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ADHD Through the Lens of the DSM in Adults

Mental Health Counseling Intern

When we think of ADHD, or Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, we typically think of a grade school child, primarily male, who cannot sit still, has trouble completing their school work, and is always getting into trouble. ADHD, however, is much more than a troubled child and can affect individuals of all age groups.

ADHD as defined by the DSM-5, or Diagnostic Statistical Manual, is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity that interferes with functioning or development. ADHD typically begins in childhood and we now know can last well into adulthood, although it is less often recognized in adults due to variation in symptomatology.

In adults, hyperactivity may present as extreme restlessness or wearing others out with activity and impulsivity may present as making important decisions without consideration or social intrusiveness. They may have difficulty maintaining their attention on important tasks, difficulty with organization, avoid activities where there is no pleasure, frequent misplacement of personal items, frequently forgetful in daily activities.

Individuals with ADHD may have a low frustration tolerance, irritability, mood fluctuations and sensory overload. Individuals may also experience cognitive problems, issues with executive function and memory.

When it comes to the prevalence of ADHD 5% of children and 2.5% of adults are diagnosed with the condition.

In addition to the official diagnostic criteria here are some symptoms that adult individuals with ADHD experience that may not be well known:

Trouble getting organized

Reckless driving and traffic accidents

Marital trouble

Extremely distractible

Poor listening skills

Hyperfixation on tasks, objects, or foods

Trouble starting a task


Angry Outbursts

Low self-esteem, depression, anxiety

Job instability

Difficulty processing what is being said

Forgetting things exist if they aren’t directly in front of you, lack of object permeance

Extreme fatigue

Ruminating on past or future conversations


Of course having these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have ADHD and you should always consult with a qualified mental health provider if you are experiencing these or any other symptoms. But getting diagnosed with ADHD, if it is the culprit, can be life changing, so please don’t be afraid to seek out help if you need it.

Image Credit: ADDitudes

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