Undiagnosed ADHD in adults is a much more common issue than most of us realize. While most of us may still believe that ADHD only affects children, the reality is that anyone can have ADHD. In fact, while at one time many doctors believed symptoms went away after someone grew to adulthood, the opposite now appears to be true with symptoms staying around for a person’s entire life.
For people who may never have been checked for ADHD as a child, this can cause problems later in life. ADHD tends to affect multiple areas of one’s life. It can affect everything from one’s self esteem to emotional wellbeing to relationships and finances. As a result, if someone has ADHD but doesn’t know they do, they can face many obstacles in life.
We encourage anyone to meet with a doctor to see about a diagnosis if they suspect they may have ADHD. This applies just as true for adults as it does for children. To help with this, we want to outline both symptoms and effects of undiagnosed ADHD in adults. In doing so, we hope to provide something of a guide to help you know if you may or may not have ADHD. Let’s first look at some possible symptoms and then we can look closer at possible effects.
Symptoms of Undiagnosed ADHD in Adults
To begin with, if you suspect yourself or someone you know of having undiagnosed ADHD, you need to know what symptoms to look for. Again since ADHD affects most every area of a person’s life, these symptoms can cover several facets of life. Let’s look at some of the most common symptoms. With just a brief introduction, you might start to notice a pattern that applies to your life or someone you know. If this seems to be the case, you might have an issue with undiagnosed ADHD.
Trouble Concentrating and Keeping Focus
First, a primary symptom of undiagnosed ADHD in adults is a trouble with concentrating and keeping focus. Having a lack of focus has consistently been a hallmark of ADHD. If you ask many parents, they might describe failing to concentrate and focus as one of their main issues with their children with ADHD. For adults, though, with undiagnosed ADHD, trouble concentrating can be just as problematic.
If you suspect someone has undiagnosed ADHD, you definitely want to keep an eye out for signs of trouble with focusing. Do they lose track of what they are working on? Do they start many projects but often abandon them without finishing? Signs like this can point to a possible case of ADHD.
Trouble with Remembering
Additionally, people with undiagnosed ADHD might have issues with remembering even simple things. The mind of the person with ADHD often quickly moves from one thing to the next. This wiring causes issues with concentration, which we just discussed, but it also makes it hard to remember things you need to keep track of. After all, being constantly bombarded by different thoughts doesn’t allow much space to recollect even important reminders.
If you know someone that constantly forgets dates and appointments, you might look a little deeper into what’s going on. While some adults, especially older adults, struggle with memory in general, this might appear more pronounced in adults with undiagnosed ADHD. Anyone can work to improve their memory. Still, if the issues related to memory have to do with ADHD, the person should seek out a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Trouble with Emotions
Thirdly, another symptom of undiagnosed ADHD in adults might show itself in a person’s emotional stability. People with ADHD often have trouble understanding both their own and other people’s emotions. Furthermore, people with ADHD tend to struggle with empathy and relating well with others. This sometimes can cause friction in relationships. Additionally, it can cause mood swings or quickly shifting feelings about a subject or person.
Many people might see these issues in another person in an intimate relationship. For instance, marriages especially can highlight emotional problems if one of the partners has undiagnosed ADHD. If you find yourself in such a relationship, you should encourage your partner to find out for sure if they have ADHD. With proper treatment and counseling, the issues might start to improve.
Trouble with Acting Impulsively
Another sign to look for with undiagnosed ADHD in adults is acting on impulse. Impulsivity appears as a key symptom for many who have ADHD. Especially prevalent and easily to identify in children, impulsive actions produce themselves when someone jumps to action without much thought or consideration. Impulsive people tend not to take much time to consider the consequences of their actions. As a result, sometimes those actions can produce significant negative returns.
In adults with undiagnosed ADHD, they might show impulsivity in a number of ways. For instance, they might have issues with controlling impulsive buying habits. Alternatively, they might have problems with impulsive behaviors in relationships, dating several people, or at work, with quitting multiple jobs in succession. Someone who consistently shows that they struggle with acting impulsively might very well have undiagnosed ADHD.
Trouble with Feeling Restless
Finally, a last symptom of undiagnosed ADHD to look out for is an issue with constantly feeling restless and needing to move. In a way this relates to acting impulsively. Many people with ADHD feel always unsettled and as if they need to do something with their hands or feet.
