Is ADHD in adults, what was missed in childhood? Many people think that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a childhood disorder.

While it is true that there must be symptoms present before the age of 12, it is estimated that up to 60 percent of those with childhood ADHD continue to experience symptoms in adulthood.

There are differences, however in how adults experience their symptoms in comparison to children. For example, adults tend not to be as outwardly hyperactive and may instead experience an internal restlessness, impatience or racing mind. Symptoms related to inattention are the most likely to persist. Impulsivity may remain problematic even when hyperactivity has diminished. The severity can also range from mild to having a more severe and detrimental impact on a person’s work, education, relationships and wellbeing.

Diagnosis as an adult

It is not uncommon for a person to first be diagnosed with ADHD as an adult despite experiencing lifelong symptoms. It has been estimated that less than a quarter of adults living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have been diagnosed.

Sometimes it is not until their child is diagnosed that a parent may be tested for and diagnosed. It is not surprising then that a diagnosis of ADHD can stir up a variety of emotions – shock, relief, confusion, elation, disbelief, grief, shame, anger…. Those diagnosed often feel relief at knowing why they are the way they are, but this can be tinged with regret for past struggles, and for what might have been had they been diagnosed earlier in their lives.

A psychologist or psychiatrist can provide diagnosis of ADHD.

Treating ADHD

ADHD is not curable, but it can be well managed. Pharmacological treatment is common and most adults experience symptom reduction with medication.

However, while medication is effective in correcting the physiological symptoms of ADHD, it does not address the paucity of skills, which many adults will not have acquired because of their ADHD. For example, one might gain the ability to focus with medication, but skills such as organising, prioritising, time management and communicating effectively need to be learned. Thus, many continue to struggle with work, day-to-day responsibilities, anxiety, depression or low self-esteem.

For this reason, psychological treatment can be very valuable and can assist in the management of symptoms through education about ADHD and its impact, developing coping strategies, handling emotions, improving self-care, and therapy to address any feelings of depression and anxiety which often accompanies ADHD.

Another side of ADHD?

ADHD isn’t all about problems and it can be helpful to think about ADHD as a collection of traits that are both positive and negative. In my work with adults with ADHD, I’ve seen that along with the struggles are also qualities of capability, creativity, energy, enthusiasm, spontaneity, divergent thinking, engagement, living in the moment….to name a just a few.

It is important not to overlook or discount these qualities.

Remember: if you are hyperactive, you may get lots done.

If you are impulsive, you may be creative, dynamic and entrepreneurial.

You may cope in chaotic situations that trouble others.

And distractible people notice things that others don’t.


This article was written by Counselling Psychologist, Dr Tara Yewers. If you would like to book an appointment with Tara or any of our other Psychologists, please contact us here or call: 6381 0297.