Adult ADD Diagnosis

adhd-adultsArriving at a hard and fast diagnosis of ADD can be rather tricky, because there is no foolproof “test” for the disorder. Before you run off and proclaim to you or your loved one has ADD, make sure that your diagnosis is correct.

The issue is, ADD symptoms are non-specific, which means the condition is easily confused with other mental disorders like depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse. In fact, ADD has been found to exhibit “co-morbidity” with these disorders, which means that ADD can actually lead to depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse if left untreated. The best port of call is to get an opinion from a mental health professional to confirm your suspicions of adult ADD.

If you or your loved one has ADD, it probably existed since childhood. Statistics also show that up to 60% of children diagnosed with ADD in early childhood continue to demonstrate ADD symptoms in adulthood. The actual number is probably higher, because so many cases are misdiagnosed. If you or your loved one has ADD, you are not alone- about 15 million American men, women and children are suspected of having ADD and most of them do not know they have it.

According to Dr. Edward Hallowell in his book, Driven to Distraction, Children with ADD may exhibit the certain behavioral problems.

Children who show at least eight of the following, may have ADD:

  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat (in adolescents or adults) and may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness.
  • Has difficulty remaining in seat when asked to do so.
  • Is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
  • Often blurts out answers to questions before they have been completed.
  • Has difficulty following through on instructions from others.
  • Often shifts from one uncompleted activity to another.
  • Has difficulty playing quietly.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others.
  • Often does not seem to listen to what is being said to him or her.
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities at school or at home.
  • Often engages in physically dangerous activities without considering possible consequences.

Adult ADD Diagnosis

According to a 2007 study in Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice, childhood ADD symptoms evolve to the following in adulthood:

  • Procrastination
  • Indecision, difficulty recalling and organizing details required for a task
  • Poor time management, losing track of time
  • Avoiding tasks or jobs that require sustained attention
  • Difficulty initiating tasks
  • Difficulty completing and following through on tasks
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Difficulty shifting attention from one task to another

According to Hallowell, anyone exhibiting at least twelve of the following behaviors since childhood (where the symptoms are not associated with any other condition), should consider being evaluated for ADD:

  • A sense of underachievement, of not meeting one’s goals (regardless of how much one has actually accomplished).
  • Difficulty getting organized.
  • Chronic procrastination or trouble getting started.
  • Many projects going simultaneously; trouble with follow through.
  • A tendency to say what comes to mind without necessarily considering the timing or appropriateness of the remark.
  • A frequent search for high stimulation.
  • An intolerance of boredom.
  • Easy distractibility; trouble focusing attention, tendency to tune out or drift away in the middle of a page or conversation, often coupled with an inability to focus at times.
  • Often creative, intuitive, highly intelligent
  • Trouble in going through established channels and following “proper” procedure.
  • Impatient; low tolerance of frustration.
  • Impulsive, either verbally or in action, as an impulsive spending of money.
  • Changing plans, enacting new schemes or career plans and the like; hot-tempered.
  • A tendency to worry needlessly, endlessly; a tendency to scan the horizon looking for something to worry about, alternating with attention to or disregard for actual dangers.
  • A sense of insecurity.
  • Mood swings, mood lability, especially when disengaged from a person or a project.
  • Physical or cognitive restlessness.
  • A tendency toward addictive behavior.
  • Chronic problems with self-esteem.
  • Inaccurate self-observation.
  • Family history of AD/HD or manic-depressive illness or depression or substance abuse or other disorders of impulse control or mood.

Once you have an ADD diagnosis, you can now start to figure out what type of ADD you or your loved one might have. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are three types of ADD/ADHD:

  1. Predominantly Inattentive Type: It is hard for the individual to organize or finish a task, to pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or conversations. The person is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines.
  2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type. The person fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Someone who is impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times. It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others.
  3. Combined Type: Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person.

Although a diagnosis of ADD can be quite shocking to you and your family, you can also sigh with relief for you now finally have a medical explanation for you or your loved one’s bizarre behavior! What’s more, you can now start to take steps to help manage the disorder. Remember that ADD is not a diagnosis that implies low intelligence. In fact, most people with ADD are actually highly intelligent; it’s just that their intelligence gets tangled up inside and needs to be smoothed out for the person to function optimally.

Additional References:

Valdizán, JR; Izaguerri-Gracia, AC (2009). “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults”. Revista de neurologia 48 Suppl 2: S95–9.

Katragadda, S; Schubiner, H (2007). “ADHD in Children, Adolescents, and Adults”. Primary Care: Clinics in Office Practice 34: 317–341..