Adult ADHD

Ever used the phrase at work, “Ugh, I am feeling sooo ADD today, I can’t seem to focus on anything!”? Unfortunately, ADHD is an actual disorder that does occur in adults, and can cause significant life difficulties. According to WebMD about 60% of people who are diagnosed with ADHD do not outgrow the disorder. According to the DSM-IV-TR (which is the diagnostic manual for psychiatrists and psychologists), the following are the criteria to be diagnosed with the disorder…


  1. Often not giving close attention to details, making careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  2. Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or activities
  3. Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  4. Often does not follow instructions, fails to finish schoolwork or duties int he workplace (not because of of failure to understand instructions)
  5. Often has trouble organizing activities.
  6. Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn’t want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time
  7. Often loses things needed for tasks and activities
  8. Is often easily distracted
  9. Is often forgetful in daily activities

Hyperactivity – 

  1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat (can’t sit still)
  2. Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected
  3. Often has trouble enjoying leisure activities quietly
  4. Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”.
  5. Often talks excessively
  1. Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished
  2. Often has trouble waiting one’s turn
  3. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g. butts into conversations)
Well, several of the items on this list sound like me? Does that mean I have ADHD?
Not necessarily… In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, you must have a at least a certain number of symptoms on each list, and they must have started while in childhood. Also, in order to be diagnosed with ADHD, these symptoms must interfere with your ability to work and/or your ability to maintain personal relationships and complete activities at home. If you feel this may match you, and you would like to receive help managing symptoms, I recommend you visit and therapist and/or a psychiatrist.
As Susan Fletcher explains in her Blog Smart Zone Psychology: ADHD in the Workplace
Here are 5 surprises about AD/HD:
  1. AD/HD does exist and is not a conspiracy by scientists to medicate people. It is a real medical condition that is biologically based.
  2. AD/HD is not simply a lack of willpower.
  3. Bad parenting does not cause AD/HD. However, studies show a genetic predisposition for AD/HD within families.
  4. Adults with AD/HD are not stupid or lazy. Recent studies reveal that people with AD/HD actually tend to have above average intelligence but it does not show because of the AD/HD.
  5. AD/HD can be treated without medication. New research indicates that you can improve brain functioning with direct, deliberate practice. This is called neuroplasticity. Relaxation, concentration and other self management exercises can improve the ability to sustain attention in some people.
So how can this cause problems at work?
Sometimes it can be spacing out during meetings, getting distracted at work when they are supposed to be working, etc. This can cause frustration that they cannot seem to focus on things. Adults who were diagnosed with ADHD as children, often did not do well in school; not because they weren’t smart, they just had a difficult time focusing and completing work. Often people with ADHD are very smart, they just really have a hard time focusing. This can be helped through taking different medications like Adderall or Ritalin; you can find jobs in which you find you focus your attention better, or learn different techniques like meditation or going through therapy.
How can ADHD cause problems in relationships?
Relationship problems can sometimes arise when one member of a couple is diagnosed with ADHD. The non-ADHD partner may feel they that they are constantly nagging their ADHD partner… that may feel ignored, they may feel responsible for getting things done, etc. The ADHD partner may be asked to do something, and honestly intend to do it, but get distracted by something else he notices on the way, and alas, the original task is never completed. WebMD does a great job of summarzing how these problems can take place, they state:
  • Difficulty listening and paying attention. An individual with ADHD may “zone out” or talk out of turn, making it difficult to communicate. It can also cause the partner to feel as though what he or she has to say doesn’t matter.
  • Trouble completing tasks. ADHD can lead to poor organizational skills and forgetfulness. A man with ADHD may miss his wife’s birthday or their wedding anniversary, or may forget to stop at the store on the way home from work as his wife had asked. This forgetfulness may make his wife feel hurt and think that her husband doesn’t care, when he’s actually forgotten because he has trouble staying on top of things. That same inability to finish tasks may translate into a lack of commitment when it comes to marriage or other relationships.
  • Inability to handle responsibilities. Someone with ADHD might forget to pay the bills, neglect to clear a dangerous pile of branches from the backyard, or leave a toxic cleaner on the sink while the children are playing nearby.
  • Impulsive behavior. People with ADHD constantly need stimulation, and may fail to think through the consequences of their actions. This can lead to reckless, irresponsible behaviors (like driving too fast with the kids in the car).
  • Emotional overreaction. Someone with ADHD may lose his or her temper easily, leading to major misunderstandings and sometimes, big blowout fights. Arguments can quickly spiral out of control because the person with ADHD is unable to talk through issues calmly.
These scenarios frequently occur in relationships, and can be very frustrating to both parties, but there are ways to cope!
  1. For the non-ADHD partner, learn about the disorder. Educate yourself on what exactly it means and what the symptoms are. Let your partner explain to you what it is like for them to experience the disorder.
  2. Try making lists together of things that you each would like to get done if it’s a “running errands” kind of day… or just even daily things you’d like to get done. Put the list somewhere that it is easily seen, so no matter where you get distracted, you have something to help get you back on track.
  3. Avoid getting into the trap of “pesterer & tuner-outer” and the “master and slave” patterns. Discuss ways that the partner with ADHD is okay with being reminded to do things, or if you have ADHD, set reminders on your phone or computer, so you can stay on top of “to do” items yourself. It is easy to get stuck in these patterns, and for the non-ADHD partner to try to take control of the relationship.
  4. Most importantly… set up a routine!!! Being in a routine, keeping structure, can help both partners remember when things are supposed to be done, and it ensure all things get completed. Having a schedule/routine/structure… whatever you want to call it, helps prevent getting distracted and moving onto other tasks.
So, do you, or someone you know, have ADHD? What are your experiences with your relationships and working. What have you found helps?
If you would like more information on ADHD and relationships, or ADHD in the workplace, check out the links below. 
Adult ADHD
Tagged on:         

Leave a Reply