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ADHD in Adults – Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment 

The concept of ADHD in adults seems to have taken the world by storm. In recent years it’s been a regular feature in both mainstream media and social media. From TikTok to the Australian Financial Review, everyone is talking about ADHD in adults.  

However, along with the increased attention comes increased misinformation. As psychologists who specialise in ADHD, our job is to ensure that the right information is available. So, here’s what you need to know about ADHD in adults, from symptoms to treatment. 

ADHD in adults – symptoms, diagnosis and treatment 

ADHD – or Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder – affects one in 20 Australians today. Typically ADHD has been diagnosed in childhood – but that doesn’t mean that it’s just a childhood issue. In fact as many as 60% to 75% of children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to present these symptoms as adults.  

The problem with ADHD in adults is that much of the time it’s actually undiagnosed. It is estimated that around 2.5% of adults have ADHD, but only about 0.2% are being treated. While diagnosis and treatment does seem to be increasing – with ADHD prescriptions increasing by 4-10% each year – the overall rate of treatment remains low.  

ADHD in adults – symptoms 

Symptoms of ADHD in adults are also far different from the typical childhood ‘hyperactive’ or ‘easily distracted’ versions. In fact, the symptoms are quite wide and varied, and can also range from very mild to extremely severe.  

So what are adult ADHD symptoms? 

  • Impulsivity 
  • Disorganisation 
  • Poor time management 
  • Problems becoming bored easily 
  • Losing things often 
  • Trouble multitasking 
  • Problems managing money 
  • Inattentiveness  
  • Trouble organising tasks 
  • Missing appointments or being consistently late 
  • Difficulty completing tasks 
  • Aversion to difficult or boring tasks 
  • Sleep difficulties 
  • Frequent mood swings 
  • Trouble coping with stress 
  • Problems managing emotions or temper 

ADHD in adults – diagnosis 

It’s important to note that everyone will experience some (or many) of the symptoms listed above at some point in their lives. We’ve all lost keys, or misplaced important documents. We’ve all lost our temper at times. And we’ve all found ourselves running late for appointments. 

When it comes to getting an ADHD diagnosis, just having experienced the above is not enough. In fact, in order to get a diagnosis of ADHD in adulthood, you’ll need: 

  1. Persistent symptoms 
  1. Disruptive symptoms 
  1. Symptoms that can be traced back to early childhood (before the age of 12) 

It’s only when you meet those three prongs, that an ADHD diagnosis is appropriate. 

Another difficulty with diagnosing ADHD in adults is that many other conditions can offer similar symptoms. For example anxiety or mood disorders. And these may mask ADHD, or a diagnosis of ADHD (when improperly done) may mask another diagnosis. Or, you may have both ADHD and another mental health condition, such as anxiety.  

Determining these various factors can take time and work to understand. As psychologists who are experienced in ADHD, we are certainly able to help with a diagnosis of ADHD in adults. 

ADHD in adults – treatment 

When it comes to treatment of ADHD in adults, psychologists and psychiatrists are the best options. While psychologists do not prescribe medication, we can assist with understanding and managing ADHD symptoms and creating better outcomes for you.  

Some of these therapies and strategies include: 

  • Cognitive, behavioural and emotional strategies 
  • Environmental adaptations 
  • Providing psychoeducation around ADHD 
  • Skills training (such as emotion regulation, social skills and problem solving) 
  • Techniques to approaching tasks 
  • Referrals to psychiatrists for medication 

Working through a curated set of these therapies can help your ADHD symptoms to become more manageable and their effect moderated. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by stress, we can help you with problem solving tools to cope with that stress. Rather than feeling unable to cope at work, we can help you with planning, organisation and time management skills so that coping at work becomes much easier.  

Importance of an ADHD in adults diagnosis 

One of the questions we’ve often heard is why does a diagnosis matter? After all, many thousands of Australians have been living with ADHD their entire lives.  

Unfortunately, when ADHD goes untreated there can be serious consequences. It can negatively impact on an individual’s career. It can impact on long term relationships, both familial and friendships. And individuals with ADHD are more likely to struggle with alcohol and drug abuse and other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. 

Understanding ADHD and how it impacts you in your life can help you to manage these impacts and live a better, easier life.  

Benefits of ADHD in adults 

Of course, a diagnosis of ADHD is certainly not all doom and gloom. In fact, it’s vital to recognise that ADHD can actually provide an individual with many benefits. For example, people with ADHD are often: 

  • highly creative 
  • fantastic socially and conversationally 
  • able to hyperfocus and create outcomes of great quality 
  • resilient due to facing so many challenges in life 
  • incredibly high energy, leading them to become amazing at sports or other physical activities  

These abilities mean that individuals with ADHD have something distinct to offer the world, as well as a unique perspective.  

Reach out for help 

As experts on ADHD in both adults and children, we’re here to help. Give us a call on (07) 3857 0074 to book an appointment with a clinician. Or send us an Appointment Request. We’ll contact you as soon as possible to book a suitable time. 

Author: Di O’Malley – Founder and Managing Director of Young Minds Health and Development Network, and Counselling Psychologist.