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ADHD in Adults: What Is It and What Happens When It Goes Untreated?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders among children.  As of 2016, the CDC estimates that there are 6.1 million children between the ages of two and 17 with ADHD in the United States.

While it is more common in children, ADHD is also present in millions of American adults, and research suggests that it may often go undiagnosed. A 2016 study, for example, found ADHD symptoms exhibited by 20.3% of test subjects, yet only 7.3% of these individuals had ever received a formal diagnosis.

What Are the Symptoms of Adult ADHD?

The symptoms of adult ADHD are the same as those in children, but adults may exhibit fewer of these symptoms overall. ADHD may be classified into one of three subcategories: hyperactive-impulsive type, inattentive type, or combined type.

Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD symptoms include

Inattentive ADHD symptoms include:

Combined ADHD presentation will have both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.

What Happens When ADHD Goes Untreated in Adults?

All adults have times where they find it difficult to pay attention or are prone to losing things, but adults with ADHD find these symptoms pervasive. If left untreated, these individuals are susceptible to risk factors that can severely affect their quality of life.

Job Instability

Adults with untreated ADHD have been found to have poorer job performance, with more absences reported and a greater tendency to change employment. They have also been found to have lower incomes overall when compared to adults without ADHD.

Strained Relationships

Adults with untreated ADHD have been shown to have an increased likelihood of negative parent-child interactions and general family conflict. Difficulty listening, controlling emotions, and curbing impulses may all lead to strain in the household.

Substance Use Disorders

Studies have found that the impulsivity and chronic stress linked to ADHD leaves untreated individuals at risk for substance use disorders. A 2011 literary review found higher rates of ADHD among individuals with a history of substance abuse, as well as an increased risk for earlier-onset and more severe substance abuse disorder among individuals diagnosed with ADHD.

Anxiety and Depression

The functional impairment associated with ADHD and its impact on daily life can lead to feelings of isolation, lower self-esteem, and mood disorders.

How is Adult ADHD Treated?

The treatment for adult ADHD will vary depending on the presentation (hyperactive/impulse, inattentive, combination) as well as any conditions occurring alongside the ADHD. Generally, treatment will involve a combination of medication and psychological counseling.

What Should I Do If I Think I Have Undiagnosed ADHD?

As described above, adults with undiagnosed ADHD can suffer greatly in their daily lives. If you suspect you have ADHD, it is important that you schedule a consultation with a mental healthcare provider to discuss treatment options.

The Crane Center is open and accepting new patients. Contact our office to schedule an appointment in person or online.