Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that’s often forgotten; especially when symptoms of impulsivity reduce at the adolescent stage. However, contrary to what was believed a few years ago, this neurodivergence doesn’t disappear, but takes another form in adult life.
On the other hand, there are times when an individual receives an ADHD diagnosis as an adult. In these cases, not only did the sufferer go through a childhood marked by its signs, but these have changed with age. In fact, as a rule, in adulthood, they’re less salient. This is either because of the maturation of the prefrontal cortex or because the’ve learned how to implement some effective compensation strategies.
In this article, we’re going to explore attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults and give some recommendations for living with it after adolescence.
The difference between ADHD in adults and children
Not all people exhibit the same symptoms of ADHD. Indeed, within this neurodivergence are several subgroups. However, its central symptoms are inattention, impulsivity, and excessive nervous activation. In children, they often cause problems at school (bad academic performance, for example) and in social relationships.
But, how does ADHD manifest in adult life? As a rule, the adult sufferer develops mechanisms that help them employ regularity and moderation in the most striking symptoms, such as impulsivity. This means they’re more or less able to function normally in everyday life. That said, they may still experience certain difficulties.
Symptoms of ADHD in adults
Adults with ADHD usually exhibit difficulties in one or several areas of their daily lives. As we mentioned earlier, in most cases they can moderate their expressions of impulsivity and hyperactivity. However, they often struggle with attention problems.
In recent years, ADHD has been viewed as a neurodivergence instead of a disorder. In fact, it’s considered to be more of an alternative brain function.
According to a study published in the INFAD Journal of Psychology, the disorder manifests with subtle and indirect signals.
Signs of ADHD in adults
- When the sufferer feels motivated, they concentrate better. This benefits their working memory.
- Sometimes, they struggle to complete tasks, especially those that are tedious and require sustained attention.
- They struggle with impulse control. In fact, it can sometimes lead to antisocial or dangerous behaviors.
- They exhibit poor time management and organization of their activities, In addition, they have a tendency to be late or to procrastinate.
- They find it difficult to converse and might lose the thread of the conversation. Or, they may constantly interrupt or exhibit disorganized and scattered speech.
- They have a low tolerance for frustration and delayed reward. This problem is linked to impulsiveness, although it doesn’t manifest in the same way as in childhood. They also find it difficult to calculate the consequences of their actions.
- They perceive their quality of life to be poor. This is described in a study conducted on the quality of life of young adults with ADHD. It claims that those who didn’t receive a diagnosis and treatment in childhood suffer negative effects on their daily performance and success. It’s exacerbated in individuals who suffer from comorbid disorders, such as depression.
Coping with ADHD in Adulthood
Surviving in a normative, hectic world that demands more than 100 percent of our energy is far more difficult for those who suffer from ADHD. In order to get along better, they can implement certain tricks in their daily life. For example:
- Using calendars and apps to organize themselves.
- Setting small short-term goals. For example, making task lists. They act as reinforcement for the sufferer as they’re able to cross the tasks off the list as they carry them out.
- Increasing their number of breaks. If the task is too tedious, they should work in periods of 15-20 minutes, resting for five minutes in between.
- Not overloading themselves. They must be aware of their limits and the time they have. Preferably they should just fulfill a few daily goals rather than becoming overwhelmed and, ultimately achieving nothing.
- Keeping their workspace clean and having essential items in sight. For example, leaving house keys, car keys, and wallet in the same place, all together.
- Finding ways of motivating themselves. For instance, carrying out activities they like. In fact, any detail that makes organizing their day and completing tasks more bearable.
- Exercising, eating healthily, and sleeping well. Taking care of these three aspects means that they’ll feel better and have more mental energy to control their attention or inhibit any unreflective behaviors. In fact, the Revista Habanera de Ciencias Médicas highlights physical activity as a benefit for the quality of life in the ADHD sufferer.
The above advice won’t have an immediate effect on their performance, but it’ll create a good foundation for everything else. Of course, if they need to, they should visit a psychologist. Indeed, many adults benefit from therapy and some often have supportive medication. Therefore, if you suffer from ADHD or suspect you might have it, don’t hesitate to consult a professional.
ADHD in adults: perspectives and challenges
Today’s world is hectic, contradictory, and full of stimuli that demand our attention. Although it’s true that ADHD is a heterogeneous clinical picture circumscribed to the individual’s neurobiology, it also has a strong psychosocial component, as mentioned in an article published in the journal, Revista Médica Clínica Las Condes.
The stigma of neurodivergence and mental disorders doesn’t stop at schoolyard ridicule. In fact, without a society educated in justice and in the importance of mental health, depression, crime, and isolation prevail, among other problems.
Furthermore, access to decent mental health services is a pending issue in almost the entire world. In this respect, an article in the journal, Contextos mentions the importance of self-knowledge as well as the help of professionals who are up-to-date on ADHD knowledge.
Finally, the question remains of where alternative brain functioning ends and a disorder begins. It’s a question that’s been asked for many years. Fortunately, today, ableism with regard to ADHD is reducing. However, we must continue working if we want to achieve a united, open, and tolerant society.