Myths & Facts about Attention Deficit Disorder in adults predominantly inattentive

ADHD or ADD in Adults

Life can be a balancing act for any adult, but if you find yourself constantly late, disorganized, forgetful, and overwhelmed by your responsibilities, you may have ADHD or ADD. Attention deficit disorder affects many adults, and its wide variety of frustrating symptoms can hinder everything from your relationships to your career. But help is available—and learning about ADHD is the first step. Once you understand the challenges, you can learn to compensate for areas of weakness and start taking advantage of your strengths.

Myths & Facts about Attention Deficit Disorder in adults
Myth: ADHD is just a lack of willpower. People with ADHD focus well on things that interest them; they could focus on any other tasks if they really wanted to.

Fact: ADHD looks very much like a willpower problem, but it isn’t. It’s essentially a chemical problem in the management systems of the brain.

Myth: Kids with ADHD can never pay attention.

Fact: Children with ADHD are often able to concentrate on activities they enjoy. But no matter how hard they try, they have trouble maintaining focus when the task at hand is boring or repetitive.

Myth: Everybody has the symptoms of ADHD, and anyone with adequate intelligence can overcome these difficulties.

Fact: ADHD affects people of all levels of intelligence. And although everyone sometimes has symptoms of ADHD, only those with chronic impairments from these symptoms warrant an ADHD diagnosis.

Myth: Someone can’t have ADHD and also have depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric problems.

Fact: A person with ADHD is six times more likely to have another psychiatric or learning disorder than most other people. ADHD usually overlaps with other disorders.

Myth: Unless you have been diagnosed with ADHD or ADD as a child, you can’t have it as an adult.

Fact: Many adults struggle all their lives with unrecognized ADHD symptoms. They haven’t received help because they assumed that their chronic difficulties, like depression or anxiety, were caused by other impairments that did not respond to usual treatment.

Source: Dr. Thomas E. Brown, Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults

Signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults

In adults, attention deficit disorder often looks quite different than it does in children—and its symptoms are unique for each individual.

The following categories highlight common symptoms of adult ADHD. Do your best to identify the areas where you experience difficulty. Once you pinpoint your most problematic symptoms, you can start to work on strategies for dealing with them.

Trouble concentrating and staying focused

Adults with ADHD often have difficulty staying focused and attending to daily, mundane tasks. For example, you may be easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds, quickly bounce from one activity to another, or become bored quickly. Symptoms in this category are sometimes overlooked because they are less outwardly disruptive than the ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity—but they can be every bit as troublesome. The symptoms of inattention and concentration difficulties include:

Difficulty paying attention or focusing, such as when reading or listening to others. “Zoning out” without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation.

Struggling to complete tasks, even ones that seem simple. A tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work.

Poor listening skills. Have a hard time remembering conversations and following directions.

Extreme distractibility. Wandering attention makes it hard to stay on track.


While you’re probably aware that people with ADHD have trouble focusing on tasks that aren’t interesting to them, you may not know that there’s another side: a tendency to become absorbed in tasks that are stimulating and rewarding. This paradoxical symptom is called hyperfocus.

Hyperfocus is actually a coping mechanism for distraction—a way of tuning out the chaos. It can be so strong that you become oblivious to everything going on around you. For example, you may be so engrossed in a book, a TV show, or your computer that you completely lose track of time and neglect the things you’re supposed to be doing. Hyperfocus can be an asset when channeled into productive activities, but it can also lead to work and relationship problems if left unchecked.

Disorganization and forgetfulness

When you have adult ADHD, life often seems chaotic and out of control. Staying organized and on top of things can be extremely challenging—as is sorting out what information is relevant for the task at hand, prioritizing the things you need to do, keeping track of tasks and responsibilities, and managing your time. Common symptoms of disorganization and forgetfulness include:

Poor organizational skills. Home, office, desk, or car is extremely messy and cluttered.

Tendency to procrastinate, and have trouble starting and finishing projects.

Chronic lateness. Frequently forgetting appointments, commitments, deadlines, and underestimating the time it will take you to complete tasks.

Constantly losing or misplacing things, such as keys, wallet, phone, documents, and bills.


If you suffer from symptoms in this category, you may have trouble inhibiting your behaviors, comments, and responses. You might act before thinking, or react without considering consequences. You may find yourself interrupting others, blurting out comments, and rushing through tasks without reading instructions. If you have impulse problems, being patient is extremely difficult. For better or for worse, you may go headlong into situations and find yourself in potentially risky circumstances. You may struggle with controlling impulses if you:

Frequently interrupt others or talk over them; blurt out thoughts that are rude or inappropriate without thinking.

Have poor self-control, act recklessly or spontaneously without regard for consequences.

Have trouble behaving in socially appropriate ways, such as sitting still during a long meeting.

Have addictive tendencies.

Emotional difficulties

Many adults with ADHD have a hard time managing their feelings, especially when it comes to emotions like anger or frustration. Common emotional symptoms of adult ADHD include:

Easily flustered and stressed out, irritability or mood swings

Short, often explosive, temper; doesn’t deal well with frustration.

Low self-esteem and sense of insecurity; sense of underachievement.

Trouble staying motivated and hypersensitivity to criticism.

Hyperactivity or restlessness

Hyperactivity in adults with ADHD can look the same as it does in kids. You may be highly energetic and perpetually “on the go” as if driven by a motor. For many people with ADHD, however, the symptoms of hyperactivity become more subtle and internal as they grow older. Common symptoms of hyperactivity in adults include:

Feelings of inner restlessness, agitation, racing thoughts.

Trouble sitting still, constant fidgeting, doing a million things at once.

Getting bored easily, craving for excitement, and tendency to take risks.

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