“Do I have ADHD?” is a common question that people wonder about, particularly when they have a hard time focusing or concentrating. ADHD is a medical condition requiring a proper diagnosis. Then the appropriate treatment, but not every situation where you feel like you can’t focus means that you have it.
The following are some of the critical things to know to answer the question of, “do I have ADHD”? This includes an overview of what it is, signs, and symptoms.
What Is ADD?
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes impairment in a person’s ability to focus. Doctors can use the symptoms of ADD to diagnose the disorder into one of three subcategories. There is the inattentive type, the hyperactive/impulsive type, or the combined type. ADD is typically identified in school-aged children. Symptoms can lead to problems with schoolwork and disruptive behavior.
Are ADD and ADHD the Same?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the subtypes of ADD, and one of the mental disorders that most frequently affects children. An estimated 8.4% of children have ADHD and 2.5% of adults.
ADHD symptoms are identical to a person with ADD, but they will also experience an added level of energy and hyperactivity.
In school-aged children, after an ADHD test by a mental health professional, parents and guardians are the only ones who can decide whether their child will receive treatment or medication for an ADHD diagnosis. Many children with ADHD do well even without medicine if they have specialized instruction and learn study skills.
Do I Have ADHD Based on the Diagnostic Criteria?
ADHD can be formally diagnosed based on guidelines in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
Children up to 16-years-old would need six or more of the below symptoms to be diagnosed with the inattention type of ADHD.
For young people and adults 17 and older, there would need to be five or more symptoms. In either case, the symptoms should be present for at least 6 months to make a diagnosis:
- Failing to pay attention to details or careless mistakes at school or work
- Has problems maintaining attention on tasks
- Doesn’t seem to listen when directly spoken to
- Doesn’t follow instructions on schoolwork or workplace duties
- Has trouble with organizing activities and tasks
- Avoids or doesn’t like doing things that require long periods of mental effort
- Loses things needed for activities or work, such as wallets, keys, phones, or laptops
- Easily Distracted
6 or more symptoms in children or 5 or more in adults should be present for at least 6 months:
- Frequent fidgeting, tapping or squirming
- Not taking part in activities quietly
- Always on the go
- Excessive talking
- Blurting out answers before the completion of a question
- Trouble waiting their turn
- Interrupting other people
Other conditions that should be present include:
- Symptoms started before the age of 12
- Signs occur in at least two settings, such as at home and work or work and with friends.
- The symptoms interfere with daily functioning.
- There isn’t another mental disorder that could explain the symptoms.
Is ADHD a Learning Disability?
ADHD is not technically a learning disability. It is considered a neurobiological disorder due to its relationship with your central nervous system. However, it often co-exists or occurs along with learning disabilities.
Common Adult ADHD Symptoms
If you or someone of older age who you know is suffering from any of these most common adult ADHD symptoms, it is time to seek help. A therapist can help talk you through any issues you might be having with your mental health. They can even help you make a plan to get organized, stay on topic, and get work done if that is something you’re struggling with a lot.
Unable to Focus
One of the most common symptoms of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is that you will find yourself unable to focus. Having a lack is of focus for people with ADHD is much more extreme than finding it hard to pay attention to the task at hand.
Instead, you might find yourself easily distracted by other tasks, things on your mind, or anything besides what you need to focus on at the time.
You could also have difficulties talking with a person and listening to them. A conversation is a two-way street where you need to listen and respond. Yet, if you find yourself unable to listen to the person you’re speaking to, it will get very hard to communicate with the people in your life.
Becoming distracted from completing tasks means that you might not even finish them at all. Adults with ADHD find it difficult to complete tasks on time.
While you find yourself unable to focus most of the time, Adult ADHD can also lead to hyperfocus, which is the complete opposite.
Hyperfocus is when you become so obsessed with completing something that it is all you can think about. Therefore you can get it done usually in a quick amount of time.
You might think that hyperfocus can help adults with ADHD excel, yet it is another way to hurt their mental health. Sometimes they can get so engrossed with something that they lose track of time. Many times this has lead to misunderstandings in relationships, which can cause even more trouble.
Impulsivity is another one of the major signs of ADHD from children to adults. Although it shows itself a bit different in adults than it does in children. For example:
- Interrupting a conversation
- Partaking in risky or self-destructive behavior
- Being socially inappropriate
- Rush to complete your tasks
One of the best ways to define the impulsivity of someone is by looking at their shopping habits. Many times impulse buying items that a person cannot afford is a symptom of adult ADHD.
If you have a hard time deciding between what you want in the store versus what you need and typically end up buying it anyway, this could be a sign of ADHD.
Many adults with ADHD deal with low self-esteem, and that’s because this mental illness gives them a negative self-image. A person with ADHD might find themselves becoming extra judgy of things that they do and how they act.
When you have ADHD, you can see your problems at work, at home, or in relationships. You begin to overanalyze yourself and then start to think that you’re a failure in everything you do. Many people with ADHD have a negative self-image because they don’t feel up to par with their true potential. That is why seeking help is so important if you or someone you know has symptoms of adult ADHD.
We all forget things once in a while, yet in someone with adult ADHD, it will occur much more often. There are tons of common things that ADHD symptoms can make a person forget. For example:
- Where they put a certain item
- Important dates
- Tasks that need to be completed
Forgetfulness can be hard to deal with, but it isn’t always something that can cause a significant impact on your life even if you suffer from ADHD.
Yet, for some people, forgetfulness can be serious. Especially when it starts to affect your job or relationships. People might start to think that you’re unreadable because you can’t remember to show up on time or a specific day.
Some people can even consider people who forget a lot to be unintelligent, which isn’t true. Forgetfulness can be a serious symptom and one worth reaching out to if it is negatively impacting your life.
Caffeine and ADHD
If you think you have ADHD or you’ve been diagnosed with it, you should be mindful of your caffeine consumption and moderate your intake. One cup of coffee/tea in the morning is sufficient.
Since it is a stimulant the effects of caffeine can increase the symptoms of ADD you might already experience. However, stimulants are often used in ADD treatment plans. Some studies have found moderate doses of caffeine can improve concentration and help people with ADHD stay focused.
Please note, caffeine and its side effects can be detrimental for children and teens, however.
If you’re diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, some treatments are considered safe and effective, and you don’t necessarily have to take medication.
Lifestyle changes can be helpful, such as getting daily exercise. Maintaining healthy sleep patterns can help reduce symptoms, and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can also help you feel your best. For example, a growing number of studies show that having a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps mental focus in people with ADHD.
Relaxation techniques, including yoga and mindfulness meditation, can help improve focus and attention and reduce impulsivity and anxiety.
Talk therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, can help you change problematic behaviors and many adults also work with behavioral coaches as part of their treatment.
If you have ever asked yourself, “do I have ADHD,” it might be worthwhile to talk to one of our medical professionals. The doctors at The Mental Health Center of San Diego will be able to accurately diagnose your condition, and create a tailored treatment plan based on your symptoms and lifestyle. Get the help you’re looking for today.