adult adhd diagnosis is increasingly common

Adult ADHD Overdiagnosis:

In recent years, there’s been a growing concern that ADHD is being diagnosed too often in adults. More people are aware of ADHD now, and the criteria for diagnosis have changed, making it easier to label someone with the condition. Some argue that this wider definition can sometimes include normal behaviors, especially in stressful situations, rather than actual ADHD. Additionally, self-diagnosis from online sources and the desire for ADHD medications complicate the issue. This trend highlights the need for careful and accurate diagnosis to avoid self-fulfilling prophecies and ensure people receive the type of treatment or coping skills they need. Continue reading to learn more about adult ADHD symptoms and management.

The Different Types of Adult ADHD Symptoms:

Primarily Inattentive:

  • Difficulty paying attention to details
  • Struggles to sustain attention
  • Appears not to listen
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Poor organization skills
  • Avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Frequently loses things
  • Easily distracted
  • Forgetful in daily activities

Primarily Hyperactive and Impulsive:

  • Fidgets or squirms
  • Difficulty staying seated
  • Runs or climbs inappropriately (children); extreme restlessness (adults)
  • Difficulty engaging in quiet activities
  • Acts as if driven by a motor
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers
  • Difficulty waiting turns
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others

An individual can meet criteria for both.

How Adult ADHD Impacts Mental Health:

Psychological Challenges:

People with ADHD are more likely to experience sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, and substance use issues (Mind; Katzman et al., 2017).


Nearly 80% of adults with ADHD will have at least one psychiatric disorder in their lifetime (Klassen et al., 2010). Medications for comorbid symptoms are complex, as there may be drug-to-drug interactions and side effects exacerbating one or the other diagnosis.

Untreated ADHD:

Can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, relationship problems, and depression due to the consequences of unmanaged symptoms.

diagnosing adult adhd is complex

Adult ADHD Diagnosis: What You Need to Know

Diagnosis is based on the severity, duration, and impact of symptoms in various life areas, such as paying bills or relationship issues. Many symptoms are present before age 12 (CHADD).

Adults with ADHD can feel very restless and start new tasks because they’re more interested in immediate relief rather than taking the time to work toward a greater reward (US Dept HHS). Presentation may be less hyperactive, and more so continued issues with impulsive behavior, restlessness, and attention issues. Diagnosing adults is complex due to potential comorbid issues that can explain observed symptoms (Katzman et al., 2017).

When to Get Tested for ADHD as an Adult:

Losing jobs, subpar job performance, history of low academic achievement, difficulty managing daily responsibilities, relational conflicts, forgetfulness, irritability over minor issues, stress and worry about failing to meet demands, intense/long term frustration, guilt, and blame are signs that an evaluation might be warranted (CHADD).

Does Nicotine Help with ADHD?

Smoking is twice as common among individuals with ADHD, and cessation rates are lower (Columbia University Irving Medical Center). Nicotine can improve focus and concentration, and has a calming effect. It also stimulates the reward system in the brain, generating an influx of dopamine and conditioning continued use (Lockett, 2023).

While Nicotine could provide temporary relief for individuals with ADHD, it’s important to understand the risks associated with habitual use:

  • Nicotine is highly addictive, and using it to manage ADHD symptoms can lead to dependency.
  • Long-term use of nicotine, whether through smoking, vaping, or other means, carries significant health risks, including respiratory problems, cardiovascular issues, and an increased risk of cancer.
  • Unlike prescribed ADHD medications, nicotine use is not medically supervised. This means dosage, frequency, and potential interactions with other medications are not monitored, which can lead to adverse effects. It is therefore not a sustainable or effective long-term treatment strategy.

Strategies to Navigate Adult ADHD Symptoms:

1. Create a Structured Routine

2. Break Tasks into Smaller Steps

3. Set Clear and Realistic Goals

4. Utilize Reminders and Alerts, and Organizational Tools

5. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

6. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

7. Establish Good Sleep Hygiene

8. Build a Support System

9. Get Regular Physical Activity

10. Seek Professional Help

By understanding ADHD’s symptoms, latest research, mental health impacts, and effective management strategies, individuals can achieve better outcomes and overall well-being. It’s essential for individuals with ADHD to consult with healthcare professionals for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. At PCI, we work with your ADHD to best support your needs and goals. Call us now to see how we can help.


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2. Child Mind Institute. (2024, April 10). How is the ADHD brain different?. Child Mind Institute.

3. Cleveland Clinic. (2022, October 6). ADHD medications: How they work & side effects. Cleveland Clinic.

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