What is ADHD? Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental health condition. It’s linked to trouble focusing, impulsivity, and over active minds and body. ADHD can affect children or adults, but it starts in childhood, not adulthood. You can be diagnosed with ADHD for the first time as an adult. If you just started having trouble paying attention, it's probably not ADHD. While symptoms of ADHD usually start in childhood, they may look different as an adult. For example, adults don’t always experience the "H" in ADHD, which stands for hyperactivity.
There are a wide variety of ADHD symptoms in adults, some more well known than others. There are two symptoms most common in adults who have ADHD: difficulty paying attention and impulsiveness. Some of us think that is just young adulthood! I remember being in my 20s and having freedom from my parents for the first time. I was making my own decisions for the first time. I was traveling the world and experimenting with all of the opportunities and adventures life had to offer. Does that mean I have ADHD? No!
If you’re an adult with ADHD, you may often find it hard to:
- Finish tasks that don't interest one or aren't easy
- Focus attention on conversations, reading materials, or jobs, may change jobs a lot
- Remember things (misplacing or losing things)
- Pay attention
Impulsivity Adults with ADHD may:
- Act without thinking, make quick decisions without thinking about the consequences
- Talk excessively, blurt things out, interrupt or even finish people’s sentences for them
- Find it hard to relax, feel restless, find it hard to do quiet things like read or watch TV
- Get easily bored, for the moment something loses one's attention, one may switch gears without a second thought
- Find it hard to keep jobs or relationships, speak without a filter or have trouble following rules
Since every person is unique, there are also symptoms that are less common, like hyperfocus. Spending all of one's time focused on one activity can get in the way of daily life. This is especially true if it’s an activity that causes one to lose sight of everything else. To break the hold of hyperfocus, set reminders to take breaks.
Some folks experience mood swings. A good way to manage mood swings is through exercise. Exercising allows one to sharpen one's thinking, and help one to better handle stress, releasing endorphins, oxytocin, and happy hormones, making one feel healthier and happier.
If one has adult ADHD, it can be difficult to sleep. Dr. Zucker from Kaiser permanente says, "It’s hard to shut off at night, the brain just keeps going." One may find trying to sleep is there, but one keeps jumping from thought to thought. Or one may be awake, continuing to hyperfocus on something interesting. A good way to deal with this restlessness is to find a mindfulness or meditation practice that calms the body and mind. That may mean yoga, stretching exercises, doing a breathing meditation, or even putting on background music that is slow and peaceful.
It can be difficult to diagnose adult ADHD, as almost everyone has experienced these symptoms at some point in their lives. In some cases, depression and anxiety are to blame. ADHD, depression, and anxiety can all coexist, but just because you're sad or depressed doesn't mean you have ADHD. The only way to know for sure if you have adult ADHD is to talk to your health care practitioners. If you’re noticing a disruption to your everyday life, it’s time to make an appointment.
To your health,
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