Published by: PsychCentral
Written by: Gia Miller
If you’ve ever wondered whether you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you’re not alone.
When many people hear the term “ADHD,” they often think of how it presents in children. They may not even know that ADHD also impacts adults.
In fact, the misconception that it doesn’t affect adults is part of the reason why ADHD is not effectively diagnosed after childhood. People with ADHD might not realize that the symptoms can be present into adulthood.
In fact, studies have shown that 50% to 80% of children with ADHD carry it on to adolescence, and another 35% to 65% then carry it into adulthood.
It was a common belief that ADHD disappeared in adulthood, and this was probably because ADHD looks different in adults than it does in children, and its symptoms were overlooked. The truth is, researchers believe that at least 75% of adults who have ADHD don’t even know that they have it.
So, what does it look like? Here are some of the subtle signs you may have ADHD.
One of the hallmarks of ADHD is “living in the now.” People with ADHD find it hard to keep track of time. They’re often late for appointments, can’t accurately estimate how long it will take for them to complete a task, and leave complicated tasks until the last minute. This is referred to as “time blindness.”
The reason this happens, according to researchers, is that the brain’s prefrontal cortex — which is responsible for executive functioning — doesn’t work as well at managing focus and behavior in adults with ADHD.
This is also the part of the brain that helps you plan for the future. It’s what allows you to prepare yourself for what’s coming next and plan how much time you have to realistically complete tasks.
If that part of the brain isn’t functioning properly, then you’re unable to accurately look into your future.
As a comparison, think of people who are nearsighted: They can only read things that are near to their face. Similarly, people with ADHD sometimes have difficulty anticipating and preparing for future events. The farther away an event is, the harder it is to deal with it.
For people with ADHD, time management isn’t the only difficulty. Other executive functioning skills can be challenging too, making it hard to manage the details of your life.
A person with ADHD will find it difficult to organize their thoughts and manage their schedule. You’ll likely also struggle with planning and prioritizing the order of tasks that you’re supposed to do, which can make it hard to meet deadlines.
While the level of executive functioning will vary from person to person, all folks with ADHD will find some challenges in each of the following categories when it comes to doing tasks or assignments:
- organizing, prioritizing, and getting started
- concentrating and staying focused, as well as shifting your attention to a new task
- staying alert, maintaining the same level of effort, and understanding what you’re doing
- managing your frustration and emotions
- holding and using multiple pieces of information at once, and remembering things you’ve read or learned
- controlling your actions