Misunderstood Potential


By Tammy Preston, MS

The symptoms of adult ADHD change according to the different lifestyles and preferences that come with adult living. Relationships, employment and everyday tasks can all be affected in a number of ways, positively and negatively.

The three major symptoms of ADHD (as related to adulthood) are impulsivity, hyperactivity, and distractibility, as outlined below.

Impulsivity means the ADHD adult has a hard time controlling their immediate reactions. Some ways in which this could be a problem include addictions to gambling, shopping, substance abuse, etc., and a difficulty in controlling verbal outbursts, i.e. saying the first thing that comes to mind, nice or not!

Hyperactivity is a very well-known symptom of ADHD, and can mean that a person is restless, has trouble sitting still and often fidgets. They are capable of fitting a lot more into a day than the average person because of their constant desire to be doing something, often going and going until they physically cannot do anymore!

Distractibility also affects many aspects of adult life. Individuals may have problems in keeping the mind focused on a specific task, i.e. difficulty concentrating on a conversation and being easily bored. They can be very spontaneous, jumping from one thing to another at the drop of a hat.

Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to organize and plan ahead (appointments and deadlines may be forgotten), and many struggle to hold down the traditional 9 to 5 job. Instead, they will be very suited to a work at home job or some thing with flexible hours. Parents with ADHD may also find it hard to provide a structured life for their non-ADHD children who do better in a more predictable environment.

There are so many positive aspects to ADHD, but these are sometimes overlooked by mainstream society. Creativity is obvious in many ADHD affected adults, and having a satisfying outlet for this creativity is all important. This may be anything from playing an instrument to extreme sports. In fact, people with ADHD are often very quick minded and intelligent. They can become very successful when they find something they are passionate about, sometimes able to put in a lot more energy than the rest of us!

Problems generally occur when they cannot find something to hold their interest, which in turn can lead to the issues mentioned above i.e. substance abuse, and even depression if they feel unable to fit in to traditional structured life.

Adult ADHD does not have to be a hindrance to leading a great life! Although there are some struggles and difficulties for these individuals, we as a society need to accommodate more to those who live in a more unstructured, but passionate, way..


  1. I think my husband may have adhd,One or two of his children and also his sisters children were thought to have it,Reading thrrough the symptoms that is him. His temer tantrums have got worse lately,and he does say what ever comes into his head,whether it hurts me badly or not.Last week i bought him some things and on the way home he fflew up at me while he was driving saying why do i keep buying him things,the shouting got worse and worse with him saying some really nasty things to me resulting in me taking an overdose. He stamps his feet when he flys into a temeper and screams in my face. He is 8 years younger then me and i find this very hard to cope with as i have lupus plus many other illnesses. her does fidget and has a bad memory or rather short term memory.I have suggested to him he might have this but he is not willing to help himself. He is destroying my love for him,as soon as the argument or screaming fit is over he aplogises.aAfter being in 2 violent relashionships before the incident in the car really scared me.I try to talk to my family but they see only the nice side of him(which he is very loving at other times) Please help me

  2. shay elliott says

    Does Rage enter into this equation??? I am having a lot of difficulty dealing with a loved one who goes off into rages at the drop of a hat, and says cruel, ugly things to whomever is around. I am beginning to be afraid of him.

  3. Sean McCoy says

    Do you have help for those with this different way of life? I was in 5th grade when I found out why I learned at a different pace. that was in the 70’s, today I still work hard to overcome it. Today Iam faced with a problem that has me down, my wife is now disabled and she was the main bread winner. Do you have any educational help?

  4. Linda DeSantis says

    I’m concerned about my son who has played sports since the age of 6 and it’s all coming to an end as he is a senior in college this year having played soccer for the four years there. Being that he was in such a rigid and structered environment all those years and now having to enter the “work world” (if he’s lucky to even get a job next year) makes me wonder how to best support him during this transition. He has never been diagnosed with ADD but I have a feeling the ongoing structure of playing sports for so many years has helped him with keeping symptoms at a minimum. I was diagnosed in my 40’s having ADD and still struggle with it. Any advice for transitioning from the “sports world” into the “real world” without too much difficulty would be greatly appreciated.

  5. Harriet B. says

    Rethink that advice about working at home!!! I tried it ( I’m an artist and thought I could make a go of a home studio.) There are a million and one distractions at home, and every one claimed my attention. While I did make great progress in my artistic development, I made very, very little money …and racked up a lot of frustration and disappointment in myself. Now I work at a electronics factory – in production (i.e. on the floor) and perform well since I have well-defined daily tasks to put all my focus on, and don’t feel responsible for everything that comes into view!

  6. I really like the fact that this encourages society to not use adult ADHD as a handicap. Yeah, working at home, at my own pace is nice, when you can find an employer that will incorporate this. As Harriet says, home also has many distractions too, especially if you have children who are not in school yet. However, I could NOT work in any type of environment where redundancy is the prime source of work. They do say that ADHD’ers are 300 times more likely to own their own businesses than others. Thanks for the info and encouragement. Nice to know you’re not alone and you’re not just going crazy on your own.

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