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Showing up overly-early to meetings. Showing up LATE to meetings. Frequent romantic relationships. Changing jobs often. Why are these signs of undiagnosed ADHD in adults? I’m Kyle Kittleson, this is MedCircle News.
According to Psychology Today, three-fourths of adults with ADHD never receive the correct diagnosis or treatment. So how does this play out in adulthood?
A recent study surveyed 32 patients who had undiagnosed ADHD. These subjects actually subconsciously managed the disorder over their lifetimes by acting in a certain way at work, in social settings, and in relationships. Basically, the participants developed “coping mechanisms” that they were completely unaware of - they didn’t even understand WHY they were doing what they were doing.
One participant said that she developed 4 back-up plans for any situation, because if something didn’t go as planned, she wouldn’t be able to handle it.
Other participants showed behaviors that looked like symptoms of OCD - like double- and triple-checking whether they turned off the stove. Here’s the difference, it’s important - someone with true OCD would check the stove ten or more times to combat a REAL fear that the stove was on, but someone with ADHD would check it only a few times because they subconsciously know that this is the sort of thing they forget to do sometimes.
Of course, signs of ADHD in adulthood look much different than a child’s symptoms. One subject reported he always surrounded himself with lots of people so that his hyperactivity would go unnoticed. Others are reluctant to socialize and isolate themselves because they know they can’t keep up with conversation.
So what can adults with ADHD do? Well, symptoms of the disorder stem from an actual brain difference in self-regulation and functioning. Which is why these adults can’t just “try harder” to fix their behavior. It’s not a “mind over matter” situation. They need to re-learn how to THINK differently so they can ACT differently. It’s clear they have the ability to develop coping strategies - they’ve been doing it their whole lives - they just need to maintain the ones that are healthy, and be self-aware enough to limit the ones that aren’t.
For more information on ADHD, watch the MedCircle original series Navigating the Ambiguity of ADHD with Dr. Domenick Sportelli.
This content is intended for informational purposes only. It should not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you have a medical emergency, call 911 or your doctor immediately.