Diagnosis and Management Options for ADHD in Adults

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition most associated with children and adolescents. However, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental disorders (DSM), this condition can also affect adults. 

Maleeha Jalal

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition most associated with children and adolescents. However, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental disorders (DSM), this condition can also affect adults. The symptoms and effects associated with ADHD are most prevalent in children. Statistically, about 5 % of children in the United States are diagnosed with the condition. Initially, the effects of ADHD were thought to decrease with age. However, in recent times, and aided by modern research, it is evident the condition can persist or recur during adulthood. 

In children, ADHD can lead to various problems, including difficulty paying attention, impulsivity, and hyperactive behavior. In adults, the effects of this mental condition can range from unstable relationships, poor work and school performance, and low self-esteem. 

What are the symptoms of adult ADHD? 

The symptoms of ADHD in adults can mimic those of other easily diagnosable mental disorders. As a result, you could end up being treated for other conditions when ADHD is the underlying cause of these symptoms. As such, it's important not to self-diagnose, as only a trained professional can properly diagnose adult ADHD and provide the correct course of action. The most prevalent signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults are; 

Lack of focus 

Inability to focus on tasks is perhaps the most common sign of ADHD. In adults, however, this goes beyond finding it hard to pay attention. This symptom may be accompanied by other traits that may include:

Overlooking simple details 

Being easily distracted 

Inability to complete projects and tasks 

Finding it hard to concentrate in conversations 

These traits may affect you at different times and often have an identifiable trigger. 

Read also: Is Latin America Going Through An Educational Crisis?

Hyper focus 

People with ADHD often experience bouts of being hyper focused on a single task. When in this state, you lose track of time and surroundings and become unaware of anything around you. This kind of behavior can lead to easily ignoring your friends and close relationships, consequently leading to strained and distanced relations. 


Organization skills are essential for any adult. More often than not, you'll need this skill at work, school, and in relationships. However, adults with ADHD find it hard to organize their tasks and concentrate on one thing or nothing at all. The lack of organization can further be worsened by an inability to prioritize or keep track of essential duties. 


While everyone is bound to forgetfulness, it is more pronounced in adults living with ADHD. This could range from forgetting where they placed something to important dates. As with many of the other signs, forgetfulness can lead to strained relationships and poor work ethic. 


This is a common ADHD sign in both children and adults. In adults, impulsivity can manifest itself in various ways. For instance, one study found that adults with ADHD are more prone to impulse buying, even when they can't afford the item. Other manifestations of impulsivity in adults include; 

  • Rushing through important tasks 

  • Acting without thought of consequences 

  • Interrupting other people when conversing 

  • Social inappropriateness 


How is adult ADHD diagnosed? 

According to DSM-V, the following criteria must be met for an adult to be diagnosed with ADHD: 

Five or more symptoms of impulsivity/hyperactivity and/or five or more symptoms of inattention must have persisted for more than six months. Additionally, these symptoms must have negatively affected the patient's life and affected the daily routines of their social, professional, or academic lives. 

The common ADHD symptoms need to have been present before the patient was 12 years. 

Several symptoms must be present in at least two settings of the patient's life -home and school or work and socially. 

Clear evidence of the symptoms interfering with the patient's quality of professional, academic, or social functioning 

The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder or do not exclusively occur during the course of another mental illness like Schizophrenia. 


Adult ADHD treatment options 

While there's no comprehensive cure for adult ADHD, various medicinal and therapeutic options can manage the condition and alleviate the associative symptoms. 

Doctors may recommend either stimulant or non-stimulant medications to manage adult ADHD. Stimulant prescriptions register a higher response rate in symptom management, 

Stimulant ADHD:

  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) 

  • Lisdexamfetamine 

  • Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin) 

  • Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall XR, Adderall) 

  • Methylphenidate (Daytrana, Concerta) 

  • While effective, these stimulant prescriptions can be addictive and need to be taken as prescribed. 

Non-stimulant prescriptions can also be used in ADHD management. These are primarily used together with stimulant medications, but they can also be used on their own

  • Atomoxetine 

  • Clonidine 

  • Guanfacine 

  • Behavioral and therapeutic treatments 

Aside from active prescription, the doctor may recommend therapeutic and other behavioral treatments like; 

  • Cognitive and behavioral therapy to help with self-esteem 

  • Stress management and relaxation training to lower stress and anxiety 

  • Life coaching to help you set and achieve goals 

  • Job mentoring and coaching to build and improve professional relationships 

  • Family education and therapy to help you and close relationships understand ADHD better 

  • Tips for managing adult ADHD 

Aside from the medical and treatment options, The following Strategies to help you how to cope with ADHD.

Cut down on distractions – When you need to work or study, take away anything that could easily distract you from accomplishing the main objective. 

Organize your space – Your environment can have a significant impact on your mind and mental well-being. Declutter often and create a conducive environment free from junk and other destructive materials. 

Exercise to burn excess energy – If you're feeling hyperactive or restless, exercise can help you work off the extra energy. Regular exercise is also good for your mind and physical well-being. 

Reward yourself – ADHD can lead to a lowered self-esteem. To combat this, reward yourself with any small milestone achieved. This will raise your self-esteem and boost your momentum. 

Adult ADHD is a medically recognized mental condition. While more research is needed to understand this condition. If you suspect you're experiencing adult ADHD symptoms, talk to a professional as soon as possible and get back to your everyday life.