For kids with ADHD, you can see this often with shifting in their seats at school or scribbling or doing something constantly with their hands. Again, for an adult with ADHD, you might notice similar behavior, though, possibly more muted and controlled.
They may still have trouble sitting still for long periods of time and tend to tap their feet or have to have their fingers constantly moving. If these traits fit well with someone you know who just can’t seem to settle down, undiagnosed ADHD could possibly be the culprit.
Effects of Undiagnosed ADHD in Adults
Secondly, not only does undiagnosed ADHD in adults have symptoms to look out for, but also it can have a profound effect on your life in a number of ways. Some effects might feel small and inconsequential while others might have a drastic impact on your life overall. To really understand the importance of resolving undiagnosed ADHD in adults, let’s now consider some of the primary effects one at a time.
Trouble with Relationships
To begin with, one of the primary areas you may notice the effects of undiagnosed ADHD in adults is in relationships. Someone who might have ADHD might really struggle with keeping or maintaining healthy relationship dynamics. Due to some of the symptoms already mentioned particularly those related to focus and emotions, people with ADHD might not always appear to care for their partners in relationships. Many times, this can sour dating relationships or even ruin marriages.
If you know someone who seems to always have bad luck with relationships, you might look deeper for undiagnosed ADHD. People with ADHD can sometimes appear self-focused and disinterested in others. Such characteristics can make intimate relationships very hard to maintain.
Trouble with Work
Additionally, another possible effect of undiagnosed ADHD in adults can be trouble with work or career. The current American workforce has mostly grown used to a basic 9 to 5 desk job sitting at a computer most of the day. While this fits a lot of careers most people go into, it doesn’t fit well with many ADHD tendencies. People with ADHD tend not to sit still and concentrate well. As a result, having to stare at a computer for eight hours a day can feel like torture to someone with ADHD.
Furthermore, people with ADHD tend to get bored easily and make quick spur of the moment decisions. These attributes can make it so that someone with undiagnosed ADHD will get bored easily at a job and may quit or change jobs without much deliberation. Adults with undiagnosed ADHD might struggle to keep a constant career. They may believe that most jobs just simply aren’t for them. If these attributes sound familiar, undiagnosed ADHD might be causing work issues.
Trouble with Finances
Thirdly, with many cases of undiagnosed ADHD in adults, finances become an issue. Since many people with ADHD struggle with organization, they also tend to have issues keeping finances in order. Additionally, people with ADHD might have troubles with impulsive spending and keeping a budget. They may start with good intentions but then they make impulse buys and lose track of their budget goals.
Keeping track of bills and receipts can become especially overwhelming for someone with ADHD. As a result, many adults with undiagnosed ADHD simply feel as if they can never get ahead with their finances. They always have more debts than they have money incoming. If someone you know has this consistent issue, you might encourage them to look into the reason for their trouble with finances.
Trouble with Self-Medicating
Finally, another common effect of undiagnosed ADHD in adults is trouble with self-medicating. Many people might start to see an issue because of noticing substance abuse habits. If an adult never saw a doctor for ADHD as a child, they might have learned to cope over time by treating their symptoms with any number of things.
Some people might turn to using drugs, prescription or illegal. Others might use alcohol to deal with their symptoms. Still others might develop an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.
Many of these issues can be resolved if the person received proper treatment for their ADHD. Unfortunately, since many adults may still think that ADHD just happens to kids, they might never seek out the proper treatment they need. If you know someone who might be self-medicating, talk to them about getting checked for ADHD.
Getting Help for Undiagnosed ADHD in Adults
If you have read through this whole article and feel that a lot of this makes sense, then you might have undiagnosed ADHD in your life. If so, you shouldn’t lose hope. You or someone you love who may have undiagnosed ADHD can go to a doctor for a screening. If the tests come back and the doctor diagnoses ADHD then you can start working on putting a comprehensive ADHD treatment plan in place. Your doctor can also prescribe medication for you to take.
While learning that you have ADHD as an adult can be a lot to deal with, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn to manage it well. The first step is simply getting the diagnosis. After you know for a fact one way or the other, you can then start putting the pieces in place to manage both your ADHD and life well.