What is ADHD in Adults

What is ADHD in Adults?

What is ADHD in Adults?

Table of Contents

What is ADHD?

Before we get to what ADHD is in adults, we first should answer the question, what is ADHD? According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children.”1 Some ADHD symptoms are an inability to stay focused alongside hyperactivity and impulsivity.

What Causes ADHD?

Researchers have not found any one factor that causes ADHD. However, there is some consensus that genetics, premature birth, traumatic brain injuries, or smoking/alcohol use during pregnancy may influence the occurrence of this disorder.1


There are two main types of ADHD. There is inattentive ADHD and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. Attention deficit disorder, or ADD, is another name for inattentive ADHD. Therefore, if a person is diagnosed with ADD, it will be recorded as inattentive-type ADHD. Inattentive-type ADHD symptoms include a lack of focus, forgetfulness, and disorganization, but this individual will not show signs of impulsivity and hyper.

Statistics on ADHD

Research shows that ADHD is one of the most common mental health disorders that affect children. The disorder is also becoming more common in adults.

ADHD in Children

As of 2016, the CDC estimated that nearly 6.1 million children struggled with ADHD. They also found that boys are twice as likely to be diagnosed as girls.2

ADHD in Adults

Many times, a person might go undiagnosed as a child, which might lead to the development of adult ADHD. Normally, things such as hyperactivity decreases, but impulsivity, restlessness, and issues with focusing will continue.3 According to the National Institute for Mental Health, around 4.4% of adults have adult ADHD. Just like in childhood, men are more likely to be diagnosed (5.4%) than females (3.2%).4

Diagnosing ADHD

If you or a loved one are displaying signs of ADHD or adult ADHD, seek the opinion of a medical professional. There are multiple ways that a doctor might do an ADHD test.

What Can an ADHD Test Do for You?

A diagnosis is the first step to getting help. There are several treatment options, but you cannot start treatment unless there is a diagnosis. Therefore, an ADHD test can be the first step to helping you or your loved one manage the disorder. An ADHD test and diagnosis can also lead to accommodations that will help you at work, school, or in other settings.5

Medical Diagnosis of ADHD

To be diagnosed, a person must present the following conditions:5


  • Symptoms appeared before the person was 12 years old
  • Symptoms occur inside and outside the home
  • They interfere with daily activities
  • There is no other identifiable mental health disorder with the same symptoms

If you need an ADHD test, you should seek out one of the following professionals:5


  • Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Neurologist
  • Psychotherapist
  • Specific physicians

Types of ADHD

There are three main types of ADHD. Each one has different symptoms, and they can impact people in slightly different ways.

Inattentive ADHD

Inattentive ADHD, formerly known as ADD, causes an adult or child to struggle with forgetting things, losing focus, and listening. For someone to be diagnosed with inattentive ADHD, they have to meet six of the following criteria:6

Fails to pay close attention to details or they make careless mistakes

Troubles with attention-span

Seem to not listen whenever they are being spoken to

Does not follow through on tasks

Troubles organizing

Avoids or is reluctant to participate in tasks that require mental effort

Loses important things

Distracted easily by outside factors

Forgetful while doing daily tasks

Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is the main idea that people have of ADHD. For someone to be diagnosed with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, they have to meet six of the following criteria:6

Fidgets frequently or is very squirmy

Leaves their seat frequently even when it is socially unacceptable

Shows a high amount of energy in situations that it is not acceptable

Struggles to participate in activities in a quiet manner

Excessive talking

Always seems to be on the go

Troubles waiting for their turn

Interrupts during conversations or butts into others’ conversations

Combination Type

The combination ADHD type happens when a person has six or more symptoms in both categories.6

The Connection Between ADHD and Addiction

Sadly, there is a strong link between ADHD and substance use disorder. People who struggle with ADHD also struggle with regulating dopamine and norepinephrine.7

What Drugs Do People with ADHD Typically Abuse?

Alcohol, marijuana, and nicotine tend to be the main drugs that people with ADHD abuse. This abuse is normally due to the calming effects that all three drugs can have. Sometimes, people with ADHD might try to self-medicate by taking over the allotted amount of a prescription drug, such as Adderall, but misusing substances can lead to addiction.

What Causes Addiction?

Several different things can cause addiction. Substance use disorder occurs when someone’s mind or the body becomes dependent on a substance to function properly. When someone has ADHD, this dependency can happen quickly for a few reasons.

Reduced Impulse Control

People with ADHD struggle with impulsivity. Therefore, it can be difficult for a person with ADHD to potentially drink in moderation or resist peer pressure. Additionally, if their mind becomes fixated on taking the substance, it could be hard to shake the distraction.

Behavioral Issues

Studies show that behavioral problems tend to lead to higher rates of substance use disorder. This rate could be due to several reasons such as shame from behavior, feelings of not being good enough, or pure boredom. Any of these can be strong factors in leading an adult or child down the road of addiction.


Finally, a person with ADHD might try to self-medicate by using substances that will help them to be less fidgety and more focused. Substances can temporarily relieve side effects, but they will eventually make them worse when misused.

Treatment for ADHD and Addiction

When someone is struggling with substance use disorder as well as ADHD, it is important to seek out treatment under the care of a medical professional. This treatment will help to make sure everything is done in a safe environment. Treatment will vary depending on the substance and type of ADHD.

Detox for Dual Diagnosis SUD and ADHD

When a person starts treatment for ADHD, they must be sober. Therefore, the primary physician will help the patient start the process of detox. Detox is where they naturally allow for the drug to leave the person’s system. Detox will also lead to severe withdrawal symptoms, which could potentially be fatal if not treated. Due to this risk, some doctors might taper the substance to keep the patient safe. They will then start treating ADHD with a mixture of therapy and medication for the most part.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a very common practice when it comes to helping someone with addiction or mental health disorders. During this time, the therapist will help the patient learn new coping mechanisms and strategies so they can go about a normal life without substances. Although CBT does not lower the symptoms of ADHD, it can teach the patient how to better deal with the symptoms.

ADHD Medication

Medication is a very common way of treating ADHD. Adderall is one of the main substances used to help minimize symptoms. When taken at the prescribed dose, Adderall can help substantially reduce ADHD symptoms in both adults and children.


After a person goes through detox and gets on a prescribed plan, they must find a supportive community right away. A 12-step group such as AA can be extremely beneficial in helping the patient continue recovery after treatment.

Brain Mapping for ADHD

Brain mapping, also known as neurofeedback or quantitative electroencephalography, is a type of therapy where sensors are placed around the scalp and ears. Medical professionals will use this technique to make maps of your brain that will show the different activity in all the parts of your brain.8

What is Brain Mapping?

Brain mapping is a non-invasive type of therapy that tries to use positive reinforcement to reprogram the brain. By doing this method, doctors can pinpoint abnormal brain functioning so they can address it quickly. Brain mapping can lead to semi-immediate results when it comes to reducing symptoms long-term.

Types of Brain Scans

There are three main types of brain scans. They are magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography scans, and positive emission tomography. In brain mapping, they will use EEGs PETs, MRIs, and fMRIs to map the brain’s activity.

Adult ADHD can be very difficult to diagnose, which leads to it being mistreated. If you are showing adult ADHD symptoms, make sure to reach out to a trained professional that could run some tests. If diagnosed, there are several treatment plans. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, please reach out to a medical professional for assistance regarding treatment.