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How ADHD Affects Adults Differently Than Children

How ADHD Affects Adults Differently Than Children

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often associated with childhood, but it can (and does) persist into adulthood. In fact, an estimated 366 million adults around the globe have ADHD.

Many children who are diagnosed and treated as children (or teens) grow into adulthood with managed ADHD and thrive. That being said, ADHD isn’t always diagnosed in childhood, and that leads to adults who may be struggling with symptoms of untreated ADHD.

ADHD affects adults differently, and even among adults, it can present differently between men and women. That may partly explain why more boys are diagnosed than girls.

If you’ve been struggling with attention or have a hard time staying organized, you might wonder if you have adult ADHD. Below, Dr. Hadi Estakhri and our team here at Allied Psychiatry & Mental Health in Newport Beach, California, discuss nine ways ADHD affects adults differently.

ADHD in adults can cause different symptoms

While hyperactivity is a hallmark of ADHD in children, it often evolves into a more internal restlessness in adults. Adults with ADHD may experience a persistent feeling of inner turmoil, racing thoughts, and an inability to relax. This can lead to difficulty focusing on tasks.

On the other hand, ADHD in adults can also cause you to hyperfocus, where you lose interest in everything else except the one topic at hand.

You might struggle with executive function-based tasks

Adults with ADHD frequently encounter challenges in executive functions, such as planning, organization, and time management. Juggling responsibilities at work and home becomes more complex. You might struggle to maintain routines at home, and you may miss important deadlines at work.

You might struggle with impaired impulse control

Impulsivity remains a significant aspect of ADHD in adults. This can manifest in impulsive decision-making, difficulty inhibiting responses, and challenges in thinking through the consequences of your actions. Impaired impulse control can also lead to shopping frenzies.

Impulse control may affect your relationships, work, and overall life satisfaction.

Time management can affect your daily routine

Adults with ADHD often grapple with time awareness and time estimation. This can lead to chronic lateness, missed deadlines, and a sense of frustration in both personal and professional spheres. Time management may be linked to other executive function skills, including task initiation (the motivation to start a task) and sustained attention.

Adult ADHD can make it hard to manage your emotions

Emotional sensitivity and dysregulation are common in children with ADHD, but it’s even more problematic for adults with ADHD. Mood swings, heightened emotional responses, and difficulty coping with stress may impact your interpersonal relationships at work, your emotional well-being, and your romantic relationships.

Adult ADHD can make it difficult to finish projects

While children with ADHD may struggle with short bursts of attention, adults often find it challenging to sustain focus on tasks that require prolonged concentration. 

This can affect productivity and create hurdles in completing your work, engaging in activities that demand sustained attention, or even completing chores and household projects. As a result, you may have a long list of started-but-not-finished tasks. 

ADHD can strain your relationships 

ADHD can strain relationships, especially if you struggle with forgetfulness, inconsistency, and difficulty following through on commitments. Partners and family members may struggle to understand the impact of ADHD on your behavior and communication patterns.

Untreated ADHD can make it harder to advance in your career

Holding down a job and maintaining consistent employment are two ways ADHD affects adults differently than children. This is especially true if tardiness, forgetfulness, and unfinished projects are a common concern for you. 

Just like children may benefit from an individual education plan (IEP) for ADHD, adults too can have accommodations at work. However, these don’t fall under an IEP. Instead, you’re entitled to reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Other mental health conditions may coexist with ADHD

Adults with ADHD often contend with coexisting conditions such as anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder. Identifying and addressing these comorbidities is crucial for comprehensive and effective treatment.

If you struggle with addiction, talk to Dr. Estakhri. Sometimes addressing your addiction and underlying triggers (ADHD, depression, etc.) at the same time is the best way to move forward.

Don’t let ADHD go undiagnosed and unmanaged

Many adults with ADHD go undiagnosed, as their symptoms may be attributed to other factors or overlooked. Recognizing ADHD in adulthood allows for tailored interventions here at Allied Psychiatry and Mental Health. 

Your ADHD can be treated, and you can thrive! Potential treatments include therapy, medication, and lifestyle adjustments.


If you suspect you have ADHD, don’t brush it off. Schedule a consultation today by calling us at 949-945-0927. You can also book an appointment online anytime.

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