Do you have trouble staying focused and finishing projects you start? Are you easily distracted? Have you ever wondered if you might have ADHD, or if there even is such a thing as ADHD in adults? If so, you are not alone. Many adults wrestle with ADHD and don’t even realize that’s what’s at the root of the challenges they face at work, in their relationships, or in their everyday life.
Adult ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a mental health condition that can lead to unstable relationships, poor work performance, and low self-esteem. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines it as “a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.”
Following is a list of common symptoms of ADHD in adults. It is normal for them to occur occasionally – almost everyone will exhibit one or more symptoms like these at one point or another in their lives, especially during periods of stress or fatigue. However, if the symptoms persist, and you experience them daily, it could very well be a sign of ADHD.
Symptoms of ADHD in adults
Impulsiveness. You don’t stop to think before you act or speak, and might be quick to jump to conclusions, react to things, or make hasty decisions you later regret. You are also impatient and tend to talk excessively, interrupt people speaking to you, butt into conversations, complete other people’s sentences for them, and blurt out answers before hearing the whole question.
Disorganization. There is little method or system to your life, and you have trouble planning or organizing things. It is difficult – if not impossible – for you to prioritize because everything feels equally important. This can lead to missed deadlines and forgotten appointments or social commitments, all of which can have a detrimental effect on your work and relationships.
Poor time management skills. You are often late to appointments because you have trouble gauging how long it will take to get somewhere and think you have more time than you do. You also have trouble estimating how long a project will take, and so you tend to put off doing things until the last minute.
Easily distracted. You have trouble sticking to one thing until it is finished because you keep getting distracted by something else. This can be especially problematic at work, when you don’t finish tasks or follow through on instructions given to you and can lead to poor performance evaluations or even cost you your job. Distractedness can also lead to unsafe driving habits, resulting in speeding tickets and accidents.
Trouble focusing. It is difficult for you to pay attention. Your thoughts bounce all over the place, making it hard to focus on what is most important, such as the task in front of you. As a result, you are prone to careless mistakes. You also tend to zone out in the middle of conversations, which can adversely affect your work and personal relationships.
Restlessness. You are fidgety, and it is hard for you to relax or sit still for any length of time.
Lack of self-control. It is difficult for you to get started on a project, and once you do, you have trouble sticking with it until it’s done. You also have a hard time resisting the desire for instant gratification. Shortsighted, and with a tendency to misplace priorities, you are prone to act rashly, rather than consider the long-term rewards or consequences of your actions.
In this, you are much like Esau in the Bible, who when he came home famished after a day of hunting and smelled the mouthwatering aroma of his brother’s cooking, impulsively sold him his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew (Genesis 25:29-34).
Easily frustrated. You often feel overwhelmed and have trouble coping with stress, which may lead you to be emotionally unpredictable and given to frequent mood swings. You may also suffer from anxiety, depression, or outbursts of anger.
Difficulty learning from the past. You tend to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and have trouble making changes.
Forgetfulness. You often forget to do the things you say you are going to do and leave projects unfinished because you get distracted and then don’t remember to get back to them. You also tend to lose or misplace things, forgetting what you did with them.
There is some controversy over whether there is such a thing as adult-onset ADHD. The consensus used to be that if you have ADHD you were born with it. However recent studies indicate otherwise.
Several of them have identified individuals with ADHD in adulthood who did not have it in childhood, and one (Faraone & Bideman) even raises the possibility that childhood-onset ADHD and adult-onset ADHD could be two distinct syndromes. There is no definitive answer.
More often than not, ADHD is a condition that does not fully go away. It is, however, manageable. Following are some steps you can take to help you.
Actions that can help you manage symptoms of ADHD in adults
While not all interventions will be successful for all individuals struggling with ADHD symptoms, below are steps you can try to effectively cope with and manage your individual challenges.
Make lists. Creating checklists can help you stay on track and remember what you need to do. At work, it can ensure that all necessary tasks have been completed for the day.
Set a timer. Since there is a tendency for people with ADHD to underestimate how long a task or project will take, it’s a good idea to include a time limit for each job or project. This can help you stay focused and complete what you start.
Write things down. Carry a notebook and pen around with you so you can jot down any thoughts, ideas, or tasks that need to be done as soon as they come to mind and before you have a chance to forget them.
Practice relaxation techniques. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing can help you calm down.
Seek counseling. A skilled therapist can help you better understand your condition, and work through unhealthy emotions such as depression or anxiety that you may be experiencing as a result. The therapist can also teach you coping mechanisms, showing you how to transform unhealthy thinking patterns or behaviors into healthy habits that enable you to function in more appropriate ways.
Capitalize on the silver lining. Adult ADHD symptoms can make life difficult, but they also have another side that enables you to thrive in the right environment. For instance, an abundance of energy, spontaneity, resilience, and impulsiveness are all aptitudes that can give you an edge in sports.
Similarly, the ability to constantly shift focus, coupled with the desire for instant gratification, can make you a good game player. Creativity and the ability to think outside the box are gifts that can be optimized through music, art, or design. These are just a few examples.
See yourself as God sees you. God loves and works with imperfect people, and He has a purpose and plan for your life. You were made in God’s image to bring Him glory as part of His body, the Church. (Psalm 139:13-14; 1 Corinthians 12:12-26).
Christian Counseling for ADHD
If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment regarding ADHD in adults or another concern you have, please feel free to contact me or one of the other faith-based counselors in the online counselor directory. We are available to help you manage the challenges you face and support and encourage you along the way.
Aiken, C. (March 11, 2021). Adult-Onset ADHD Raises Questions. Psychiatric Times, 38(3).Cooper, M., Hammerton, G., Collishaw, S. et al (2018). Investigating late-onset ADHD: a population cohort investigation, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 59(10):1105-1113.Dutton, J. (May 10, 2021). On Your Mark, Get Set, Glow: Three Inspiring Athletes with ADHD. ADDitudemag.com.Faraone, S.V. & Bideman, J. (July 2016). Can Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Onset Occur in Adulthood? JAMA Psychiatry, 73(7):65-656.
Moffitt, T. E., Houts, R., Asherson, P. et al (2015). Is adult ADHD a childhood-onset neurodevelopmental disorder? Evidence from a four-decade longitudinal cohort study. Am J Psychiatry, 172(10):967-977.
Ora Horn Prouser, Esau’s Blessing (Teaneck, New Jersey: Ben Yehuda Press, 2011).
“Focus”, Courtesy of Brett Jordan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Checklist”, Courtesy of Glenn Carstens-Peters, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Egg Timer”, Courtesy of Marcelo Leal, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; Control”, Courtesy of Caleb Gregory, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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