Adult ADHD

As children and adolescents with ADHD do worse academically and engage in more high risk activities such as drug use but what happens when they are adults with ADHD? Can adults develop ADHD or be diagnosed later in life?

Work, Love and Adult ADHD

ADHD does not magically disappear once a child leaves school and enters the work force. Neither are the problems of ADHD limited to the workplace. The symptoms of poor memory, wayward attention and high risk behaviour have a significant impact on the domestic lives of the adult with ADHD.

An ADHD adult can expect to be married slightly times than non ADHD adult (0.7 times compared to 0.6) and moved house slightly more often (5.5 to 5.1 times). Both they and their spouse will score lower on marital satisfaction (80.6 and 83.2 for the ADHD subject and their spouse compared to 98.0 and 104.1).

They get significantly more speeding tickets (4.9 instead of 1.1) and been in more accidents (2.8 to 1.8). Not surprisingly they six times more likely to have their license suspended (24.2 to 4.0). They will have changed jobs more often (6.9 to 4.6) which might be connected to the fact that Adults with ADHD are more likely to be fired (52.9 to 30.8) or just impulsively quit (47.9 to 16.0).

Psychiatric Problems and Adult ADHD

Its a sad fact that children with ADHD grow up to have a statistically significant higher chance of developing mental health problems. One study comparing ADHD adults to non-ADHD found that there was a higher rate of antisocial personality disorder (12% versus 3%) such as Conduct Disorder (see Oppositional Defiant Disorder) and nonalcohol substance abuse (12% versus 4%). However adults with ADHD did not have increased chances of mood or anxiety disorders and are less likely to be psychiatrically hospitalized and less likely to commit suicide.

The Future for Children with ADHD

The worry for parents of children with ADHD is what happens later in life. The statistics above make grim reading but statistics don’t tell the whole story. As one study noted:

… nearly all [ADHD adults in the study] were gainfully employed. Furthermore, some had achieved a higher-level education (e.g., completed Master’s degree, enrolled in medical school) and occupation (e.g., accountant, stock broker). In addition, a full two thirds of these children showed no evidence of any mental disorder in adulthood. In conclusion, although ADHD children, as a group, fare poorly compared with their non-ADHD counterparts, the childhood syndrome does not preclude attaining high educational and vocational goals, and most children no longer exhibit clinically significant emotional or behavioral problems once they reach their mid-twenties.

Diagnosing Adult ADHD

Not all children with ADHD are diagnosed with the problem and of course there are millions of adults out in there who completed their education before ADHD became a recognised problem. Can they be diagnosed and treated in later life?

A very interesting 1997 study from Seattle look at diagnosing adults with ADHD. Out of 143 adult presenting for ADHD assessment, 32% clearly had ADHD and 32% clearly did not. The remaining 51 adults could not be diagnosed as having ADHD because of either a lack of childhood history and/or complicating severe psychiatric or substance abuse comorbidity. The differences between the three groups, ADHD, non-ADHD and ambiguous, were very similar but had key differences. The definite ADHD group had slower reading speeds than either the non-ADHD and the ambiguous group. However both the ADHD and ambiguous group had very similar scores on the Continuous Performance Test (CPT) and the Wender-Utah Rating Scale (WURS) for ADHD. Of the three groups, the ambiguous group had a higher rate of drugs or alcohol abuse. This study did not differentiate between the different types of ADHD so it may be that adults in the ambiguous group tend towards one problem where as the definite ADHD group tends towards the other.

Treatment of ADHD adults is very similar to childhood ADHD. Ritalin, Adderall and other stimulants have all found to be effective at relieving stimulants. SSRI drugs such as Prozac have not be shown to be useful except where depression or other factors are involved.

Adult ADHD and Woman

In children, boys with ADHD tend to be more common than girls with ADHD. However in adults, females are more common. This may be because boys with problems tend to be more disruptive than girls with problems thus boys are more likely to be sent for evaluation by their teachers. In ADHD adults there are higher rates of major depression, anxiety disorders, and conduct disorder in women. Such findings emphasis the importance of spotting ADHD in girls at an early age even if they do not have manifest their problems as obviously as the boys.

I’m An Adult, Can I Have ADHD?

The simple answer is yes. ADHD is not just a childhood issue, it is something that stays with you all your life. So if you think you have ADHD, go and see your doctor. It may be causing a lot of problems than you realise.

