Approximately 4% of American adults have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD). The rate of actual cases could be much higher, since adults with ADD who were undiagnosed as children may not realize they have the condition. Symptoms of adult ADD are often misinterpreted by others as deliberately inconsiderate or immature behaviors. What may seem like character flaws are actually the result of chemical imbalances in the brain. If someone you know displays these nine signs, a neurological disorder may be to blame.
1. Chronic tardiness
Adults with ADD make a habit of turning up late. They are late for work, for meetings, for family events, and for social gatherings. Time can be distorted for people with ADD. They may feel that only 15 minutes have passed since they started an activity when, in fact, they have been engaged in it for an hour. They often misjudge the time it will take them to get ready to attend an obligation, leaving everything to the last minute. They may also get their priorities wrong, choosing to complete a non-urgent task even though doing so will make them late for an important appointment.
Forgetfulness is an adult ADD symptom that can impact on all areas of life. People with ADD forget birthdays, anniversaries and vacation dates, even when reminded days in advance. They forget to pick up their kids from school. They forget to follow procedures at work. They drive to a store and end up buying several items, but not the thing they went for. Even a small distraction may cause them to forget the information they were told moments earlier.
One of the most common symptoms of adults with ADD is chronic disorganization. Their homes are often swamped with piles of clutter. CDs are stacked on the stereo rather than returned to shelves. Empty coffee cups sit on tables for days rather than being washed and put away. Clothes are left on the bedroom or bathroom floor. Bills and important letters are opened, thrown into a pile of mail and forgotten. As a result, adults with ADD frequently find themselves frantically searching for needed items such as keys, wallets, documents or checks.
Many adults with ADD struggle with chronic procrastination. It can lead to problems at work when projects are never finished until the last minute and tend to be low-quality ‘rush jobs’. Procrastination in paying bills or filling in tax forms can cause financial difficulties. Relationships are strained when an ADD adult promises to do something for a spouse or friend and never gets around to it. People with ADD struggle to begin routine tasks and, once they do, often become side-tracked by something more interesting.
People with ADD tend to have problems controlling their impulses. They make quick decisions without first considering the relevant facts and take serious risks without regard to the consequences. Impulsivity can cause children with ADD to attempt dangerous stunts like riding their skateboard down the stairs. For adults, impulsive decisions can have long-term ramifications. They may decide on a whim to quit their job, purchase a car they can’t afford or marry someone they’ve known for two weeks.
6. Angry Outbursts
Adults with ADD are easily frustrated and can be prone to angry outbursts. Due to their neurology, people with ADD tend to feel and express their emotions more strongly. In addition, the symptoms of ADD such as disorganization and procrastination often leave them feeling stressed and overwhelmed. They may respond to minor setbacks by shouting and throwing things rather than calmly looking for a solution to the problem.
One tell-tale sign of adult ADD is a fidgety restlessness. While ADD children display hyperactivity by ‘bouncing off the walls’, adult hyperactivity takes more subtle forms. Adults with ADD find it uncomfortable to sit still for long periods and may react with fidgety behavior such as moving their heels up and down or tapping a table with their fingers. They have difficulty listening quietly during a conversation and may talk continually or interrupt others. When not actively engaged, they can appear nervous, edgy or twitchy.
While adults with ADD are easily distracted from anything they consider dull or tedious, they have the ability to focus intently on things that engage or interest them. This can be advantageous if they happen to have a job in a field they find fascinating. However, the tendency to hyperfocus can cause problems in daily life. Their level of concentration can be so intense that they lose track of time, responsibilities and the surrounding environment. When an adult with ADD gets immersed in an exciting computer game, they may play for hours, ignoring pressing responsibilities.
Adults with ADD have trouble settling down to one way of life or achieving long term goals. They may drift from one job to another, move from place to place or have a series of unsuccessful relationships. They may enroll in college courses in various different fields and never persevere with any long enough to get a degree. For adults with ADD, many prospects that seemed exciting at first lose their appeal as they become more familiar or routine.
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