Beyond Childhood: ADHD as an Adult

Often thought of as a condition found only in children, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—when left undiagnosed and untreated—can last into adulthood.

ADHD symptoms may be overlooked during childhood because of highly structured and protected school and home-life environments. Young people who are extremely bright may also be able to mask and compensate for their symptoms.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), ADHD symptoms are hyperactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty paying attention. The symptoms manifest in behavioral issues such as inability to listen when spoken to directly, talking nonstop, missing details, forgetfulness in daily activities like chores and returning calls, and failing to follow through on instructions.

When left untreated, ADHD in adults can result in critical problems in their personal and professional lives. According to the National Resource Center on ADHD (NRC), adults with ADHD may experience overall lower educational and career achievement, other psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, and higher suicide rates.

There is no single medical, physical, or genetic test for ADHD—for adults or children. However, a diagnostic evaluation can be done by a licensed and experienced mental health care professional or physician. According to the NRC, the evaluation should include symptom checklists, standardized behavior rating scales, a detailed history of past and current functioning, and information from loved ones.

To find a qualified mental health care professional or physician, visit the Board of Behavioral Sciences website at or the Medical Board of California’s website at For more information about adult ADHD, visit the NRC’s website at and the NIMH’s website at

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