What is Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

what is adult adhd

By Tammy Preston, MS

What does it mean to be a sufferer of ADHD? The common perception is that ADHD is a disease that affects only children, but it has come to light in recent times that many adults too are suffering from this debilitating condition. This recent acceptance by the medical community means that many adults have been living with ADHD for a long time, without even knowing it.

ADHD stands for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, a syndrome characterized by an impaired ability to regulate activity level (hyperactivity), attend to tasks (inattention), and inhibit behavior (impulsivity). ADHD is thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that affects the parts controlling attention, concentration and impulsivity.

This means a persons behavior can be anything from being “very dreamy” (or unable to pay attention) through to being “always on the go” (or hyperactive), behavior that can continue into adulthood.

For a diagnosis of ADHD, it was always thought that the behaviors must appear before an individual reaches age seven, but there is now a groundbreaking paradigm shift amongst experts. This shift is so profound that in many of the older definitions of ADHD, childhood onset is one of the defined parameters, this all now has to change. With all of the research money and treatments being funneled into treatment of children, adult’s with ADHD may find it hard to fit into societies preconceived notions of exactly what it is to be a ADHD sufferer. There are estimates that around two-thirds of children diagnosed with ADHD are still experiencing symptoms in adulthood.

A person with ADHD has difficulty filtering out all the information coming into his brain, so he’s easily distracted, tends to respond before he has considered things properly and doesn’t know when to stop. What has not been recognized before is the effects that these symptoms may have for an adult person, who may have to work, raise a family and continue with many of the complex and stressful tasks of modern society.


  1. Charles Thomas says

    I am 26 years old, I was diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive) about 2 years ago. Turns out I’ve always had it quite bad, but back then the condition wasn’t as popular. Now that I’m an adult it’s really quite difficult to do the simplest things and often times quite frustrating because I know what I’m doing (or not doing) and I can’t help it. For instance; I’ve checked my Facebook twice since starting to write this. I’m honestly surprised at how much I’ve accomplished so far in life, but it hasn’t been easy. Now that I’ve recently gotten married and have a child on the way I’ve decided to really take this condition a lot more seriously. I’ve been diagnosed by 3 different Doctors because I really wanted to be sure. I’m about to start a medication for it, what I don’t know yet, but I’m thinking it’ll be Vyvance or Adderal. I’m really hoping the medication works out.

  2. robert cooper says

    I am a 44 yo male who was diagnosed with hyperactivity term ED at a young age. I was prescribed dexedrine and room that till I was about 12 when I decided I didn’t want to take it any more. Through studies I learned that I my diagnosis was the same as adhd. The symptoms have gotten better as I got older. The strange thing is that the only way I can fight this is to work a job that I like. I have been through many jobs and always end up doing one type of work. I am also a singer which is something I enjoy. I am very bad at handling finances. I believe that I am going to need someone to handle this for tfe rest of my life. I am not happy with this but I don’t see any other alternative. I have a 14 y.o. daughter and I am on my second marriage. I know that I am not alone in this.

  3. The ritalin is not working. I am 41. Depression has sit in. I know longer exercise. I can’t seem to get back to the career I love. I can’t seem to do anything. I am having a very hard time supporting myself. Does ADD get worse?

  4. I am 31 and have severe ADHD I have been on Adarall for quite a long time it does not work well for me anymore. ADHD affects my life in so many ways I have a very hard time finishing a task. I was also diagnosed with OCD I have wondered if the 2 could be the same and it’s just the way my ADHD is. Does anyone have any suggestions on medications? I feel so desperate to be able to concentrate and to stop cleaning and stop worrying about everything and it would be great to allow a simple task to be done by someone else. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  5. If what I read here is true (ADHD) , then I have made a huge discovery today . I have always felt like a freak and I think this might be the reasons why. These descriptions from other peoples experiences is so typical from my own behaviour . I have messed up a lot (my jobs, my marriage , friendships , boozing ) I feel I want to cry.

    I need help , but do not know where to start . Generally , people regard me as very intelligent and caring .

  6. Adderall turns me into a raging hornball. Does this Halle. For any of you

  7. After a lifetime of depression, symptoms of ADHD became obvious as I attempted to pursue my degree as an older adult. I had run out of excuses for why I could not maintain control over my life and my behaviors. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, everything clicked into place and I finally began to understand myself and the unique way that I function in the world. In addition to medication, I have many systems in place to help with organization and time management, as well as a support network of family, friends, and healthcare providers. But it’s been a very long and frustrating journey; I can’t help feeling like I’ve lost years of my life to private anguish and self sabotage. Please don’t lose hope. ADHD is understood to be an organic, bioneurological brain disorder. It has nothing to do with lack of willpower, tendency to procrastinate, or inability to complete otherwise mundane tasks. Every person has a set of gifts and challenges. It’s up to each individual to take responsibility of their own stuff; it’s the only way in this life to be in a position to contribute and participate in a meaningful way. Good luck!

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