The Top 3 Signs You May Have Adult ADHD - Exclusive

Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect many different aspects of a person's life. Although it's known as adult ADHD, symptoms first start in early childhood and persist all the way into adulthood. While adult ADHD and childhood ADHD are the same condition, it may present differently in adults than it does in children. Generally speaking, adults with ADHD tend to experience less hyperactivity and impulsivity than children.

Adults are also more likely to hide or mask their symptoms from others. "It is not uncommon for intelligent individuals to find ways to cope with their ADHD symptoms and even to hide them until they reach a point in their education or careers where the cognitive demands become more intense," Dr. Zoe Martinez, MD, Ph.D., and Clinical Leader at Done, says in an exclusive interview with Health Digest. "The challenges associated with untreated ADHD for children and adults can result in moods that are perhaps best described as encompassing anger, anxiety, boredom, excitement, and even depression."

Difficulty paying attention

According to Dr. Martinez, ADHD symptoms can vary from person to person, but there are three general signs and symptoms of adult ADHD that you should be on the lookout for. For instance, the most common symptom of ADHD in adults is difficulty paying attention. Instead of hyperactivity and impulsivity, "signs of ADHD can also translate into difficulty focusing or paying attention," Dr. Martinez says. This is especially true when it comes to completing specific tasks that require deep concentration and complex organization.

For many adults with ADHD, this symptom can be exacerbated or exaggerated if the task at hand isn't particularly interesting or engaging, like paying bills or doing household chores. "That can also manifest in poor time-management skills or disorganization and finding it hard to prioritize," she explains. This disorganization can make it difficult for adults with ADHD to keep everything in the right place, juggle multiple responsibilities, or keep track of and prioritize certain tasks and goals (via Healthline).

Inability to plan ahead

Dr. Martinez says that adults with ADHD also tend to have difficulty planning ahead or being proactive. Since ADHD can affect concentration, it can also make it difficult for people to map out a schedule ahead of time and come up with a detailed plan in advance of a certain event or activity (via PsychCentral). This is generally because people with ADHD are more likely to prioritize short-term tasks and rewards instead of long-term ones, which can make it hard to think about the future, especially when it comes to planning.

Because of this, many adults with ADHD may have trouble motivating themselves to plan ahead and complete certain tasks that do not yield an immediate positive reward. According to Dr. Martinez, this can result in a low tolerance for frustration. "All these symptoms can lead to other associated behaviors like impatience and lack of focus along with emotional outbursts," she shares.


The third most common sign of adult ADHD is distractibility, Dr. Martinez says. In addition to having trouble concentrating, adults with ADHD have a tendency to get easily distracted, which can make it difficult to stay on task. For example, noises, busy offices, and even constant emails and phone calls can derail one's concentration and make it hard to focus on any one thing, which can leave some people with a list of uncompleted tasks at work or school (via WebMD).

According to Dr. Martinez, however, distractibility can also lead to impatience, talking too much, and even fidgeting. "Distractibility is the overarching way to look at it and these behaviors can include difficulty concentrating on specific tasks and goals or finding it difficult to wait their turn and may include excessive talking or fidgeting," Dr. Martinez explains, adding that all of these signs and symptoms exemplify a recurring lack of focus and difficulty concentrating.

How to get diagnosed

If you suspect you may have adult ADHD, you should schedule an appointment with a mental health professional or primary care physician so you can receive a proper diagnosis. "Meeting with a licensed and skilled clinician is a critical first step," Dr. Martinez says. While there is no official test for ADHD, there are a number of screening tools healthcare providers can use to determine whether or not you have ADHD (via Healthline).

For instance, physicians will typically conduct extensive interviews to find out if your symptoms match the criteria for ADHD and use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) to assess which type of ADHD you might have: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, or combined. In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, you need to experience at least five symptoms for more than six consecutive months. Most of these symptoms also need to have been present before the age of 12.

Treatment options for adult ADHD

Once you've been diagnosed with ADHD, you and your physician can come up with a treatment plan, which can include therapy, medication, or both. "Depending on the individual's desire, it can include some coaching about organizational strategies, how to take notes, maybe set alarms on a mobile device," Dr. Martinez explains. In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing your habits and behavior, can help you improve your time management and organizational skills and help you find healthy ways to cope with your symptoms and life challenges (via Mayo Clinic).

It can also be helpful to take classes that help improve your problem-solving and communication skills, especially when it comes to coping with platonic and romantic relationships. "However, for adults who are working or in school, the most effective and most efficient way to treat symptoms is usually with medication," Dr. Martinez says. Some ADHD medications include stimulants, like methylphenidate, and antidepressants, like bupropion, both of which aim to increase and balance the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.

To learn more about Dr. Zoe Martinez, visit