So, what is ADHD?
There are three types of ADHD:
ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation:
Mostly struggling with unusually high levels of restlessness, excitement, distraction, and impulsivity.
ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Presentation (known as ADD):
Mostly struggling with difficulties with concentration and paying attention.
ADHD Combined Presentation:
Struggling with both unusually high levels of excitement, restlessness, impulsivity. As well as concentration and paying attention.
Ok, let’s back up. What is executive functioning?
Daily skills affected by executive functioning include:
Knowing what to focus on when
Working memory (holding something in mind)
Planning and organization
Perspective-taking (e.g. understanding someone else’s point of view)
Maybe you see a kid climbing all over a couch, avoiding their homework, or running around in circles. You might not necessarily think anything of it. To some degree, it’s kind of expected. For a child with ADHD, if they’re lucky, someone notices when this behavior isn’t fitting for their age. Then, they have them assessed for ADHD.
For untreated adults, hyperactivity and inattention show up in different ways than for children. Kids with ADHD might be known to climb structures. But, adults might appear restless inside or talkative, often blurting things out. A child might become overwhelmed and throw a tantrum over homework while an adult may procrastinate and struggle to get started. Thus, losing opportunities as a result.
The social lives of adults with ADHD vs. kids with ADHD are also different. Kids with ADHD might find themselves struggling to make friends in school. For adults with ADHD, it is common to feel lost or out of sync with “adulting.” The experience of being lost can lead many adults with ADHD to feel excessive shame and experience depression. But, feeling lost has more to do with an ADHDer’s struggle to maintain energy, enthusiasm, and long-term motivation than anything else.
What are some overlooked symptoms of adult ADHD?
The hallmark symptoms of ADHD are right there in the name. Attention deficit, and hyperactivity. But how those symptoms show up in real life might look a little different than you realize.
Here are a few commonly overlooked adult ADHD symptoms:
- Easily triggered to experience “big emotions.” ADHD is an emotional disorder, meaning emotional regulation is more challenging. The ADHD brain can get “gobbled up” by one big emotion, making it hard to control or move on from the feeling. Because ADHD is a disorder of attention, ADHD can also cause problems in identifying the exact emotion in any given circumstance.
- Easily distracted at work and home. An ADHD partner is no stranger to criticism for forgetting to do something at home or work. They might become accustomed to negative feedback for non-preferred tasks. Or, feel like they have to work overtime to compensate for things they overlooked. It can be exhausting.
- Long periods of “hyperfocus” on preferred tasks rather than what needs to be done. ADHD is not a matter of ability, it’s a matter of performance. If there is something you love to do, it’s easy to do it for hours on end. For adults, this might look like hours spent on video games (with no parent to set limits).
- Easily irritated and overwhelmed. Because ADHD struggles with emotional regulation, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The life of an adult is often filled with erroneous tasks. These are tasks that might feel like they will take forever to complete. While no one loves “adulting,” many of these tasks are infuriating for the passionate-yet-distracted mind of an adult with ADHD.
- Sensitivity to criticism, often feeling rejected and defensive about mistakes. Many adults with ADHD discuss a phenomenon called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD). In a nutshell, having an ADHD nervous system seems to pair with intense sensitivity to rejection. Often, these feelings prompt “micro depressive episodes”. They can last hours and cause struggles in relationships (especially for adults).
You mean I’m not Lazy?
No! (In fact, check out the book: You mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid, or Crazy?! by Kate Kelly and Peggy Ramundo.) The key to understanding ADHD is to keep in mind that ADHD is not a problem of skill, it’s a problem of performance.
How does adult ADHD impact self-esteem?
The impact having ADHD has on self-esteem depends on how much a person can embrace their ADHD brain as a superpower. This idea is not to invalidate the true struggle that ADHD can cause people in their lives. ADHD and shame can often reinforce one another. Yet, the ADHD brain is uniquely positioned to come up with brilliant solutions to problems and create masterpieces. When a person with ADHD finds a spark, there’s no stopping them.
Unfortunately, without an ADHD diagnosis as a child, many kids grow up hearing, “He does good when he wants to…”. Or, that they were so smart, no one even considered the diagnosis. In fact, this observation is likely due to the ADHD brain doing fine when it’s focused on an interesting topic.
However, a person with ADHD often finds boring or detail-oriented tasks genuinely excruciating. They will likely find themselves putting them off. But the issue is the executive functioning of the brain rather than willpower.
Does ADHD run in families?
Yes, one thing we know is that there is a strong genetic component with ADHD. This means ADHD tends to run in families. So, it can be traced down through generations. A study by Resphen Biederman and colleagues indicates that 30 percent of parents with ADHD have children with ADHD. Also, according to ADDitude Magazine, children with ADHD have at least one close relative with the disorder.
But what accounts for the different presentations of ADHD? In his book Driven to Distraction, Dr. Ned Hallowell explains that “the vastness of the attentional system partially accounts for the variation in ADD types. Where one individual needs an oil change, the next needs spark plugs replaced.”
How is ADHD treated?
ADHD therapy always depends on the individual. But, there are some common courses of treatment for adults with ADHD. First, all treatment should start with a comprehensive assessment and confirmed diagnosis. Then, a treatment plan is made.
ADHD can impact people’s lives in a variety of ways. These may include time management, relationships, self-esteem, sleep, and mood. A big part of ADHD treatment addresses lifestyle and how to set up life to best support the ADHD brain. Skills to address time management and concentration are a critical part of adult ADHD treatment.
