ADHD in Adults

ADHD is a condition that affects behavior. You may be overactive and have a short attention span. ADHD interferes with how you function in your daily activities at work, school, or home. ADHD may also cause you to have problems getting along with other people.

What increases my risk for ADHD?

ADHD usually starts during childhood and may continue into adulthood. The following may increase your risk for ADHD:

  • Being born prematurely, or being male
  • A family history of ADHD
  • Cigarette, alcohol, or illegal drug use by your mother when she was pregnant with you
  • Other learning or memory problems, depression, Tourette syndrome, or another condition that affects how you think
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals, such as lead in paint
  • A head injury

What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD?

ADHD has 2 main types, based on signs and symptoms. You may have a combination of the 2 main types. A combination is the most common type of ADHD. You may do any of the following:

  • Inattention:
    • Get easily distracted or have a hard time focusing
    • Avoid tasks that need full attention
    • Not follow or easily forget instructions or directions
    • Not listen, or drift away when spoken to
    • Make careless mistakes or lose things
    • Have problems organizing tasks or chores and managing time
  • Hyperactivity and impulsivity:
    • Become easily bored and not finish tasks
    • Talk a lot, interrupt, or intrude into conversations or games
    • Change schools or jobs often
    • Feel stressed, nervous, or worried much of the time
    • Have problems doing quiet activities or sitting still
    • Have an addictive behavior such as use of alcohol or illegal drugs, shopping, eating, or working too much
    • Have more energy than seems normal

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Healthcare providers use a guide to diagnose ADHD. The symptoms must be present for at least 6 months and not be caused by other problems. These symptoms must be severe enough to cause problems in 2 or more settings. These setting include those at home, work, or school. Some symptoms must be present since you were a child. ADHD is usually diagnosed during childhood. You may have had some behavior or concentration problems that were mild as a child but harder to control as an adult. Tell your healthcare provider about any symptoms you had as a child or new or worsening symptoms as an adult. These details can help your healthcare provider create a treatment plan to help you.

How is ADHD treated?

The goal of treatment is to help you learn how to control your behavior. A combination of therapy and medication is usually most effective for treating ADHD. You may need any of the following:

  • Behavior therapy is used to help you learn to control your actions and improve your behavior. This is done by teaching you how to change your behavior by looking at the results of your actions.
  • Psychotherapy is also called talk therapy. You may have one-on-one visits with a therapist or with others in a group setting.
  • Stimulants help you pay attention, concentrate better, and manage your energy.
  • Antidepressants help decrease or prevent depression or anxiety. It can also be used to treat other behavior problems.

What can I do to manage ADHD?

  • Reduce stress. Stress may make your ADHD worse. Ask about ways to calm your body and mind. These may include deep breathing, muscle relaxation, music, and biofeedback. Talk to someone about things that upset you.
  • Learn more about ADHD. The more you know about ADHD, the better you will be able to help yourself. Read books, work with your therapist, and find the support of other people with ADHD.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol may make your symptoms worse.
  • Create a regular sleep schedule. Sleep can decrease your symptoms. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. Do not watch TV, use the computer, or play video games before bed. Electronic devices can make it hard for you to sleep or to stay asleep.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods can help increase your concentration and make you feel calmer. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, whole-grain breads, and cooked beans. Ask your healthcare provider if you need to be on a special diet.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a seizure.
  • You have trouble breathing, chest pains, or a fast heartbeat.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You feel you cannot cope at home, work, or school.
  • You have new symptoms since the last time you visited your healthcare provider.
  • Your symptoms are getting worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.