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ADHD Isn’t Just for Kids: Understanding the Surge of ADHD Diagnoses in Adults

May 10, 2023 | ADHD, Adult Treatment

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which is more often referred to as ADHD, is a fairly common condition that affects children and adults. For years, this disorder has been associated mostly with childhood, but recent studies have shown a surge in ADHD diagnoses among adults. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 10,000,000 adults in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD. This means that these millions of adults are struggling with symptoms that affect their daily lives, yet many remain untreated.

The increase in ADHD diagnoses among adults is not entirely shocking, given what we do know about the condition. It is thought to be highly heritable, which means that it can run in families and is genetically linked. As more and more children with ADHD are identified and receive treatment, it’s likely that even more adults with undiagnosed ADHD will come to light. As a whole, our understanding of ADHD has improved over the years, and we now recognize that the condition can persist into adulthood, even if it wasn’t identified during a person’s childhood.

Despite this growing recognition of ADHD in adults, the condition is still so often overlooked or misdiagnosed. Some think this is partly due to the fact that symptoms of ADHD can look different in adults than in children. Even though hyperactivity is often the most noticeable symptom in children with ADHD, adults are likely to experience more subtle symptoms like restlessness, impulsivity, and difficulty focusing. On top of this, adults with ADHD are more likely to have comorbid conditions like anxiety and depression, which can complicate the diagnosis even further. With a mix of symptomatology, many doctors struggle to pinpoint a specific diagnosis. Because of this, many adults may end up struggling for years without a proper answer.

What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults, and how can you tell if you or someone you know might have the condition?

Unfortunately, it is not always easy to identify ADHD in adults due to the variances in the symptomatology. With children, it is generally more obvious, and therefore more frequently diagnosed. Even so, there are some signs and symptoms that can help you either self-diagnose or identify a loved one that might be coping with ADHD.

Here are some of the most common signs to look out for:

  • Difficulty focusing or paying attention. Adults with ADHD may find it hard to stay focused on tasks, even when they’re important or interesting. They may get distracted easily, forget things frequently, or struggle to stay organized.
  • Impulsivity. Adults with ADHD may act impulsively, without thinking through the consequences of their actions. They may interrupt others, blurt out inappropriate comments, or engage in risky behaviors like substance abuse or reckless driving.
  • Restlessness or hyperactivity. While hyperactivity is less common in adults with ADHD, they may still experience restlessness or a sense of inner turmoil. They may feel like they need to constantly be doing something or have trouble relaxing.
  • Emotional dysregulation. Adults with ADHD may struggle with intense emotions, like anger, frustration, or sadness. They may have trouble regulating their emotions or may experience emotional outbursts that seem disproportionate to the situation.


Substance Abuse and ADHD

A surprisingly prevalent issue that affects adults with ADHD is substance abuse. Research has shown that individuals with ADHD are more likely to engage in substance use and abuse than the general population. Researchers believe this is partly due to the fact that individuals with ADHD use substances as a way to self-medicate, managing their symptoms with drugs or alcohol. Ironically, substance abuse can actually worsen symptoms of ADHD, leading to a vicious cycle of addiction and poor mental health outcomes.

People struggling with ADHD need to be aware of the risks of substance abuse and be prompted to seek help if they are actively struggling with addiction. Treatment for substance abuse typically involves a combination of medication and therapy, and may also include support from peer groups or support groups for individuals with ADHD. Working with a professional to develop an individualized treatment plan that addresses both ADHD and substance abuse is the most recommended route to take.

Coupled with treatment, there are some strategies that individuals with ADHD can use to reduce their risk of substance abuse. For starters, developing healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress and emotions will help reduce the temptation to turn to drugs or alcohol. Building a strong and healthy support system of friends, family, and healthcare professionals can also help individuals with ADHD stay on track and avoid opting for substances to cope.

While there’s no cure for ADHD, there are treatments that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. It’s worth noting that ADHD can be a difficult condition to live with, and it’s important to have empathy and understanding for those who are struggling with it. ADHD is not a choice or a personal failing – it’s a real neurological condition that affects millions of people. By taking the time to learn more about ADHD and working to reduce the stigma surrounding the condition, we can help create a more supportive and inclusive world for those living with this difficult condition.

Managing Symptoms

ADHD symptoms can be frustrating and exhausting for those that deal with them on a daily basis. Fortunately, with the right treatment and support, it’s possible to manage the condition and live a fulfilling life.

Below are five helpful tips for managing ADHD symptoms:

  • Create a routine: Establishing a routine can help you stay organized and focused while decreasing the risk of derailing. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, and schedule regular mealtimes, exercise, and work/study sessions.
  • Minimize distractions: Distractions can make it difficult to focus on tasks for anyone, but especially those with ADHD. Work to create a quiet, distraction-free workspace, and consider using noise-canceling headphones or a white noise machine if you find background noise distracting.
  • Break tasks into smaller chunks: Large tasks can feel overwhelming, but breaking them into smaller, more manageable chunks can make them feel more achievable. Setting a timer for 20-30 minutes and working on one task at a time can help decrease overstimulation.
  • Use tools and technology: There are many tools and apps available that can help with organization and time management. Consider using a to-do list app, a calendar app, or a task management tool to help you stay on track.
  • Seek support: Managing ADHD can be challenging, and it’s important to have a support system in place. Joining a support group or working with a therapist who specializes in ADHD can be beneficial.

ADHD is a condition that affects millions of adults in the United States, many of which are still undiagnosed. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of ADHD and seeking treatment can help adults learn to manage their symptoms and lead normal lives. In the coming years, research is likely to continue to roll out in regard to adult ADHD.

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with this condition, be sure to advocate for yourself with your doctor and take the steps to manage symptoms in the meantime. With proper protocol in place, ADHD can be a manageable condition.

New Dimensions Can Help!

Wondering if you or someone you know has ADHD?  If so, New Dimensions can help.  New Dimensions provides psychological testing for ADHD for both adults and children.  We also offer individual and family therapy through our affiliate  To learn more about treatment options in the greater Houston area, contact us at 800-685-9796 or visit our website at


Keywords: ADHD, adult ADHD, ADHD symptoms, ADHD diagnosis, ADHD treatment