5 Must-Know Facts About Adult ADHD

ADHD was once thought of as a childhood disorder that people would “outgrow.” Over the past several decades, though, researchers have come to realize that ADHD can persist across every stage of life.

Still, adult ADHD is often overshadowed by childhood ADHD in the media and even at times in the medical community. Here are 5 need-to-know facts about ADHD in adulthood.

1. Adult ADHD can influence every part of your life

A 2012 review looked at previous studies on long-term outcomes of adults with ADHD, including in the following categories:

  • Work
  • School
  • Self-esteem
  • Relationships
  • Drug addiction
  • Obesity
  • Driving

When all the statistics were tallied up, it turned out that adults with ADHD fared significantly worse in every one of these areas. Those with untreated ADHD had the worst outcomes, while those undergoing treatment did better but still not as well as people without ADHD.

2. About 2.5 percent of adults have ADHD

A 2009 meta-analysis found that about 2.5 percent of adults have ADHD. Of course, the exact number may be a little higher or lower, but one thing’s clear: while most adults don’t have ADHD, a sizeable minority do.

3. ADHD is underdiagnosed in adults

Despite the fact that significant chunk of the adult population has a disorder that has been shown to have serious effects on people’s lives, many with adult ADHD are never diagnosed or treated. ADHD can go undiagnosed for many reasons: women, people with fewer hyperactive symptoms, and people who otherwise don’t meet the stereotypical “hyperactive boy” image of ADHD are less likely to be diagnosed in either childhood or adulthood.

Whatever the reason, underdiagnosis of ADHD has real consequences for those with the disorder and for society at large. Some food for thought: 40 percent of male prison inmates are estimated to have ADHD.

4. ADHD can be treated with medication in adults…

ADHD meds aren’t just for children. Medication can have life-changing effects for adults with ADHD. When they find the right medication and dosage, many adults discover that with symptoms like inattention, impulsivity, disorganization and lack of self-regulation under control, life becomes less stressful and new things become possible.

5. …but medication alone isn’t enough

One of the things about being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult is that you’ve built up a lifetime worth of ADHD coping mechanisms — some of which are healthy, some of which aren’t. Years of living with untreated ADHD can also do a number on your self-esteem.

As a result, taking meds to help with some of the underlying brain chemistry isn’t enough to fully treat adult ADHD. It’s also important to start developing new coping strategies and to deal with the psychological consequences of living with undiagnosed ADHD for so long. Many adults find they go through a sort of “grieving” process after being diagnosed, wondering what could have been if they’d been diagnosed earlier, coming to terms with the idea of living with a disorder like ADHD, and eventually arriving at a place of acceptance.

In the end, there are really two facts about adult ADHD that matter above all others, and they go hand-in-hand:

  • Adult ADHD causes real problems for the people who have it.
  • Many people with adult ADHD don’t know they have it.

Of course, when you put these two facts together, the conclusion is that if you think you might have adult ADHD, you owe it to yourself to meet with a professional who has experience treating ADHD. Just because you haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD yet doesn’t mean you don’t have it.

By the same token, if you know someone who might have adult ADHD, encourage them to seek out an evaluation. There’s really nothing to lose, and finally getting to the bottom of undiagnosed, untreated ADHD can have a life-altering effect.

What facts do you wish more people knew about adult ADHD? Post them in the comments!

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