VOS: 12 Ways ADD/ADHD in Adults Look Like

12 Ways ADD/ADHD in Adults Look Like

Psychology explained

May 2021

12 Ways ADD/ADHD in Adults Look Like

You have probably heard about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). When thinking about ADHD, you may start to imagine a school-aged boy, constantly running around the classroom, bouncing off the wall, jumping from tables to tables. What about the ones with ADD? Well, many go unnoticed, simply because they are always quiet and do not cause any trouble.

Though ADD/ADHD is talked about quite often among children, but most people do not think about how these children will continue to grow up in the future. What kind of adults do they turn out to be? Do they simply just grow out of it and “get it together”? The answer is NO. In this article, I will talk about how these children potentially grow up to be and how their unaddressed ADD/ADHD continues to affect their lives.

1. Disorganization of environment

The mind of the ADD/ADHD is often described as chaotic and all over the place. They often have trouble with organizing their thoughts and ideas in a coherent manner, and this is often projected to their physical environment as well.

Sticky notes here and there, food wrappers kept in the drawers, unfolded clothes all over the place, these are a common sight of the surrounding environment of a person with ADD/ADHD.

2. Disorganization of tasks

Beyond the physical environment, having ADD/ADHD also meant that it can be really difficult to know which task to prioritize since everything feels equally as important. These often lead to unfinished projects, missed deadlines, unpaid bills and of course the feeling of being overwhelmed since nothing is ever finished.

3. Different perception of time

Daily routines can be hectic for someone with ADD/ADHD. For someone with ADD/ADHD, they might perceive time a little differently from most people. Instead of time passing continuously with a minute after another, it feels rather like it’s 9 am, and then it’s 10:30 am.

Let’s look at this scenario together:

John wakes up in the morning extra early for work, turns on the news channel and goes to brush his teeth, and then he checks his email, couldn’t resist the temptation he replies to some emails, and then he realizes time is running out, he quickly throws on a shirt and a pair of trousers he sees, he rushes to stuff down his sandwich while paying attention to the news on the TV, thinking to himself “just a few more minutes”, before he knows it, he is late for work.

4. Hyperfocus

When they are doing something that they love and are passionate about, they are able to focus on a project or task for hours without feeling tired or needing breaks. Until there is an external cue where someone is calling them on the phone or a fire is breaking out, they might just keep focusing on the same thing.

5. Chronic procrastination

On the other hand, when given a task which they really could not care less about, they feel immense suffering and struggles to even start it, often leading to chronic procrastination until the very last minute. They are often driven by the stimulating adrenaline rush of the approaching deadline. Therefore, they often need other ways to help them complete the task.

6. Underachieving at school: University

Combining the issues of disorganization with chronic procrastination, it is no wonder why these individuals often have trouble with graduating university on time or passing all classes. The university system often brings to the surface the struggles of one with ADD/ADHD due to its lack of structure.

Since there is always a designated time for something in elementary schools and high schools: one hour for each subject, after-school activities, homework time, the structure of the system keeps these individuals on track.

This is not to say that the same individuals do not suffer at all in elementary and high schools. They certainly do, but the fact that each year is a new start definitely guarantees most students to graduate. However, in most universities, all three or four years of grades are accumulated together. If one fails their first semester, it will be reflected upon their GPA when they graduate.

7. Underachieving at work

More than anyone, they hate paperwork and anything else that involves boring organizations, and they struggle with these tasks too. People with ADD/ADHD think that many jobs which require some kind of organizational skills are too demanding of them, so they keep going lower, hoping to find job positions with fewer and fewer organizational tasks.

But they never really feel comfortable with any jobs at all, because they end up getting really bored of their job and hating it anyway. But the truth is many CEOs and high ranking managers have ADD/ADHD. Many individuals with ADD/ADHD excel and blossom in exciting and stimulating higher ranking jobs, and simply hire secretaries or assistants to deal with what they are not good at, the organizing part.

8. Social relationships

Though many individuals with ADD/ADHD are seen as extroverted and people person, they are also quite often misunderstood. Since they often have troubles prioritizing tasks and commitments, they frequently say ‘yes’ to more than they can handle: agreeing to spend time with two different groups of friends on top of having to study for an exam the next day, while accompanied by unforeseen commitments of the same day.

The results? They often have to disappoint some friends when they call off the meet up at the last minute. Over time, their friends may start to feel tired of this behaviour and then perceive it as the person not caring about the friendship.

For those who are better at prioritizing, they might just say ‘no’ to most hangouts due to the fact that they are already overwhelmed by everything else that is happening in their lives. They might say things like “if I go out now, I will never have time for anything else.”

9. Intimate relationships

Individuals with ADD/ADHD can also face a lot of setbacks in intimate relationships. Imagine having a partner who constantly forgets important dates such as anniversaries or birthdays, or never remembers to put his mug in the sink even if he is told a thousand times, or constantly interrupts or even zones out when their partner is speaking, and the list goes on and on.

While these problems might sound pretty common in many relationships, but it is particularly true and more intense for individuals with ADD/ADHD. These behavioural patterns may be often times cause the partner to feel unheard, unappreciated and unloved. Individuals with ADD/ADHD are often accused of not loving their partner, childish, selfish and even narcissistic.

10. Prone to addiction /self-medicating

Many individuals with ADD/ADHD who have not been diagnosed nor treated find whatever that helps them to stay focused, stay calm and stay stimulated, _a_nd use that method as a mean to medicate themselves. This can be anything from coffee, to cocaine, many also use energy drink and marijuana.

It is not uncommon for them to use cocaine to help them to stay focused instead of getting high. Since that works for them and taking their impulsivity into account, individuals with ADD/ADHD often finds it enormously difficult, more so than the others to quit an addictive behaviour.

11. Depression

The longer someone with ADD/ADHD is undiagnosed and untreated, the more likely they are to become depressed. This is due to the secondary effect that is caused by the disorder, low self-esteem. Imagine being told since young that you are “smart but lazy”, “you just have to try harder”, “why can’t you just get it together?”.

Without the knowledge of the existence of such disorder, these individuals eventually start to think that they are indeed “lazy”, “crazy” or even “stupid” who would “never amount to anything”, even if they keep trying and trying. It is not surprising to see how this can lead to depression.

12. Highly creative

Many individuals with ADD/ADHD are incredibly creative, especially at doing what they love. They are very talented and sometimes way beyond gifted than the others. When given the right tools, they excel in doing the things they truly care about. Many of the greatest scientists and famous people that we know today did have ADD/ADHD such as Albert Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Mozart and many more.


Of course, the manifestation of ADD/ADHD can vary from one individual to another. But the mentioned ones are claimed to be the most common.

After reading this article, do you feel like maybe you or someone you know might have ADD/ADHD too? Before you jump to any conclusion, it is important to remember that many of these struggles are faced by individuals without ADD/ADHD too. It is the intensity and duration that make the difference.

No one can confirm whether you have it or not until you get a proper diagnostic test done by a trained psychologist. If you still feel like this sounds like you, the first thing you can do is talk to a mental health professional about it.

Original source: 12 Ways ADD/ADHD in Adults Look Like: Beyond learning difficulties in the classroom

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