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ADHD: Not just for kids

Do you tend to have problems concentrating? Are you easily distracted? Do you often feel restless?

While most people may occasionally experience these difficulties, some adults struggle with such problems every day. What many of them don’t know is that they suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

The condition, usually associated with children, is marked by hyperactivity, inattentiveness and impulsiveness. Researchers have lately found that about one-third of children with ADHD continue to experience symptoms into adulthood. Yet many adults don’t realize they have the disorder—which always starts in childhood—since they have been struggling with their symptoms for so long.

In adults, hyperactivity—the hallmark symptom of ADHD—normally decreases over time and is replaced with feelings of restlessness. Inattentiveness may appear in later life as disorganization, an inability to manage time, a tendency to misplace belongings or difficulty focusing without being distracted. And an adult can display impulsiveness by such actions as driving recklessly and blurting out thoughts (often rude).

Diagnosing ADHD

Don’t be tempted to self-diagnose if you think you may be suffering from ADHD. A psychologist or a psychiatrist can determine if you have ADHD only after an extensive examination. Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and need as detailed a medical history as you can provide. School records and interviews with family members and friends can supply important clues.

Your doctor will look at the following characteristics and the degree to which they may have impaired your life:

  • a short attention span, easily distracted
  • forgetfulness
  • disorganization
  • chronic lateness
  • anxiousness or depression
  • restlessness
  • procrastination
  • excessive talking
  • low self-esteem
  • mood swings
  • employment or relationship problems
  • addictions or substance abuse

Symptoms vary from person to person. An accurate diagnosis is important to confirm whether you are suffering from the disorder or if you instead have characteristics of ADHD, especially if your symptoms didn’t start until adulthood.

While some adults with ADHD avoid or struggle through college or have trouble holding down a job, others find fulfillment in fast-paced and challenging careers or lifestyles. Many are productive and successful, having found ways to cope.

Living with ADHD

An ADHD diagnosis can bring a sense of relief to some sufferers, since it can help to explain past employment problems, relationship squabbles or other disappointments in life. Professional counseling and sometimes medication can help patients perform better. Prioritizing tasks; using calendars, lists and filing systems for better organization; and regularly exercising or engaging in relaxing activities can relieve stress and make life more enjoyable.