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What is ADHD in Adults and How Does it Impact the Workplace?

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You’ve probably heard of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD for short. It’s a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impulsivity, lack of focus, and hyperactivity that you may associate with school-age children. While it’s true that ADHD frequently is first diagnosed in childhood, did you know that it can affect you at any age? Here, you’ll learn a little more about ADHD in adults, how the symptoms can affect your working life, and what you can do to help manage them.

What is ADHD in Adults?

To begin, let’s establish how common ADHD is. The CDC estimated in 2016 that the total number of children who have been diagnosed with the disorder is 6.1 million. That’s 9.4% of all children, or nearly one in ten. Boys are more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than girls (12.9% versus 5.6%). About half the children diagnosed have at least one other mental, emotional, or behavioral disorder, like anxiety, depression, or autism. About 75% of children ages 2 to 17 with identified ADHD receive treatment in the form of medication, behavioral services, or both.

Adult ADHD: Mayo Clinic Radio

ADHD is most often identified in young people because the symptoms clearly manifest themselves in school and at home in the earliest years. Children with ADHD often have trouble paying attention, focusing on tasks, and using impulse control. They may daydream frequently, have difficulty taking turns, and struggle with interpersonal conflict. Like any behavioral or mood disorder, ADHD affects each individual uniquely, so one person’s symptoms won’t be identical to those of the next person. Some patients respond well to prescription medications like Ritalin and Adderall, while others require cognitive behavioral therapy. For many, it’s the combination of the two that ultimately helps them to succeed.

Although many pediatric patients find that their symptoms diminish as they reach adulthood, ADHD can and does affect people of all ages. In fact, some people aren’t officially diagnosed with ADHD until well into their adult years. The nonprofit CHADD estimates that about ten million adults experience ADHD. Thankfully, with evidence-based treatment, it’s fully possible to learn to manage your symptoms and lead a happy and productive life. Here’s a quick primer from the National Institute of Mental Health that can help you determine whether you might have adult ADHD. You can’t diagnose it on your own, of course, but you can determine for yourself whether you might need to seek advice from an expert.

ADHD in the Workplace

Many highly intelligent, talented, and capable people experience ADHD and are fully capable of great professional success. Coping with ADHD symptoms on the job, however, isn’t always easy. If you’re easily distracted, fidgety, or disorganized, your workload becomes much more difficult to manage. You may have trouble giving your full attention to assignments, meetings, and presentations. In the same vein, you may find it difficult to manage your time effectively or get along well with your colleagues. The challenges can feel daunting, and the concerns are legitimate. The Center for Workplace Mental Health indicates that adults with ADHD are at a higher risk of decreased productivity, underachievement, and unemployment.

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Many Highly Intelligent, Talented, and Capable People Experience ADHD and are Fully Capable of Great Professional Success (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Thankfully, mental health experts have excellent guidance for success in the workplace. If you have ADHD, you might ask your supervisor about accommodations like:

  • A private or semi-private area where you can complete your work free from noise and other distractions
  • A white noise machine or unobtrusive headphones to help you tune out extraneous noise
  • Regularly scheduled meetings to help you track your assignments and deadlines
  • Intermittent breaks so that you can get up from your desk and walk around for a few minutes
  • Regular help keeping your desk and materials organized

Societal awareness of ADHD in adults and other behavioral and mood disorders continues to grow. As employers become more cognizant of their employees’ needs, they prioritize workplace safety and accommodations for staff with special concerns. When professional environments become more inclusive of their very valuable neurodivergent workers, everyone benefits.

Coping with ADHD, Mood Disorders, and More

Learning to manage ADHD, depression, or anxiety can feel extremely overwhelming. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it alone—nor should you attempt to. If you believe you’re experiencing the symptoms of a behavioral or mood disorder, you should speak first to your doctor. You can start with your family doctor or internist if you don’t currently see a mental health care professional. He or she can refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist who has experience caring for someone with your concerns. Please know that there is zero shame in asking for help from an expert. It’s no different than seeking proper care for any other medical condition—and it’s the only way to get better.

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Try Mindfulness Meditation and Yoga (Image Source: Shutterstock)

While there is no substitute for expert care, you also can develop good lifestyle habits to help you in your journey to greater happiness and peace. Here are a few great strategies for coping with adult ADHD, depression, and other concerns:

  • Find a local support group for people who are experiencing the same things you are. It’s validating to know you aren’t alone, and your fellow group members may have ideas for coping to share with you.  
  • Reach out to your trusted family and closest friends for some love and encouragement. If you’re experiencing low self-esteem or feeling frustrated and hopeless, have a chat with someone who believes in you.
  • Take advantage of the benefits of ecotherapy. Spending time in nature can help to ease your anxiety and depression, and exercising outdoors can improve your mood.  
  • Work with a professional ADHD coach. He or she can help you develop and practice the skills you need to succeed in every area of your life. 

Final Thoughts on Adult ADHD

Do you feel like a behavioral or mood disorder could be affecting your life? Please don’t feel like you need to suffer on your own. Take great care of yourself by reaching out and asking for help from a caring professional. With proper treatment, you can learn to manage your symptoms and thrive in your personal and professional life. Hang in there—you’ve got this!