Linda Lewis Griffith

How to tell if an adult has ADHD

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We usually associate attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with children, conjuring images of grade-schoolers squirming in their seats or toddlers climbing on the kitchen counters.

But adults can have ADHD, too. According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 percent of all children in the U.S. aged 4-17 are diagnosed with ADHD. Yet only 4 percent of the adult population is known to have the disorder.

Since the CDC calls ADHD a “neurobehavioral disorder that often persists into adulthood,” there are many people struggling with professional and personal problems who are unaware of the cause.

A number of hidden symptoms can signal the presence of ADHD. They include:

▪  Marital problems: Adults with ADHD don’t mean to be difficult. But they may have problems listening to their partners, following through on their commitments and being organized. Spouses frequently accuse them of them of not caring or being lazy. Sufferers don’t understand why their partners are dissatisfied or feel the need to resort to nagging.

▪  Substance abuse: The National Institute of Health publication, Alcohol Research & Health, states that 25 percent of all patients receiving treatment for alcohol and drug addiction have ADHD, and 20 percent to 50 percent of adults who quality for a diagnosis of ADHD meet the criteria for substance abuse. People with ADHD transition more quickly to dependence than people without the disorder. They are also more likely to self-medicate with alcohol and prescription medications.

▪  Financial trouble: “People with ADHD have a higher rate of debt, more impulsive spending and more arguments with their partners over money issues,” said Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D., author of “ADD and Your Money: A Guide to Personal Finance for Adults with Attention-Deficit Disorder.” Organizational strategies, such as online statements and automatic bill pay, help minimize chaos and ensure timely payments. Limiting online purchases decreases the temptation to overspend.

▪  Traffic accidents: Male drivers between the ages of 18-46 with ADHD are 47 percent more likely to be involved in a serious car crash than those without ADHD, according to a study reported in the March 2014 issue of JAMA Psychiatry. Females with ADHD have a 45 percent increased risk. Men who take medication for their symptoms reduce the likelihood that they’ll be involved in an accident by 58 percent.

▪  Emotional outbursts: Many adults with ADHD have trouble controlling their emotions. They’re quick to explode over minor issues. They’re also easily frustrated and irritable. Agitation can fade as quickly as it arises, leaving affected parties in a stew while offenders wonder why they’re still mad.

▪  Chronic lateness: Time management is a challenge for adults with ADHD. They forget about appointments or arrive 20 minutes late to a performance. They also inaccurately judge how long activities take, creating stress for co-workers and family members.

▪  Misplacing important items: People with ADHD have trouble keeping track of their belongings. Keys, cellphones and wallets are prime targets. But any small, commonly used article can easily go AWOL. Sufferers are chronically inattentive, so they don’t notice where they put things. They also live amid chaos and disorganization, so locating lost items is nearly impossible.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit