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Adult ADHD: Symptoms, Medication & Treatment

Instructor: Linda Brown

Linda teaches French at SIT Graduate Institute and Brattleboro Area Middle School. She has a BA in French and a master's in Experiential Education.

Adult attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects roughly 8 million Americans, and yet often goes undiagnosed and untreated. This lesson covers the symptoms of adult ADHD and what medications and treatments are currently available.

Adult ADHD

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the reality show My Brain, My Life. Today we have two contestants: Bob and Tom.

bob neurotypical brain

tom adhd brain

Let's put our contestants to the test and see how they handle today's Real Life Challenge!

The setting: The reception desk at a therapist's office

The challenge: Pay for an appointment and schedule another one

Receptionist says: 'That will be $82 dollars, sir. Would you like to schedule another appointment? We have an opening next Tuesday, the 9th, at 3 p.m.'

Differences in the Brain

Bob and his Neurotypical Brain: Briefly distracted by his plans for lunch, Bob is caught daydreaming. He chuckles and says. 'I'm sorry, could you repeat that? My mind was elsewhere.' Bob's focus is back; he pays his bill, schedules an appointment, and leaves.

Congratulations, Bob! You resolved the challenge in less than two minutes!

Tom's inner dialogue with his ADHD Brain: ''Focus. Use the resources your therapist taught you! Breathe deeply; count to ten! 1,2,3,4, 5, wait, what did the receptionist say? 7, 8, 9, 82, 9, 3...' The string of numbers has thrown Tom off. He stares blankly, a knot in his chest, no longer breathing.

'Just nod as if you've understood!' he tells himself. He pats his coat and pants pockets, searching for his wallet, 'It's in here somewhere. Keep searching. Am I free next Tuesday? I'm supposed to take Kate to the dentist on Tuesday. Wait, was it today that I was supposed to take her?' (Yes, Tom, it was. An hour ago.)

Tom finds his wallet, opens it, sees a shopping list. 'This is for dinner tonight. There's a sale on beef at the grocery store. I'll stop there on the way home. They have good deals. Wait, stop! That's not important! What did the receptionist ask? Just focus!'

'No, not the grocery store. Kate mentioned a new butcher shop she wanted me to go to. I wrote the name on the back of the parking stub and put it in my wallet. No, in my pocket. Pants pocket? Shirt? Coat? Where are my car keys?'

Tom notices that the receptionist is looking up at him expectantly, but he has no idea what the question was. Paralyzing panic and confusion set in as he continues to aimlessly search his pockets for the parking stub, the keys. 'Back pocket. Oh, there's the overdue credit card bill I was supposed to pay and mail!'

Tom's wallet slips from his hands and thuds to the ground. Small change and a flurry of old parking stubs tumble out of his coat pocket as he bends down to retrieve the wallet. 'Where are my keys?!'

Overwhelmed with self-loathing and frustration, Tom stands up and blurts out in a strangled voice, 'WHAT?!?' thinking to himself, 'Maybe I'll pick up chicken instead.'

Well Tom, time's up and we're still waiting! How in the world do you function on a daily basis?

Tom has severe adult attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, a behavioral condition that affects eight million adults in America. Help is available, yet over 80 percent of adults with ADHD go undiagnosed and untreated. Many people do not even know that they have ADHD; they just know that their daily life is a series of challenges.

What Are the Symptoms of Adult ADHD?

md adhd checklist symptoms

The behaviors that characterize adult ADHD are impulsivity, restlessness, and distractibility.

There are many ways that the incapacity to self-regulate behavior, emotions, and attention plays out in an adult's life. Some examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty remaining attentive
  • Inability to focus on a task
  • Lack of follow-through on projects and responsibilities
  • Chronic procrastination
  • Fidgeting
  • Speaking impulsively or out of turn
  • Poor time and money management
  • Mood swings

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