Adult ADHD Symptoms that are Subtle and Difficult to Diagnose
ADHD is defined as a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. ADHD is usually easily recognized in children but not so much in adults. There are many signs and symptoms of ADHD that are often overlooked or dismissed because they are so subtle. Signs and symptoms can differ between adults and children in how they manifest and this article will only focus on adult ADHD.
Many people live with ADHD and don’t know it but when their lives get to a place of unmanageability they can’t ignore the symptoms any longer. Sometimes a person is encouraged to seek out help from a partner or loved one because ADHD symptoms usually affect entire family systems and rarely just the one diagnosed.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
Behavior is hard to hide and therefore it usually is a dead giveaway for someone suffering from ADHD. A disorganized environment is a major sign of someone suffering from this disorder. Paying bills and keeping a house tidy, which are minor tasks for most, can be quite a struggle with someone who has ADHD.
People with ADHD are often late due to their inability to gauge how much time is required to get to a place and/or they become distracted en route such as forgetting that the car is low on gas and they’ll need to stop and fill it up. Plus they underestimate how much time a project will take to complete.
Fidgeting in their seat or getting up multiple times in a situation where seating is expected is another sign of ADHD.
Being easily distracted can be another major indicator of ADHD. If a person is working on a project or paper and easily falls off task when a phone rings or someone asks a question, that can be an indicator that there is more going on then just being disrupted.
The cognitive dissonance a person experiences with ADHD can lead to mood disorders because of the high level of internal chaos.
A person suffering from ADHD can experience:
- trouble focusing
- be easily distracted
- forget things or forget where items were placed
Mental / MoodAnxiety, mood swings, depression, and irritability are all signs of ADHD. A person can become quite anxious or depressed about meeting a deadline, finishing a project, or losing an item because of the daily struggle of being unorganized and/or not being able to complete a task. People also might describe you as uptight or tense as ADHD will make it hard for you to relax.
Exhibiting one or two signs of ADHD is common for most people but it doesn’t mean that you have the disorder or meet the criteria for diagnosis. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual requires a person to have a certain amount of symptoms over a certain time span to be diagnosed. A professional or doctor will take a complete history and look at your signs and symptoms in context to see if you meet the diagnostic criteria.
There are many treatment options available to someone who is affected by ADHD. It is no fun living in a world where a person may feel they are in complete chaos all the time and feeling like they have no control over it. Treatment ranges from psychotherapy and behavioral interventions to medications and is based on the severity of symptoms and how the symptoms are affecting a person.
Psychotherapy can help you process your feelings around managing ADHD and behavioral interventions will teach you life skills to be aware of your ADHD behaviors and to better manage them. The better a person can learn skills to manage their ADHD, the more in control they will feel about their disorder and it may allow them to function without the use of medication.
“Talk therapy” or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a powerful tool to use in helping someone get relief not only from dealing with their ADHD but also dealing with the behavioral, cognitive, and mental/mood issue related to ADHD. Family therapy may also be warranted as well.
Medications include stimulants and non-stimulants and starting medications is always trial and error. Stimulants are usually prescribed first and your doctor will monitor your dosage, side effects, and how the medications are affecting you.
Side effects of medication can sometimes mimic ADHD symptoms so it’s important to check in regularly with your doctor and/or therapist to monitor things. Some side effects can include jittery nerves, anxiety, trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, moodiness, dry mouth, increase in blood pressure, and other effects.
Medication that is primarily used to treat anxiety and/or depression may also be prescribed to help with your ADHD. Some people may be able to discontinue meds after awhile but for others, it may be a lifetime maintenance plan.
If you are suffering from ADHD, get help. As a Christian counselor, I see and recognize that seeking help can be challenging for some individuals as there may be a belief that asking for help means we don’t have trust and faith in God.
I encourage you to use prayer to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to a place of wisdom and discernment around getting help with your disorder. God loves and works through imperfect people and you are worth it and deserve the best.
“Alejandra thinking II,” courtesy of Luis Alejandro Bernal Romeo, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Reading Day 12,” courtesy of Katia Goretti Dias Vazzoller, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “Hope Sign in Oakland Hills,” courtesy of Cary Bass-Deschenes, Flickr CreativeCommons, (CC BY-SA 2.0)