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Life can be a balancing act for any adult, but if you find yourself constantly late and disorganized, overly distracted and forgetful, and overwhelmed by your responsibilities, you may have adult ADD. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) impacts many adults, and its wide variety of frustrating symptoms may hinder everything from your relationships to your career.

Attention Deficit Disorder in adults is largely under-diagnosed because many people assume that the condition only affects children. Gradually this misconception is beginning to change as more adults are seeking treatment. ADD is a nervous system condition characterized by difficulties in concentration, focus, time-management, and the ability to make thoughtful decisions.

Signs of Adult ADD Include: Trouble concentrating and focusing, disorganization and forgetfulness, impulsivity, emotional difficulties, and hyperactivity or restlessness,

Trouble Concentrating and Focus:

  • “zoning out” without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation.
  • extreme distractibility; wandering attention makes it hard to stay on track.
  • difficulty paying attention or focusing; such as when reading or listening to others.
  • struggling to complete tasks, even ones that seem simple.
  • tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work.
  • poor listening skills; hard time remembering conversations and following directions.

Disorganization or Forgetfulness

  • poor organizational skills (home, office, desk, or car is extremely messy and cluttered)
  • tendency to procrastinate
  • trouble starting and finishing projects
  • chronic lateness
  • frequently forgetting appointments, commitments, and deadlines
  • constantly losing or misplacing things (keys, wallet, phone, documents, bills)
  • underestimating the time it will take you to complete tasks


  • frequently interrupt others or talk over them
  • have poor self-control
  • blurt out thoughts that are rude or inappropriate without thinking
  • have addictive tendencies
  • act recklessly or spontaneously without regard for consequences
  • have trouble behaving in socially appropriate ways (such as sitting still during a long meeting)

Emotional Difficulties

  • sense of underachievement
  • doesn’t deal well with frustration
  • easily flustered and stressed out
  • irritability or mood swings
  • trouble staying motivated
  • hypersensitivity to criticism
  • short, often explosive, temper
  • low self-esteem and sense of insecurity

Diagnosing Adult ADD:

Make an appointment to see your health care provider. There are questionnaires to help diagnose Adult ADD and talk with your parents about your childhood behavior. Many times people with Adult ADD had ADHD as a child – this may have been undiagnosed. It is important that you see your health care provider, as they will also perform a physical examination to rule out any medical issues that could be the underlying problem. If warranted they may order a CT or MRI, also they may perform lab work when appropriate.

Treating Adult ADD:

Medications for the treatment of Adult ADD are similar to those that are prescribed to children for ADHD. Stimulant medications like Concerta, Ritalin or Adderall may be the appropriate course of therapy. A non-stimulant medication like Strattera may also be used.

There are some things you can do, before you begin medicine or in conjunction with medicine:

  • Exercise and eat right. Exercise vigorously and regularly—it helps work off excess energy and aggression in a positive way and soothes and calms the body. Eat a wide variety of healthy foods and limit sugary foods in order to even out mood swings.
  • Get plenty of sleep. When you’re tired, it’s even more difficult to focus, manage stress, stay productive, and keep on top of your responsibilities. Support yourself by getting between 7-8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Practice better time management. Set deadlines for everything, even for seemingly small tasks. Use timers and alarms to stay on track. Take breaks at regular intervals. Avoid piles of paperwork or procrastination by dealing with each item as it comes in. Prioritize time-sensitive tasks and write down every assignment, message, or important thought.
  • Work on your relationships. Schedule activities with friends and keep your engagements. Be vigilant in conversation: listen when others are speaking and try not to speak too quickly yourself. Cultivate relationships with people who are sympathetic and understanding of your struggles with ADD/ADHD.
  • Create a supportive work environment. Make frequent use of lists, color-coding, reminders, notes-to-self, rituals, and files. If possible, choose work that motivates and interests you. Notice how and when you work best and apply these conditions to your working environment as best you can. It can help to team up with less creative, more organized people—a partnership that can be mutually beneficial.

Adult Add is nothing to be embarrassed about. Although most people don’t outgrow ADD, they do learn to adapt. If the difficulties associated with ADD are managed appropriately throughout their lives, adults with ADD can learn to develop personal strengths and become productive and successful.

See your healthcare provider if you think this could be you, after all – NO, you are not crazy!