Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder that begins in childhood. However, with ADHD diagnoses increasing across North America, more and more people are learning they have this condition well into adulthood.

So, what is ADHD in adults?

Most people are familiar with the stereotypical image of the child with ADHD: a boy who could outlast the Energizer Bunny, never stops talking and seems unable to stop himself from acting on every single impulse that gets in his head. But what does ADHD in adult men look like (and ADHD in adult women, for that matter)? For adults, the symptoms might be more ambiguous: generally adults exhibit less hyperactivity than children; but they will likely still struggle with core issues for people with ADHD: impulsiveness, restlessness and trouble paying attention.

Treatment for adult ADHD is similar to treatment for childhood ADHD: medications, psychological counselling and behaviour modifications. However, because on average they are more mature and independent, adults with ADHD have a higher chance of successfully managing their symptoms than children might.

ShiftGrit Psychology & Counselling - ADHD In adults

ShiftGrit Psychology & Counselling - ADHD In adults

Signs of ADHD in Adults

More subtle than the attention-seeking, perpetual-motion stereotype, symptoms of ADHD in adults can manifest in a variety of ways.

You might consider getting evaluated for ADHD if you:

  • Often start new things before bringing current tasks to completion
  • Struggle with organization
  • Are careless and exhibit a lack of attention to detail
  • Have trouble focusing or prioritizing
  • Experience restlessness or feelings of being on edge
  • Often forget thing
  • Lose or misplace items
  • Often interrupt other people or blurt out thoughts in inappropriate situations
  • Experience mood swings
  • Are short tempered
  • Are a huge risk-taker
  • Have low stress tolerance
  • Could be described as impatient

Other conditions to look out for in Adults with ADHD

ADHD rarely occurs in a vacuum, and often manifests along with other mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. Because ADHD is associated with behavioural problems that impact relationships, adults with untreated ADHD may experience additional stress in their life that can lead to burnout. A large number of people with ADHD also have learning and/or language disorders, such as dyslexia.

Other common conditions include: personality disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder.

If you think you might be experiencing one or more of these conditions, it’s important to speak with a trusted medical provider so they can try to determine the various factors at play.

Since ADHD is a neurological condition, you won’t just outgrow it. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll spend your life bouncing off the walls. For adults, managing ADHD will likely involve a combination of medications, therapies, and lifestyle modifications. If you have any comorbidities, (like the conditions mentioned above), you’ll want to discuss a medication plan with a psychiatrist who can determine the correct balance of prescriptions. Regardless of what route you choose, you’ll be best served if you pair any pharmaceutical intervention with therapy and lifestyle modifications.

ShiftGrit Psychology & Counselling - ADHD In adults

ShiftGrit Psychology & Counselling - ADHD In adults

What Therapy looks like for ADHD

When you see a therapist for ADHD, you’re not going there to get cured. You’re going there to learn more about your condition and how it shapes the way you show up in the world. People with ADHD often struggle with everyday tasks that their family, colleagues and acquaintances take for granted and, since that struggle began in childhood, adults with ADHD often have a set of limiting beliefs about themselves. Beliefs such as, “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t get anything done,” have a tangible impact on a person’s ability to function at their highest potential. Talking to a therapist can help you to identify these beliefs and take steps to remove them at an unconscious level.

A therapist will also be able to talk to you about lifestyle modifications that will be particularly beneficial to adults with ADHD, as we discuss below.

Lifestyle modifications to help adults with ADHD

These tips are designed to help adults with ADHD better manage the stresses of everyday life. After all, if you don’t waste your bandwidth running around playing catch up all the time, you’ll be in a better head-space to take care of yourself. Read through these examples (note that all of these tips are generally accepted healthy recommendations but especially valuable for adults with ADHD). See which ones resonate with you:

  • Keep a regular schedule of routines, especially in terms of what time you go to bed and what time the alarm gets you going (try to get at least 7-9 hours a night)
  • Incorporate enjoyable exercise into your weekly schedule (pick something that works for you – and bonus points if you bring a friend along with you)
  • Try activities that promote relaxation and focus, such as yoga, meditation, martial arts and gardening
  • Don’t over schedule yourself. (People with ADHD need plenty of downtime.)
ShiftGrit Psychology & Counselling - ADHD In adults


Now that ADHD is becoming more common, it’s easier than ever to be open with your family, colleagues and friends about your diagnosis. When you start to learn more about yourself, either through self-exploration or therapy, you can communicate the things you need and need to avoid.