15 Signs You May Have Adult ADHD

Know the signs of ADHD, from restlessness to relationship trouble.

ByABC News
August 1, 2013, 4:34 PM
Here are 15 signs you might have adult ADHD.
Here are 15 signs you might have adult ADHD.
Getty Images

Aug. 2, 2013— -- intro: About 4 percent of adults have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and many others have never been diagnosed. (About half of kids with ADHD still have it in adulthood.)

A diagnosis can be important. Adults with ADHD tend to have lower incomes as well as higher rates of accidents, unplanned pregnancies, and substance abuse than those without it, says Martin W. Wetzel, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha.

Here are 15 signs of adult ADHD.

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quicklist: 1category: Signs You May Have Adult ADHDtitle: You're Restlessurl: text: Children with ADHD can be overly energetic, but adults may just feel edgy or restless.

"Adults don't show the more obvious signs such as running and jumping," says Colette de Marneffe, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Silver Spring, Md. "Hyperactivity presents more subtly in the form of restlessness."

However, you may recall a rambunctious childhood. Dr. Wetzel had a patient who recalled spending a lot of time in the school hallways because "he couldn't sit still." It's a "classic story," he says.

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quicklist: 2category: Signs You May Have Adult ADHDtitle: You Have a Child With ADHDurl: text: ADHD appears to have a genetic component. When one member of the family has it, there's a 25% to 35 percent chance that someone else in the family does, too, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association.

When a child is diagnosed with ADHD, some adults, who may have had the same symptoms when they were children, realize that they may have always had the condition without realizing it.

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quicklist: 3category: Signs You May Have Adult ADHDtitle: You Have Relationship Troubleurl: text: A newly minted relationship is often exhilarating, but the novelty can wear off in time.

"Oftentimes adults with ADHD really have a hard time with that transition," notes de Marneffe. "When the relationship becomes more stable and predictable, conflicts tend to emerge."

Being easily distracted or inattentive—symptoms of ADHD—can also sabotage existing relationships with family, friends, and significant others who view their loved one's behavior as self-centered, Dr. Wetzel adds.

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quicklist: 4category: Signs You May Have Adult ADHDtitle: You Smokeurl: text: About 40 percent of adults with ADHD smoke, versus only 26 percent of the general population.

"Nicotine is very effective for a lot of ADHD symptoms and it's not uncommon for me to see someone for the first time after they quit smoking," says Dr. Wetzel. That's because they often start to have more problems with focus and concentration, he explains.

Adults with ADHD are also more likely to use alcohol and other drugs, and at earlier ages, than people without ADHD.

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quicklist: 5category: Signs You May Have Adult ADHDtitle: You Had Academic Problems as a Childurl: text: If you suspect you have ADHD as an adult, an early history of ADHD symptoms—difficulty sitting still, paying attention to the teacher, and focusing on your work, for example—can confirm the diagnosis.

"What adult patients will tell you over and over and over again is that they had to work twice as hard as their peers to get half as much done in school," Dr. Wetzel says.

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