It is still thought of as condition that only affects children. The thoughts of an uncontrollable and excitable child, unable to sit still and throwing tantrums in public. The child that does not pay attention in class, is constantly fidgeting and disrupting social activities. But ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is not always so typical in presentation. And it does not only affect children. It is now known that childhood ADHD can continue into adulthood although not be as prominent in the way it appears. The problem is that adults today who were born in the 60s and 70s were most likely undiagnosed as having childhood ADHD and the symptoms in adulthood are often mistaken as personality traits or other mental health conditions.
The exact cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is unknown – both in children and adults. Unlike other mental health conditions, ADHD does not start in adulthood. Instead it was present from childhood and persists into adulthood in some people. Genetics is believed to play a major role in the condition but the exact genes and interaction with other factors has not as yet been clearly identified. There is also some evidence to suggest that exposure to toxins in fetal life may also have some role to play in ADHD. These toxins may include cigarette smoker, alcohol or other toxins.
ADHD and more specifically the approach to treatment has become somewhat of a controversial issue these days, as parents and some experts feel that the prescription of ADHD drugs is abused to ‘sedate’ creative children with flamboyant personalities that may be mistaken for ADHD. In ADHD there appears to be a disruption of brain hormones in certain areas of the brain. But the consequences of untreated ADHD is very real. It can lead to an under-performance in school and work and even permeate into relationship and other social problems.
Lack of Focus and Easily Distracted
Adults generally have a better ability to focus at a task at hand even if it is monotonous or moderately difficult. However, with ADHD a person is easily distracted from what they are doing and it often leads to incomplete tasks. Loud sounds, the buzz of a busy office and other possible distractions that most adults may be able to “shut out” are a problem for a person with ADHD and leads to problems with work and education. It is not only career and academic tasks but even personal tasks and chores at home may take very long or be abandoned midway due to distractions.
Extremely Focused on Enjoyable Tasks
Contrary to the inability to focus on most tasks, particularly prolonged activities, adults with ADHD may be to exhibit extreme abilities to focus on tasks that they they enjoy. This is known as hyperfocus and a person with ADHD may be able to “switch off” entirely and ignore the rest of the world while participating in tasks that they find enjoyable. While most adults can focus intently, a person with ADHD is not able to bring themselves to focus even sufficiently on tasks that may not be as enjoyable. This compromises their ability to commit and undertake tasks that adults are required to do.
Poor Planning and Organizing
Planning and organizing skills are important for a person to function effectively in the modern world. Some people may be better at planning and organizing than others and can keep to the structure. But a person with ADHD experiences difficulty in this regard. Planning may have unrealistic goals or fail to address the necessary goals and organizing in a way that makes the plan feasible is also poorly undertaken. Ultimately it leads to the inability to reach goals. It can be as simple as paying bills on time to difficulty arranging long term life and career goals.
Problems with Punctuality
We are all late for the odd appointment but problems with punctuality take on a whole other dimension in adult ADHD. Chronic lateness applies to most commitments so much so that the person is known for always being late by others. Adults with ADHD are not late on purpose and it is not that they do not value the importance of the appointment. Instead they have problems with planning and organizing their time in a manner that allows them to be on time for appointments and they are easily distracted along the way with tasks or activities that could have waited till later. Even though they may realize it is a problem, adults with ADHD may be unable to control their tardiness.
Easily Stressed and Difficulty Relaxing
Adults with ADHD may appear to be stress or agitated easily and cannot seem to unwind. It is an adult presentation of the hyperactivity component of ADHD. It is not necessarily that the person is actually stressed but rather that their restlessness is interpreted as stress or agitation by others. Even a person with ADHD may find it difficult to relax and “switch off” when the time is appropriate and not understand why they have this problem. It may ultimately lead to stress, not because of stressful life incidents, but rather not knowing why they are always tense and on edge.
Difficulty with Prioritizing
It is not that an adult ADHD is totally irresponsible but prioritizing can be a problem. Important tasks that need to be done urgently may not be treated as a priority while less important tasks may be attended to immediately. The same applies to more protracted tasks that need more attention than smaller tasks. In addition, an adult with ADHD may rather focus their time and attention of activities that they enjoy but are of no importance, like playing a video game or washing a car, rather than getting down to the important tasks that are pending and requires their urgent attention.
More Talking and Less Listening
Good communication skills requires the ability to focus attention like when talking to a person. But adults with ADHD have great difficulty in doing so. While they may not always interrupt others like ADHD children, they may find that their listening skills are poor. They may drift off or become distracted by the surroundings while others are talking. Furthermore they may choose to do the talking in a group or in a one-on-one setting therefore not giving others the opportunity to talk. They are often known to be poor listeners and sometimes this is seen as impatience or disinterest in a person, group or the subject matter at hand.
Reckless Behavior in Prolonged Activities
As with children, adults with ADHD have a difficulty in focusing on tasks especially if it is prolonged. Ultimately they may abandon the task, become frustrated or display reckless behavior in an attempt to end the activity quickly. When it comes to activities like driving where a person cannot just stop their vehicle midway, reckless driving patterns may be seen. Adults may also have difficulty committing to work or social activities where they will be isolated to one spot for a long time and do everything in their power to avoid it. Often this behavior is construed as irresponsibility but there may be more to the situation than others realize.
Interpersonal Relationship Problems
Problems in marriage and romantic relationships is not only an issue when one partner has ADHD but it can be a sign if other features are also present. Relationship problems may stem from a number of causes. A person with ADHD may be seen to be less committed or interested in the relationship as they experience difficulty in organizing themselves, prioritizing issues and keeping to commitments they have made. Coupled with poor listening skills, this behavior can frustrate the other partner and lead to conflicts due to issues that an adult with ADHD cannot identify.
Explosive Outbursts and Impulsiveness
Everybody gets angry at times and sometimes the reaction may not correlate with the action. Similarly we all display impulsive behavior every now and then. But for an adult with ADHD, this may occur more often than for others. Explosive outbursts may seem unrelated to the issue at hand in that a minor irritation or incident can trigger a major reaction. There is also impulsive behavior which is rather reckless at times, especially for an adult who should be aware of the consequences of their actions. This inability to display self control may also be evident in blurting out rude thoughts or insulting others without being able to restrain themselves.