Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is typically associated with childhood, characterised by symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention.
However, ADHD can and does persist into adulthood. The manifestation of adult ADHD often differs from its childhood counterpart, making it harder to recognise and frequently leading to misdiagnosis.
This blog aims to shed light on the lesser-known symptoms of adult ADHD, promoting a more comprehensive understanding of this complex disorder. Greater awareness and recognition of these overlooked signs are crucial steps towards accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and ultimately, improved quality of life for adults living with ADHD.
Let’s begin by revisiting what we understand by ADHD. As per the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), ADHD is categorised into three types: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and combined type. While hyperactivity tends to decrease with age, issues with attention and impulsivity often persist into adulthood.
While the core symptoms of adult ADHD align with these categories, there are numerous subtler signs that often fly under the radar. These less-recognised symptoms stem from the fundamental features of ADHD but manifest in unique and sometimes surprising ways.
Difficulty with Self-regulation: Adults with ADHD often struggle with self-regulation across various domains - emotions, behaviour, and cognition. This difficulty may manifest as intense emotional reactions, impulsive behaviours, or racing thoughts.
Time Management Issues: People with ADHD often experience 'time blindness,' a unique difficulty in perceiving the passage of time accurately. This can result in chronic lateness, procrastination, and struggling with deadlines.
Sleep Problems: Adults with ADHD frequently experience sleep issues, including difficulty falling asleep, restlessness during sleep, and waking up. This is often linked to a dysregulated circadian rhythm, a common occurrence in ADHD.
Sensitivity to Criticism: Repeated experiences of failure and criticism can lead to heightened sensitivity to negative feedback in adults with ADHD. They may experience excessive worry about making mistakes or criticism, impacting their self-esteem and interpersonal relationships.
Executive Function Deficits: Executive functions are high-level cognitive processes that enable us to plan, organise, and execute tasks. Adults with ADHD often struggle with these tasks, which may not be immediately recognisable as a symptom of ADHD.
Rejection-Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD): RSD is a term coined by ADHD experts to describe the intense emotional pain and sensitivity individuals with ADHD may feel in response to perceived or real rejection, criticism, or failure.
Unravelling these lesser-known symptoms of adult ADHD is a complex task that requires a deep understanding of each individual's experiences. It is crucial to remember that ADHD, like any other mental health condition, manifests differently in different people.
If you suspect you or someone you know may be experiencing adult ADHD, reaching out to a mental health professional is an important first step. They can provide a thorough evaluation and guide you towards appropriate treatments and strategies. Treatments for adult ADHD often involve a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications.
Living with undiagnosed or untreated ADHD can lead to significant challenges, including mental health issues, interpersonal difficulties, and occupational struggles. By shedding light on these lesser-known symptoms, we can improve recognition of adult ADHD, opening the door for early intervention, support, and a better understanding of this often misunderstood condition.
By bringing to the fore these lesser-known symptoms, we strive to demystify ADHD and enhance empathy towards those living with it. Let's remember - understanding is the first step towards acceptance, empathy, and effective management. It's time we broadened our perspective on adult ADHD.
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