While skills are important to ADHD treatment, they do not address the underlying self-esteem issues that often come along with ADHD. It’s important for therapy to help you feel seen as a whole person. You deserve to feel understood and to practice self-compassion.
Folks with ADHD can also experience stressful life events. For this reason, it’s common for adult ADHD treatment to also involve processing and recovering from traumas and past hurts.
A holistic approach to adult ADHD treatment ensures change that lasts long after therapy ends.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
ADHD is diagnosed with a combination of thorough clinical interviewing, evidence-based scales, and state-of-the-art digital testing. ADHD assessment often includes the participation of a loved one. This is because adults with ADHD don’t always know how their ADHD symptoms are impacting those in their lives.
Shame can be something to be aware of early in the ADHD assessment process. It’s important to be honest about the symptoms you’re experiencing.
All in all, ADHD assessment requires time and attention to detail. It is important to rule out other diagnoses. And, to better understand how ADHD co-occurs with other mental health concerns.
Is it possible that I’ll need more evaluations or testing for adult ADHD?
There are times when ADHD testing concludes that more testing is required. This is because ADHD assessments are insufficient for diagnosing learning disorders or other cognitive issues. More neuropsychological evaluation or comprehensive psychological testing might be indicated.
But wait, doesn’t everyone struggle with attention or concentration?
Yes, in today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with distractions. In a sense, most people at one time or another may relate to some symptoms of ADHD. However, this does not mean ADHD isn’t real. ADHD is a medical diagnosis. Untreated ADHD causes functional impairments in people’s lives. Impairments being the keyword.
The intensity and duration of ADHD symptoms are what separates ADHD from the general population who might struggle with concentration in a fast-paced world.
I’ve had adult ADHD treatment before, but I feel like “cookie-cutter therapy” doesn’t help me, is that normal?
Yes! ADHD therapy requires a holistic approach. On the one hand, many evidence-based therapies help support ADHD. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for organizational skills training has proven results. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is useful for “unhooking” from negative self-talk. There is also some budding research that mindfulness for ADHD is helpful. But, adult ADHD treatment should also focus on helping you feel seen and heard as a person with ADHD. These are gifts rather than flaws.
Also, ADHD treatment should always allow space to incorporate discussions on lifestyle, emotions, self-esteem, and relationships. Just as there is no “one size fits all” assessment for ADHD, there is no “one size fits all” therapy. An adult ADHD specialist can help put a customized treatment plan together.
How common is ADHD in adults?
According to David W. Goodman, MD, the director of the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center of Maryland, about 10 million adults have adult ADHD. It’s important to note that a suspected 90% of those adults with ADHD are undiagnosed.
Can you develop ADHD as an adult?
To qualify for an ADHD diagnosis, symptoms need to exist in childhood. However, it’s possible to not be diagnosed until adulthood.
Can kids outgrow ADHD when they become adults?
ADHD was once considered a childhood disorder according to the National Resource Center on ADHD. It’s believed that ADHD continues into adulthood for about 75% of children with ADHD.
Will I always have ADHD?
In a sense, yes. But, a person with ADHD can remove or reduce the negative effects ADHD has on their life. With understanding and treatment, an adult with ADHD can learn the tools they need to turn their adult ADHD symptoms into superpowers.
There’s a fair amount of tension and arguments in my relationship with my partner, could ADHD be what is going on?
Yes, ADHD can cause frustrations within relationships. Struggling to manage time, money, and feelings takes its toll. It’s only a matter of time before the day-to-day struggles of unmanaged ADHD impact a relationship.
Many adults with ADHD may not even know that they have ADHD, let alone how to manage ADHD. This can leave their partner feeling confused, frustrated, and emotionally neglected.
In her book, The ADHD Effect on Marriage, ADHD, marriage expert Melissa Orlov explains many common dynamics that are a direct result of ADHD. One of which is the “painful misinterpretations of ADHD symptoms.”
How do you know if your partner is showing signs of adult ADHD?
To recognize adult ADHD, you might need to rethink the image of the “hyperactive kid.” Procrastinating, acting without thinking things through, and struggling with time management are often indicators. However, the degree that those symptoms impact daily life is the ultimate test. Careful ADHD testing or diagnostic assessment can help confirm.
How can I support my ADHD partner?
The most important factor in supporting a partner with ADHD is for you both to educate yourselves on adult ADHD. Adults with ADHD are not intentionally forgetful or neglectful. ADHD is due to true deficits in executive functioning (the brain’s CEO).
To improve the relationship, the better your collective understanding of ADHD, the easier it will be to have compassion and good communication. Becoming active learners helps take “ADHD out of the bag” so to speak. In addition, understanding ADHD can also help you both negotiate which tasks and responsibilities the ADHDer vs. the non-ADHDer should take on, leading to a better partnership in day-to-day life.
Begin Adult ADHD Treatment In Ohio
Answering your questions about adult ADHD will help you better understand your symptoms. With this, you can better harness your talents and overcome difficulties. Our Columbus, OH-based counseling practice has caring therapists who specialize in adult ADHD.
To start your counseling journey, follow these steps:
- Fill out the contact form to schedule a consultation.
- Meet with one of our caring therapists.
- Hone your emotional control. Focus your busy mind.
Other Services offered at Focused Mind ADHD Counseling
Looking for support with ADHD? A Columbus ADHD therapist can help. ADHD treatment can help you better manage ADHD, emotions, and life. Because ADHD impacts people in different ways, Focused Mind ADHD Counseling offers a variety of services including adult ADHD treatment, counseling for men with ADHD, depression counseling for ADHD, and anxiety treatment for ADHD.