"Do I Have Adult ADHD?"

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Can’t focus on anything? And it’s driving you nuts? ADHD in adults is a diagnosis that can be life changing. You can stop beating yourself up and finally get the help you need to get your life on track.

Adult ADHD, or serious stress?

Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) doesn’t suddenly develop in adulthood. It is something that would have been present when you were a child, but sadly went undiagnosed.

If your issues with attention and focus are recent, then it’s more likely due to stress or anxiety. Of course do see your GP for a proper checkup to rule out any physical illness, such as a possible brain injury or tumour.

Why would I only get an ADHD diagnosis now?

For a long time it was thought that children had to be hyperactive to have ADHD. Only recently has it come to light that some children are instead dreamy. The kid staring out the window went undiagnosed as all the attention went to the one who wouldn’t be quiet or sit still. Girls in particular have been overlooked.

Some children with ADHD also have high IQs they can hide behind. Their high grades have them seen as 'special' instead of struggling. Or they have a supportive family micromanaging for them on the side. It’s only when these kids grow up and are faced with the challenges of adult life that the full extent of their issues comes into play.

The main symptoms of adult ADHD

The ‘classic’ symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

But you don’t have to have all three symptoms to have ADHD. And when it comes to adult ADHD there is usually less hyperactivity and more inattention (lack of focus) and impulsivity.

These major symptoms cause a host of other symptoms in adults, such as:

And Adult ADHD often comes hand-in-hand with other other mental health issues like anxiety, sleep problems, and depression.

Hyperfocus - the lesser known symptom of adult ADHD

It’s a myth that people with ADHD never focus. It’s just that their focus is unregulated.

They can't focus when they need to. And when they do focus, it tends to be on the wrong thing and in an obsessive way that causes troubles. For example, hyper focusing and cleaning every single room in your house when your taxes are due. Sure, your house needed a spring clean, but then you miss the tax deadline.

So do I or don’t I have adult ADHD?

You can’t self diagnose adult ADHD. It involves a very thorough life and personality inventory and might even involve feedback from family members and partners. You need to see a psychiatrist who specialise in it for a proper diagnosis.

You can try to get a referral from your GP to a psychiatrist. That said, many GPs in the UK still don’t ‘believe’ in ADHD and won't give a referral. If you are lucky enough to be referred, the waitlists for NHS-funded ADHD centres and psychiatrists tend to be long.

As for going privately, adult ADHD has become a marketplace. 'Adult ADHD centres' seem to be popping up everywhere, and the prices are very high. Do due diligence and make sure you are investing in a psychiatrist with real experience and interest with adult ADHD, over a psychiatrist moonlighting on the side as it pays well.

How to get help with Adult ADHD faster

You don’t actually have to have a diagnosis to get help with what you feel might be ADHD. Yes, a diagnosis gives you access to NHS treatment and is the only way to access medication.

But if you don't want to wait for a NHS therapist and want to choose who you work with, and if medication is not your preferred route of treatment anyway? The other option is to invest in therapy with someone who knows about adult ADHD. They can indeed tell you if they actually think you have it or not, perhaps saving you the cost of the psychiatrist.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is often recommended as a starting point. It helps you gain control over racing thoughts and impulsivity, and can help you gain back self-esteem. There are also psychotherapists wh specialise in ADHD who can help create a bespoke program that works for your particular issues.

Use our easy booking tool now to find a therapist who really understands your issues with focus and organisation and get talking.

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