Adult ADD / ADHD:


Many people have a stereotypical picture in their head of what someone with attention deficit disorder looks like: hyperactive, loud, a whirlwind of energy and unchecked impulses. And let’s face it: it’s probably a kid they’re picturing in their mind’s eye. However, ADD / ADHD is not just a childhood disorder. Kids don’t simply grow out of ADHD, as if it’s a phase. In fact, the symptoms of ADD / ADHD typically get worse as children grow into adulthood and face life’s increasing pressures and demands.

Adults with ADD / ADHD struggle daily with self-regulation: regulating their attention, regulating their impulses in talking and action, and regulating their emotions. If you have trouble staying focused, getting organized, starting and completing your work, managing your time and money, and remembering all the little things in your daily life, you may very well be one of these people.

Signs and symptoms of adult ADD / ADHD

According to Dr. Thomas E. Brown of the Yale University School of Medicine, “ADHD is essentially a name for developmental impairment of executive function.” Executive functions are the skills involved in planning, selective attention, motivation, and impulse control. Adults with ADHD have problems in six major areas of executive functioning:

  • Activation – Problems with organization, prioritizing, and starting tasks.
  • Focus – Problems with sustaining focus and resisting distraction, especially with reading.
  • Effort – Problems with motivation, sustained effort, and persistence.
  • Emotion – Difficulty regulating emotions and managing stress.
  • Memory – Problems with short-term memory and memory retrieval.
  • Action – Problems with self-control and self-regulation.

Signs and Symptoms of ADD / ADHD




  • Procrastination; difficulty getting started on projects
  • Excessive disorganization and messiness
  • Inability to prioritize tasks
  • Underestimating the time needed to finish a task
  • Inability to screen out distractions
  • “Zoning out” when others are talking
  • Randomly skipping from topic to topic in conversation
  • Reading words over and over in order to grasp the meaning
  • Difficulty sustaining effort over long periods of time
  • Starting multiple tasks, but never completing any of them
  • Missing deadlines
  • Trouble going to sleep at night and staying alert during the day.




  • Easily bored
  • Low tolerance for frustration and stress
  • Unstable, unpredictable moods
  • Quick temper
  • Constant worrying
  • Trouble remembering things, even for a short time
  • Doesn’t recall conversations, things others said
  • Forgetting appointments
  • Constantly losing or misplacing things
  • Inability to delay gratification
  • Speaking without thinking
  • Acting impulsively (e.g. impulsive spending, sudden change of plans) without regard for consequences
  • Jumping to conclusions

Effects of adult ADD / ADHD

Left untreated, ADD can wreak havoc in your life, disrupting everything from your career to your social life, love life, and financial stability.


ADD / ADHD can be a big stumbling block on the road to career success. The symptoms of disorganization and inattention, in particular, pose problems in the workplace. If you have ADD / ADHD, you may:

  • be chronically late to work,
  • miss or forget deadlines and meetings,
  • have a hard time organizing projects and delegating work,
  • have difficulty completing projects on time,
  • spend hours at work, but get very little done,
  • get distracted by trivial tasks, while neglecting the most important ones, and
  • have trouble paying attention in meetings or in conversations with your boss and colleagues.


The ADD / ADHD symptoms of procrastination, disorganization, and impulsivity can interfere with good money management. If you have ADD / ADHD, you may find that you:

  • forget to pay bills,
  • run up huge balances on your credit cards,
  • cannot save money,
  • are unable to follow through on long-term financial goals,
  • shop impulsively,
  • have difficulty keeping financial paperwork in order, and
  • fail at budgeting and recordkeeping.

Eating behaviors

The impulsivity of ADD / ADHD can extend to eating, and many adults with the condition also suffer from overeating, obesity, or disordered eating.  talks about the connection between ADHD (ADD) and disordered eating:
If you have ADD / ADHD, you may:

  • eat snacks throughout the day, rather than eating at planned meals,
  • be unable to stick with a diet,
  • have intense cravings for carbohydrates and caffeine (in coffee and chocolate),
  • eat a lot of fast food and “junk food” (cookies, chips, soda, fries, ice cream),
  • ignore hunger signs, waiting until you’re too hungry to plan a healthy meal and then eating whatever you can find.

Positive characteristics of adults with ADD / ADHD

The symptoms of ADD / ADHD are not all negative. People with ADD / ADHD also have many positive traits that are directly tied to their active, impulsive minds:

  • Creativity – People with ADD excel at thinking outside of the box, brainstorming, and finding creative solutions to problems. Because of their flexible way of thinking about things, they tend to be more open-minded, independent, and ready to improvise.
  • Enthusiasm and spontaneity – People with ADD are free spirits with lively minds—qualities that makes for good company and engrossing conversation. Their enthusiasm and spontaneous approach to life can be infectious.
  • A quick mind – People with ADD have the ability to think on their feet, quickly absorb new information (as long as it’s interesting), and multitask with ease. Their rapid-fire minds thrive on stimulation. They adapt well to change and are great in a crisis.
  • High energy level – People with ADD have loads of energy. When their attention is captured by something that interests them, they can have virtually unlimited stamina and drive.

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