How ADHD Presents Differently in Adults Than Children


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in children, but the disorder doesn’t simply go away once you become an adult. 

ADHD entails poor frontal lobe regulation. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain responsible for more sophisticated tasks such as future planning, problem-solving, and memory. 

The main characteristics of ADHD are poor concentration, emotional dysregulation (impulsivity and mood swings), and hyperactivity. ADHD sufferers find it hard to focus on mundane and repetitive tasks and often get distracted. 

However, when a task is of interest to them, they can hyperfocus, meaning they can completely ignore their surroundings and lose track of time while doing something they love. For example, while watching a movie they enjoy, an ADHD sufferer can shut out conversations in the room as their brain completely filters out certain information. 

Our experts at Washington Center for Women’s and Children’s Wellness (WCWCW) understand that while ADHD may change as we age, it doesn’t stop impacting our lives. Read on to find out how ADHD manifests itself in adults. 

Why certain ADHD symptoms change as you age 

As you grow older, you may learn that certain behaviors are undesirable, and while the compulsion to act in a certain way remains, it may manifest itself differently.

For example, if you were a child who had a hard time focusing and staying still in the classroom and constantly interrupted your teachers, as an adult at work you may check your phone frequently, look for excuses to talk with co-workers, and find it challenging to stay on task. 

Due to poor concentration, emotional dysregulation, and impulsivity, many adults with ADHD may also suffer from depression and anxiety. This may happen as a consequence of struggling to do well academically, meet deadlines, or be on time. 

While these are manifestations of ADHD, to other people they may appear to be signs of not being invested or hard-working enough. ADHD adults often receive a lot of criticism when their symptoms are not well-managed, and this can also feed into the anxiety and depression cycle. 

However, exhibiting symptoms of ADHD doesn’t mean you aren’t motivated enough. ADHD is a disorder caused by either genetics or the environment that leads to poor emotional and behavioral control. 

ADHD types 

The way ADHD presents itself in an adult largely depends on the type of ADHD the individual is suffering from. There are three types of ADHD: inattentive, impulsive/hyperactive, and combination. 

The inattentive type may have a hard time staying focused on a task. They may also indulge in daydreaming, delay tasks often, and struggle with meeting deadlines. 

The impulsive/hyperactive type may start a lot of projects but leave them unfinished, jumping from one task to the other. They may make impulsive decisions and have a hard time sitting still for prolonged periods. 

The combination type has characteristics from both the inattentive and the impulsive/hyperactive types. 

ADHD treatment for adults 

Depending on your unique situation and comorbidities (depression, anxiety, etc.), our staff may recommend therapy to learn how to regulate your behavior more effectively, medications to increase certain neurotransmitters in your brain, or a combination of the two. 

While ADHD isn’t considered a severe mental health problem, it can cause a lot of frustration and unhappiness and prevent you from achieving your true potential. Contact us to schedule an appointment to find out if you have ADHD, and get expert advice on managing the disorder. 

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