Previously on Myomancy
ADHD and Girls

Adult Psychiatric Status of Hyperactive Boys Grown Up
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Adults: Comorbidities and Adaptive Impairments
Long-term prognosis in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: assessment guidelines based on clinical presentation to a specialty clinic.
Adults with ADHD. An overview.
Gender differences in a sample of adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder


  1. I was in my 30’s when I got diagnosed with attention problems. Unfortunately (?), I was able to do well in school without concentrating, so the problem went unnoticed. I’m saying that tongue-in-cheek, of course, but a history of screwing up in school isn’t always a reliable indicator. I take meds, but my mind just doesn’t work in the way that helps me get through a so-called normal day.

  2. Bobbi

    Thank you Arlo Muttrie for your comments as I also did well in school and am surprised by the troubles I am having in adult life. Also, I have been trying meds for some time now and it just doesn’t seem to help. I welcome any suggestions and help.

    I have never reached out through postings for my AD/HD problems but since I have gotten to a point where no one close to me really understands what I am struggling with I thought it might help. See, I feel very alone in my pain (yet according to my internet searches here I am not alone). Just reaching out for support anywhere I can get it because I am sooooo not doing well career-wise, and obviously then also financially, and socially I have lost friends due to impulsive talking and extreme hyper energy that makes others feel very uncomfortable. I read self-help books more than anyone I know, try to change, but just keep failing …and falling. I just never seem good enough anymore. not for myself and certainly not for the ‘normal’ world.

  3. Gareth Thomas

    Hello everyone, i,m gaz and am 33 years young ,ileft school where i was lucky to get a few good grades in english and math exelled in sport and art did my art a levels when i was 16 then went on to cpllege and did sculpture and furnature design , from the age of eighteen months i was diagnosed as being “hyperactive” and was put on tranquelisers when i was 3 years old untill they got took off the market when i was 7 years old from then untill now i have been in trouble with the police more times than i can remember for fighting ,abh,affray ect it was more from the age of 15/16 untill 21/22 that i was at my worst getting involved in drug dealing getting in with the wrong crowds and all along i knew that what i was doing was wrong but the buzz was just too great as i was taking cocane and speed as well , i decided euogh was enough (it seems like a constant battle in your head between good and bad but the bad is always much more exiting)i knew i was in over my head and moved away from it all to start afresh , then met a gypsy family who took me in got clean from drugs and was out grafting every morning i would be up at 5 am (thats if i had had any sleep at all through my mind going at a thousand miles an hour as usual) and loved working outside grafting,married had 2 kids but all the time throughout my life knew that there was somthing wrong with me i remember quoting “its not my fault mum its the little boy inside me” anyway i eventually got some work fitting a playarea locally and impressed them because i seemed to work and move twice as fast as there own workers that was 12/13 years ago now and i am still working for the same company , after starting there i was a foreman 2 years later then learned how to pre fabrecate all of the different items progressed to now being installations manager (2nd in command from the M.D.)I can now build anything i have taken on contract that are 150k plus , i run all the health and safety programmes ,do tender documents and was the first in the 18 years that the company have been submitting tenders to actually win one i have tought myself to almost control myself emotionally,about 18months ago my step son (im now with my second wife ) was diagnosed with adhd and it was through my own investigations that and going through a depressive patch that i was diagnosed myself , they put me on a anti-psycotic drug wich was not right for me at all then i was back in the docs with worse depression and was crying all the time getting really emotionall over little things even crying in work in front of the lads , then they put me on a anti depressant (cant remember the name) and after about 4 weeks i was feeling myself again buy a lot more clearer my brain didnt seem to be so conjested with information then i decided to do everything possible to help me as in using a diary wrighting things down to remind me of things making flow charts so that things werent forgotten wich made my work a lot easier, i felt when i was depressed weak and all that was going thrugh my mind was remorse for all the bad things that i had done in my life all the people that i had physically or mentally hurt and i think as you get older with adhd you seem to grow a concience , a concience that i never really had when i was younger and getting into trouble with the police all the time , anyway i have missed a hell of a lot out of this and some of it may seem back to front but i would like to help others as i am now a self certified motovational speaker and i would love to help anyone out there who is struggling thanks gaz

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