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ADHD in Adulthood

Although the symptoms of ADHD tend to diminish over time, about 4% of all adults in the general population can be diagnosed with ADHD [ref], which is about half the rate among children and adolescents. The Hyperactivity and Impulsivity symptoms tend to decline substantially in adolescence, but the Inattentive symptoms decline at a more moderate rate [ref] and thus tend to be more characteristic of adult ADHD. Females also make up a larger percentage of those affected by ADHD in adulthood compared with childhood and adolescent rates [ref].

There are many cases of individuals being first diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood. Part of this has to do with there being more public awareness of this condition now than a few decades ago, but there is also the fact that the Inattentive Type of ADHD tends to be under-detected in children and adolescents, and becomes more of an issue when affected adults run into difficulties in higher education settings or at work.

It should be noted that there has been controversy about how well the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, which have been developed to detect the disorder in children, apply to adults. Many of the Hyperactivity and Impulsivity symptoms seem to apply mainly to children in school settings, leading some to argue that the reason why the Hyperactivity and Impulsivity symptoms appear to decline substantially after childhood may simply be due to a measurement problem [ref]. Until more valid and reliable diagnostic criteria for adults can be developed, it remains important always to verify whether these individuals met the diagnostic criteria for ADHD when they were children - if possible with the help of multiple informants - and also to make use of some of the available scales for detecting ADHD in adults.

Adults with ADHD are known to have certain symptoms that are not included in the DSM-IVTR criteria. These include procrastination, overreacting to frustration, poor motivation, insomnia, and time-management difficulties [ref].

ADHD in adulthood is associated with fewer years of education, lower socioeconomic status, more work difficulties and job changes, and higher divorce rates [ref]. It is also associated with high rates of other concurrent psychiatric conditions [ref].


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Gender differences

Associated Conditions (Comorbidity)