During Christmas break from my teaching job, I made the decision to confront the long-neglected task of organizing my basement. This was a chore I had been postponing for an extended period. I recognized the necessity of putting away my Christmas decorations, so why not go ahead and tackle the rest of the items that have been stored for who knows how long? There were totes full of ribbon from the time I decided to start a hair bow-making business; there were drawers full of jewelry from the time I sold jewelry with an MLM company; there were baskets of art supplies from my “artist” era. I had accumulated an abundance of items, all of which had once been a significant passion in my life. Now, they were only collecting dust.
I sat down and found myself overwhelmed with emotion, and tears began to flow. I struggled to comprehend what was happening to me, why it was so challenging to maintain passion for activities I had once cherished. I had always heard of burnout, but I didn’t know many people who could burn out on things so quickly and suddenly and never return to it, aside from myself.
Fast forward to January 2022, when, at the age of 32, I made the decision to seek an assessment. It was during this period that I finally received a diagnosis that would come to shed light on my experiences: attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
What is ADHD?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes ADHD as “one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors, or be overly active.”
Attention-deficit disorder, or ADD, is an outdated term that was once used for those who were diagnosed but did not display hyperactivity. ADD is no longer used as a diagnosis. Whether the person is hyperactive or not, the diagnosis is still ADHD. This often causes confusion for people because it’s often assumed that hyperactivity is a must for a diagnosis.
Many adults do not exhibit hyperactivity as a symptom. The reality of ADHD is that it does not discriminate. Anyone at any age can be diagnosed. However, we mostly hear about the condition impacting children, particularly in their studies and education. So, what can ADHD look like in adults?
10 signs of ADHD in adults
Difficulty with Listening and Communication: Inattentiveness may cause adults with ADHD to have trouble actively listening during conversations. They may frequently interrupt or struggle to follow the thread of a discussion.
Impulsivity: Impulsivity is a hallmark symptom of adult ADHD. Individuals may act on their impulses without considering the consequences, leading to hasty decisions, impulsive remarks, or an inability to wait their turn in conversations.
Forgetfulness: A common symptom, adults with ADHD frequently forget appointments, important dates, and even everyday tasks. This forgetfulness can contribute to a sense of disorganization and unreliability.
Procrastination: Difficulty with initiating tasks and staying on track is a significant symptom. Adults with ADHD may find themselves frequently putting off essential responsibilities, resulting in last-minute rushes and stress.
Disorganization: Adults with ADHD often struggle with organizing their thoughts, physical spaces, and schedules. This disorganization can lead to inefficiency, missed opportunities, and frustration.
Time Management Issues: Managing time effectively can be a challenge for adults with ADHD. They may underestimate the time required for tasks, leading to a constant feeling of being rushed and difficulty meeting deadlines.
Difficulty in Prioritizing: Adults with ADHD may have trouble identifying and prioritizing tasks. This can lead to a constant state of overwhelm as they attempt to juggle multiple responsibilities.
Restlessness: Physical restlessness, such as tapping one's foot or fidgeting, is a symptom that can persist into adulthood. This restlessness can be disruptive and make it challenging to sit still for extended periods.
Impaired Emotional Regulation: Difficulty in managing emotions is another symptom of adult ADHD. Individuals may experience mood swings, irritability, and emotional outbursts, impacting their relationships and well-being.
Inattention: Adults with ADHD often have difficulty sustaining focus on tasks, leading to incomplete projects, missed deadlines, and a sense of disorganization. They frequently become easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or external stimuli. Hence the term Gary Brecka uses- “attention overload”.
Gary Brecka stated one of the greatest quotes I’ve ever heard about ADHD. “Attention-deficit disorder is not an attention deficit at all. It’s an attention overload disorder.” Our minds resemble web browsers with numerous tabs open, making it a challenge to concentrate on a single task. When we manage to focus, we have a tendency to hyper fixate on that one thing. It's in these instances that burnout tends to creep in. We invest an immense amount of time, energy, and effort into that singular pursuit, to the point where we can't even keep pace with our own racing thoughts, leading to the onset of burnout.
An analogy that often resonates is likening it to a child at a carnival. The abundance of rides before them makes it difficult to focus on any one ride. However, when they finally choose one, they want to ride it over and over and over. Similarly, as adults with ADHD, we have a keen interest in numerous things, and this can make it challenging to exercise self-discipline and concentrate on a single pursuit. But, when we do, we overly concentrate. Therefore, finding a middle ground between inattentiveness and hyper-focus is important in our lives. Balance may be the key to creating the lives we want.
There exists a wide range of other potential symptoms as well. These symptoms alone do not provide a conclusive diagnosis. If you encounter challenges related to any of the mentioned symptoms, it is advisable to consult with your physician to determine if an assessment may be warranted.
The symptoms of ADHD can collectively impact various aspects of an individual's life. From difficulties in the workplace and strained relationships to procrastination and disorganization, the realities of adult ADHD can be multifaceted and overwhelming. Recognizing and addressing these symptoms is essential to improving the quality of life for those affected.
Living an adult life with ADHD can often feel like a roller coaster ride. But, finding balance emerges as the key to unlocking our full potential and crafting the lives we desire. The symptoms and challenges of ADHD can be formidable, but they need not define our journey. By acknowledging our unique strengths and learning to manage our symptoms, we pave the way for a fulfilling and successful life.