Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders. It's usually diagnosed in childhood and often persists into adulthood.

The primary symptoms of ADHD include difficulty staying focused, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity, or overactivity. The primary ADHD symptoms are the same for adults as for children, but they can be more subtle and difficult to recognize. Sometimes other conditions, such as depression, drug abuse, hyperthyroidism, or hearing loss, can mimic ADHD symptoms.

Determining if you have the disorder can help you seek treatment. One set of guidelines used to diagnose adult ADHD includes the following characteristics of adults with the disorder: hyperactivity and poor concentration, impulsiveness, mood swings, a hot temper, inability to complete tasks, inability to deal with stress, or having a childhood history of ADHD.

In practical terms, adults with ADHD may do the following:

  • Regularly lose things, such as keys, important papers, and phone numbers

  • Forget to do daily activities, such as make phone calls or keep other appointments

  • Have problems remembering details of conversations

  • Find it difficult to begin and complete projects and ordinary assignments

  • Often misjudge the amount of time it will take to do a job

  • Be in constant movement, tapping a pencil or foot

  • Get bored easily

  • Spend lots of time at work walking around and talking, getting coffee, making phone calls

  • Constantly interrupt other people

  • Become angry or frustrated easily

The most common treatments for ADHD are counseling that includes behavioral therapy and psychostimulant drugs. You may have to try several medications before you find the one--or the combination--that works best for you.

Proper medication helps minimize the symptoms of ADHD, such as not being able to concentrate or control unwanted behavior. It also allows an adult to learn the skills he or she needs to succeed in life, such as staying organized, managing time, prioritizing, or just coping overall. The following strategies are often helpful:

  • Using a computer or PDA to set reminders of upcoming events, deadlines, and important meetings

  • Making a daily to-do list

  • Stretching and taking a walk during lunch and hourly breaks

  • Keeping a notebook to track important deadlines, conversations, and assignments

  • Breaking large tasks into smaller ones

  • Arriving earlier than coworkers to have work time with minimal distractions

  • Creating a daily routine and sticking with it to help prevent impulsive behavior

ADHD can't be cured, but following a treatment plan and practicing coping skills can lead to success in your work and relationships.

Medical Reviewer: Mukamal, Kenneth, MD Last Annual Review Date: 2009-11-17T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.