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What Adult ADHD Looks Like and How to Cope

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

According to Team ADHD, 10 million Americans are diagnosed with adult ADHD.

Interestingly, they claim that there are many more people who go undiagnosed.

Now, we should be careful of self-diagnosing, and if you think you have adult ADHD speak with a mental health professional.

What does adult ADHD look like, though?

Many people think ADHD is a childhood diagnosis, but that is not accurate.

In fact, ADHD is now one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses among adults.

Keep reading to learn about the signs of adult ADHD (they might surprise you) and how you can manage it.

Adult ADHD signs and symptoms

Do you have trouble unwinding your mind?

Is it difficult for you to regulate your emotions?

We all have days when those things happen to us, but if it is becoming maladaptive (meaning it interferes with your life significantly), it might be time to reach out to someone.

Here is a list of symptoms from Team ADHD to monitor:

  • Restlessness and trouble relaxing
  • Disorganization in the workplace or academic settings
  • Difficulties with financial management (e.g., trouble paying bills and setting financial priorities; compulsive shopping)
  • Inability to follow through on tasks and meet deadlines
  • Extraversion (particularly in those with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD)
  • Significant difficulties in social relationships
  • Impulsivity and risky behavior

What these adult ADHD symptoms look like in real life

Do you come home and physically feel like you can not relax?

If you are constantly bored and restless, feeling like you must do something, it might be a sign of ADHD.

You might even engage in things like eating out of boredom or piling on more work.

Speaking of work, are you one of those people that is proud of your organized mess?

The kind of mess no one else understands, but you know exactly how it functions.

Is your room littered with clothes, yet you know exactly what pile your favorite sweater is in?

This kind of disorganization can carry into your career and academic goals too.

Maybe you have tried using a planner or calendar but can’t seem to make it work.

You might try to set goals and keep yourself on task, but you rarely meet deadlines or finish something.

This could also show that you might have adult ADHD.

Then there is the financial side of life, which might be overwhelming for many of us.

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However, if you constantly feel like your money is burning a hole in your pocket and you have trouble meeting any financial goals, it might be time to speak to a mental health professional about adult ADHD.

We shouldn’t self-diagnose because everyone will probably have moments of impulsiveness where they buy something they didn’t really need.

We will have things that come up at one point or another and cause us to miss a deadline or not complete a task.

Your therapist or psychologist can help you understand if these behaviors are causing a clinical problem.

However, being aware of what to look for could mean that you get help much sooner.

This can help you improve your life immensely, so if you think these behaviors sound like you, then don’t be afraid to speak to someone.

What you need to know about adult ADHD

If you already know or strongly suspect you have adult ADHD, there are several ways you help manage your symptoms.

It can make everything in your life overwhelming—from paying the bills on time to keeping up with work, family, and social demands.

There is no denying that adult ADHD complicates life, but hope exists!

The answer lies in learning new skills you can use to help control your symptoms.

Focus on improving your daily habits, learning to recognize and play to your strengths, and developing techniques to work more efficiently can all help.

There is a way to maintain organization and even interact better with others.

This includes relationships at work or your more personal relationships.

Medication might be a way for you and your doctor to help manage your symptoms.

However, it isn’t the only way.

There is no cure for adult ADHD, but you can take control of your symptoms and help lessen their impact on your daily life.

Let’s break it down.

Get more organized and reduce clutter.

Getting organized and reducing clutter is difficult for a person with adult ADHD, but it is not impossible.

Changing your habits and learning new behaviors will take time, but you can do it.

Finding the right tools and routine might take some trial and error.

However, using tools and resources and creating a daily routine will be essential to helping you manage your ADHD symptoms.

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For instance, you might find a simple daily list does a good job of keeping you on track.

You could make one a sticky note or use a daily planning app.

Maybe, you feel better having a planner that allows you to plan out a full week into daily brackets.

I use a weekly/monthly planner.

It took some time, but I can barely remember how I function without it.

Help yourself stay organized by creating a space for everything.

Various organizational tools like folders or decorative bins can help you function better.

They can even improve the look of your space!

Now, having a place for everything is one way to reduce clutter, but you can do a few other things, too.

Put things away or deal with them right away.

Throw away things you do not need.

Don’t stack up a pile of bills; I hope you will have the energy to deal with it all at once.

Pay it as soon as possible and then file it or discard it.

Luckily for those of us who are adults in today’s world, we also have the wonderful option of going paperless.

You can even take it one step further and automate your bills!

This is something your brain will only have to focus on one time, but you will not forget a bill again.

You can set reminders on your phone for when they are due out of your account if you need a reminder to keep track of your funds.

Whatever routine you set up or method of organization you pick, just do it!

You can tweak them as you go, but learning to structure habits like this will go a long way in making your ADHD symptoms easier to handle.

Work on improving your time management skills

Do you have trouble meeting a deadline because you procrastinate or can’t help yourself from working on other things?

These habits and tips will help you build your time management skills.

No, it won’t make your ADHD disappear, but it will give you the tools to improve your life.

Keep track of the time.

When you start working on something, note what time it is and how long you work on it.

If you need to take frequent breaks when working on a task, check out the Pomodoro technique.

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It might work out well for you if your brain wants to operate this way naturally!

Build extra time into your day.

People with adult ADHD are known for underestimating how long a task will take.

I have told people my whole life, “Oh, this should only take me an hour!”

or “We won’t need that much time to do this!”

Like when I wanted to put up a backsplash in the bathroom and told my sister it would take us an hour, maybe two tops.

It took 4 hours.

Or when I thought four of us, laying flooring in my house would take 3 hours… 10 hours later, we were done.

Anyone who knows me will tell you this has been a problem forever.

The solution?

If you have ADHD and think you can do something in a certain time frame, give yourself double the amount of time.

You will eventually learn if you need to adjust that to more or less time but start there.

Help avoid unnecessary stress caused by not having enough time.

Some other things you can do to help you manage your time more effectively include setting a reminder, using a timer, and waking up earlier.

Make how you use your time a habit.

Learn to prioritize your tasks.

Do the most difficult (or your least favorite) ones first.

Break down large tasks into smaller pieces if you can.

Change won’t happen overnight

Over time, you will see what a difference these changes in your habits and routines have in your ability to get things done with ADHD.

It is going to be challenging.

You will no doubt struggle in the beginning.

Stick with it.

If you need more help, then speak about medication with your doctor.

However, medication alone will not manage all your ADHD symptoms.

You will have to learn how to add some structure to your day.

Building routines, creating better habits, and learning to manage your time are great ways to start.

If you struggle with some of these signs of ADHD but don’t have ADHD, you will also benefit from these tips.

It is a win-win to try and learn these new skills.

Feel free to share some ways you cope with your adult ADHD in the comment section below.

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