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12 Silent Signs of Adult ADHD You Might Be Ignoring

It's estimated that more than a million Canadian adults have ADHD, but few get diagnosed or treated for the condition. If these adult ADHD symptoms are disrupting your life, speak with your doctor.

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Signs Of ADHD In Adults - distracted man looking out windowPhoto: Shutterstock

The Signs of ADHD in Adults

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common chronic condition that affects more than a million Canadians, according to data from the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada. This neurobehavioural disorder can sometimes have a genetic component, and it can be complex and difficult to understand, says Roseann Capanna-Hodge, PsyD, Pediatric Mental Health Expert and the founder of Dr. Roseann and Associates. “ADHD comprises a combination of issues that may include difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, as well as poor executive functioning,” she says. “It can impact a child’s or an adult’s focus, learning, social, and school or work functioning.” In adults, the symptoms are not always obvious. Here are some of the most common signs of ADHD in adults that you might be ignoring.

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Adult ADHD always begins as childhood ADHDPhoto: Shutterstock

You have an ADHD history

Adult ADHD always begins as childhood ADHD, says Eric Lifshitz, MD, a psychiatrist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica and in private practice in Beverly Hills. Having a history of problems with concentration, focus, organization, and memory your whole life is the primary criteria in diagnosing ADHD in adults. “For adults with ADHD the issues have persisted all their lives. If the problems are a new phenomenon, then it’s not ADHD,” he explains. “There are many, many other reasons that adults can develop these issues, including depression and stress.” A trained professional can help you find the correct diagnosis to get you the best care.

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If all your conversations feel boring you might have ADHDPhoto: Shutterstock

You’re already bored of a conversation … and it just started

If you have one mind-numbing conversation a day, congratulations, you’re human. But if all your conversations feel tedious—or if you’re constantly interrupting others or finishing their sentences for them to rush the conversation—then you might have adult ADHD, Dr. Lifshitz says. Another common conversational complaint of adults with ADHD: feeling like other people speak too slowly. Because the brains of those with adult ADHD are always two steps ahead, people may have a hard time listening to others and giving them time to formulate their thoughts.

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Adults with ADHD just have an extremely difficult time with time managementPhoto: Shutterstock

You’re always 10 minutes late

Are you the person that friends always tell the party starts half an hour before it actually does? If you just can’t seem to make it anywhere on time no matter what you do, you may have ADHD. And chances are you’re as irritated by your chronic lateness as everyone else is. “They’re not trying to be rude; adults with ADHD just have an extremely difficult time with time management,” Dr. Lifshitz says. “They underestimate the amount of time routine tasks, like finding their keys and shoes, will take.”

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Adults with ADHD often feel an inward restlessness when not actively engaged in a taskPhoto: Shutterstock

You always ditch yoga class before the final relaxation pose

Rather than recharging and relaxing during breaks, “adults with ADHD often feel an inward restlessness or anxiety when not actively engaged in a task,” Dr. Lifshitz says. Children with ADHD show this as outward hyperactivity but adults learn to internalize that feeling, he explains. Downtime becomes a real downer as sufferers report things like not being able to sit through a movie (especially if it’s one they didn’t choose), preferring only active hobbies, getting bored with games quickly, and getting antsy during massages.

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A sign of adult ADHD is difficulty finishing tasksPhoto: Shutterstock

Your house is full of UFOs (unfinished objects)

Who hasn’t started cleaning out the dishwasher only to get sidetracked with the pile of mail on the counter? But if your whole house is filled with half-finished crafts, piles of partially read books, and baskets containing both clean and dirty laundry—and you never seem to make any progress in finishing them—then this could be a sign of adult ADHD.

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Making lots of little mistakes is a sign of adult ADHDPhoto: Shutterstock

You’re prone to making lots of little mistakes

As children with ADHD grow up they often develop coping behaviours to manage their deficits in the adult world. But these can easily fall apart when you take more responsibility, like getting a promotion or going to graduate school, Dr. Lifshitz says. This often manifests as poor performance reviews, shortcut taking, and making myriad little mistakes even though you know that you know better.

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Having a hard time handling change is a sign of adult ADHDPhoto: Shutterstock

You have a hard time handling change

Lots of us have a hard time with major change—like moving or starting a new job—but one way that people with ADHD cope is by having predictable routines. They often build “workarounds” into their schedules to compensate for tasks that may be difficult for them. So if things suddenly change, even in good ways like getting a promotion at work, the adjustment can feel overwhelming.

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People with ADHD need high levels of stimulationPhoto: Shutterstock

You’re always changing the radio or TV channel

“People with ADHD need high levels of stimulation,” Lifshitz says. This could translate to constantly changing channels, checking their phones, whistling or humming, or fidgeting. They may also prefer to be in places with lots of light, noise, and people.

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A sign of adult ADDH is thrill-seeking behaviour such as online gambling Photo: Shutterstock

You get sucked into online gambling or day trading

Adults with ADHD also seek out high levels of stimulation in their jobs and hobbies. Since they get easily distracted and have a hard time performing during lulls in activity, they turn to activities that provide immediate gratification. Unfortunately, these high-reward activities can also be high-risk, like gambling.

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Silence can be very uncomfortable for this with adult ADHDPhoto: Shutterstock

Your three least favourite words are “moment of silence”

Long periods of quiet, especially during conversations or activities, feel supremely uncomfortable to adults with ADHD, Dr. Lifshitz explains. This may lead them to interrupt, sing, talk to themselves, tap the table, or otherwise make noise to fill the quiet—activities almost guaranteed to irritate those around them.

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ADHD can present in adults as depression and low self-esteemPhoto: Shutterstock

You’re depressed

One of the main ways Dr. Lifshitz says he sees ADHD present in adults is as depression and low self-esteem. “ADHD affects not just work and school but also their social life,” he explains. “Because of their distractibility and irritability, adults with ADHD have a harder time forming connections with others.” Plus, over time, the constant accumulation of difficulties socially and in school can lead to lifelong insecurity.

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A silent sign of adult ADHD can be a feeling of constant failurePhoto: Shutterstock

You feel like a failure at life

It’s normal to feel bad when you fall short of a goal but if you always feel like you’re falling behind no matter how hard you try, this may be a sign of adult ADHD. “Patients often have a chronic sense of not living up to their potential and have difficulty accomplishing their goals,” Dr. Lifshitz explains. Worse, this can be most acute in people who are naturally very intelligent and high achievers. They know what they’re capable of and can see that they have to put in a lot more effort than everyone else, just to get the same results. But rest assured, he adds, ADHD does not say anything about your intelligence or talent.

Now that you know how to spot the signs of ADHD in adults, read the true story of one woman’s mid-life autism diagnosis.

The Healthy
Originally Published on The Healthy