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ADHD Looks Different in Adults. Here Are 4 Signs to Watch for

0 2 years ago

Knowing what to look for is important, so people can get support to help them better understand themselves and meet their full potential.

People, including some clinicians, may not be aware of adult ADHD and how symptoms may change as a person develops and grows. We aim to change this through the development of an Australian ADHD guideline, which is based on evidence and now open for feedback.

Executive functions

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that impacts the brain’s executive functions – like the ability to focus and sustain attention, plan and organise, and exert self-control.

It affects around 6–10% of children and is the most common neurodevelopmental condition in childhood. Yet many people with ADHD don’t receive a diagnosis in childhood, for a variety of reasons. Some may have grown up in an environment well-suited to them, so symptoms were not obvious.

For example, they may have been interested and motivated by academic topics, allowing them to focus and sustain their attention on schoolwork. They may have had high intellectual capacity which can mean minimal independent study is needed to pass school subjects. They may have only had ADHD inattentive symptoms – like daydreaming, or trouble completing tasks – which can be less noticeable than hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.

ADHD symptoms in childhood can include having difficulties focusing attention. This might appear as not taking in or remembering the teacher’s instructions, being forgetful about homework or losing things like school jumpers, and being disorganised with a messy bedroom or desk at school.

Children with hyperactive-impulsive symptoms may have difficulty sitting still during school lessons or when eating dinner at home, being noisy and talkative, intruding on other people or interrupting them, and finding it hard to wait their turn.

4 ways adult ADHD can look different

By adulthood, symptoms may still be present but they may be more internalised and less obvious. Here are some ways adult ADHD symptoms may present that are slightly different to childhood:


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