Psychologist Questions ADHD

Can one start showing symptoms of ADHD as an adult?

I have heard that ADHD usually affects a person in childhood. But is it possible for symptoms to surface during adulthood too?

17 Answers

Symptoms of neurologically based ADHD are in evidence in childhood and in more than one setting. However sometimes ADHD is not diagnosed until later in life. A thorough developmental history needs to be reviewed.
Although rare, we do see adult onset ADHD. Please have a thorough evaluation completed by a psychologist or psychiatrist, as many other diagnoses and illnesses can mimic ADHD symptom.
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Yes, but make sure you examine any caffeine and foods you are taking in.
In my many years of clinical experience I have never seen an adult start showing symptoms of ADHD. Anxiety can cause some of the same symptoms. Sometimes I have seen adults diagnosed with ADHD but it was because it was not diagnosed as a minor.
Yes it is possible. Usually it shows up in kids but maybe it was never diagnosed.

Nicholas Capaul PsyS, TLLP
Yes, it is most certainly possible to develop or evidence ADHD as an adult. Often, the symptoms are masked in childhood but they can just as easily first appear in adulthood. A differential diagnosis would be helpful, as there are other conditions (anxiety, mania) that can look like ADHD, but not actually be attention deficit. And of course, the "H" (hyperactivity) may or my not be present. Psychological testing is the most reliable way to make an accurate diagnosis.
No. One of the diagnostic criteria is that the symptoms existed in childhood, prior to age 12. However, they may have existed and not been noticed by the person or others as such. When in doubt, speak with a mental health professional.

Teresa Y. Chapa-Cantu, Ph.D.
ADHD is distractibility. Anyone who is highly distracted will appear to have ADHD. One could even argue that children diagnosed with ADHD are highly distracted. This can be the result of distracting childhood environments, secrets, forbidden opinions and feelings, overwhelm with too much to do coming from too many directions, etc. It is not genetic, in my opinion, but if you like the pharmaceutical solution, this diagnosis is for you.
This answer is for informational purposes only and does not constitute treatment.

ADHD is understood to be a brain-based, developmental disorder present from childhood. Usually adults who have clear signs of ADHD can find a history of attention, impulsive, or hyperactive problems in their childhood.

Some adults who have a milder case of ADHD don't "run into the wall" until they get a job or other life circumstance that finally overwhelms their coping strategies. If your parents and siblings are good historians and don't recall you having any issues with attention, hyperactivity, or impulsiveness, then other issues like anxiety, depression, or a really stressful and complicated lifestyle might be the issue.

These days, most people are expected to keep a lot on their plate and stay organized in a chaotic world. If you are only in adulthood running into problems, then it may be time to talk with a psychologist about your personal symptom profile and history to see if ADHD, another diagnosis, or "just life" is right for you.

If you are feeling overwhelmed lately, even if you don't qualify for a formal diagnosis, having counseling to address your stress (and likely disorganization) can be really helpful. Adult support groups for folks with ADHD can also help normalize your experience. CHADD is a group for folks with ADHD that publishes a list of local groups along with lots of helpful ideas to manage ADHD and its core symptoms.
Typically ADHD surfaces in childhood but is not always diagnosed. As an adult you become more aware of symptoms and it becomes more obvious to you. Some symptoms can manifest themselves greater as you get older because the stresses on performance become greater.
Yes anything is possible. ADHD is when someone has no true focused brain and talks all the time and they move around a lot and never accomplish much at all. Those are the main symptems to look out for.
Attention Deficit Disorder can present at any time. While one may have a predisposition for this disorder starting in early childhood, it can present at any time depending on the degree and type of stress one experiences. Many adolescents and young adults establish compensatory mechanisms to help manage symptoms (i.e- to do lists, agendas). There may come a point however, when one's stressors exceed the coping skills used so far. A therapist can help you to create more advanced skills to help with your current situation.
ADHD has usually begins in childhood. They are part of the "temperatment" that folks are born with. At the same time, the symptoms often do not get recognized until problems in work and relationships lead to diagnosis. Occasionally however a head injury, illness, or trauma in adulthood can cause a personality change that looks like ADD or ADHD. If so, be sure to get the problem checked out and treated.
Symptoms of ADHD typically manifest during childhood. These symptoms can continue into adulthood. Some children have abilities or circumstances that help them compensate for their ADHD making it less obvious that they have the disorder. Hypothetically, adults might find themselves challenged in a way they had not experienced previously. They may find themselves unable to successfully manage this vulnerability any longer resulting in symptoms surfacing.
Yes, symptoms may become apparent in adulthood.
Yes. Many people are not diagnosed until adulthood.