Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in children today, with an estimated 11... Read more →
ADHD in Adults
There appear to be two types of adults with ADHD; those who have survived their childhood, adolescence and educational experiences with their self-esteem relatively intact and those that have suffered significant damage to their sense of self. We will examine these two subgroups separately.
Adults with ADHD who have low self-esteem often arrive at this state due to the consequences of their condition, i.e., a history of inconsistency, procrastination, disorganization, poor follow-thru, and perhaps limited success academically and socially. They have been criticized or punished much of their lives for “not living up to their potential” when, in most cases, they have been trying but their ADHD has consistently sabotaged their efforts. Chronic failure can lead to depression and, worse, substance abuse. It doesn’t have to get to this point which is the main reason why diagnosis and treatment are so essential (Click on Diagnosis and Treatment).
Adults with ADHD who have been able to maintain their self-esteem have done so often because the challenges they faced were recognized early on. They have developed coping strategies to limit the impact of their ADHD or have pursued avenues in which having ADHD may even have been a plus (think computer science). In such cases calling ADHD a disorder is really a misnomer; it probably should be called an asset. But such individuals are the exception, not the rule.
Sometimes adults with ADHD have wondered for years whether or not they might have ADHD but have been afraid to ask a professional, perhaps worried that their fears might be confirmed. Other times, an adult with ADHD has had no idea that this condition has been interfering in their lives until someone close to them suggests the possibility. Here’s a quick screening test to give you an idea about whether or not you should consider getting a professional opinion:
The World Health Organization Adult ADHD Screening Test consists of 6 simple questions each scored either Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, Very Often. Adults who score 4 or higher have an 80% chance of having ADHD.
- How often do you have trouble wrapping up the final details of a project once the challenging parts have been done? N R S O V
- How often do you have difficulty getting things in order when you have to do a task that requires organization? N R S O V
- How often do you have problems remembering appointments or fulfilling your obligations? N R S O V
- When you have a task to do that requires a lot of thought, how often do you delay getting started? N R S O V
- How often do you fidget, finger or toe tap when you are sitting down for a long period of time? N R S O V
How often do you feel overly active or compelled to do things, as if you were driven by a motor? N R S O V
- S or O or V for questions 1, 2 or 3 = 1 point each
- O or V for questions 4, 5 or 6 = 1 point each
- A score of 4 or higher is a positive score
Your results on this test should only act as a guide and should in no way be considered a substitute for a diagnostic evaluation (click on evaluation).
Adult ADHD and Relationships
Adults with ADHD often have trouble forming intimate bonds and frequently end up with a string of broken relationships, in part, because they fail to attend to the little things that make a relationship work. In addition, there is frequently an imbalance in these relationships, one in which the partner who does not have ADHD becomes saddled with most of the household chores and responsibilities. If children are involved, they often become the caretaker and can end up feeling as though their significant other is just one more child for whom they are responsible. If unaddressed, such imbalances can lead to discord and, in the case of marriage, can lead to divorce.
Adult ADHD and Work
In the workplace, much of the success or failure of the adult with ADHD depends upon what they do. Some careers may be ideal for someone with ADHD (think entrepreneur) while others may be a disaster (think accounting).
It is common for such individuals to get excited initially about a new project but cannot sustain that interest to see the project through. They frequently have a long list of projects they have started and intend to finish both at home and at work, but somehow something always seems to get in the way. Employers, like spouses usually get very frustrated, sometimes to the point of terminating the employee, which is not uncommon and further fuels a sense of despair and low-self esteem.
On the other hand, when an adult with ADHD is able to surround himself with colleagues who appreciate their insights and creativity and can pick things up where they drop the ball, then everybody wins. However, situations such as this are more common when the adult with ADHD is in a leadership position and can hire “support staff” to compensate for his or her weaknesses.