lack of follow-through