Diagnosing ADHD in Adults

Criteria for ADHD suggest that at least some of these traits were present before the age of 12. Unfortunately, when one suffers with ADHD, memories of activities before 12 may be sparing. Often people with ADHD will tell me, “I don’t remember much before I was ten.” (Or the name of the movie they watched last night!) Many with this condition use all available focus on what they are doing, not on simultaneously storing such information into memory or being aware of time. Also, as part of a restricted range of focus, there is often a lack of personal awareness of how one is coming across to others. How can we address the challenge of diagnosing ADHD with such limited information?

Diagnosing ADHD in Adults

Diagnosing ADHD in adults can be difficult, but it is by no means impossible. In such instances, it is important to determine what traits you may have, the conditions under which they occur and what seems to make them better or worse. This is particularly true when looking for traits early in life. The notes written on the side of elementary school report cards can help fill in gaps in your memory. Old friends who know you well enough to be comfortable telling you the truth are very helpful. (Often you may be just a little bit sensitive about all of this!) Elementary school teachers, ‘den mothers’, coaches, and camp counselors are a treasure trove of ‘old stories’ that can be very revealing.

We must also include teaching and behavioral interventions that may have been in place. A Montessori elementary education is at times very conducive to workarounds for someone with ADHD. A parent who enjoys organizing time for homework and making learning fun may provide just the structure needed for their child to be successful throughout these early years. Many with ADHD who are quite bright (Yes, ADHD has little to do with native intelligence) tell me they never took a book home in high school. They may be able to get by with this for a time but there is usually a time that life and study skills become necessary and only then may their ADHD become an issue.

I think we are all rather adept at avoiding the things we don’t like. If you have ADHD you may have taken this to a very high level! You may not know why you don’t like activities that should be well within your skill set but you find other activities that serve tend to serve you better. The only problem comes when you bumps into a new wrinkle. When you go away to college and, without the structure of home, can’t get yourself to study. When you receive a promotion and find the new responsibilities reasonable, but almost impossible to get started, carry out or finish. When a new boss or co-worker doesn’t like you, you may become emotionally distraught with every innuendo they 'accidentally' make on purpose.

People who, as adults, are for the first time struggling with ADHD may have little in the way of early traits but the traits they now demonstrate and the situations that bring these traits to bear can help us define and deal with these issues.

Please read more on this web site, consider joining Patients of Oneness, read the book by Sari Solden, "ADD in Addulthood" for more information. All of these supports will help those who are helping you to make your life all that you know it should be!

Challenges in Diagnosing ADHD
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