ADHD in adults: Symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment  

May 10, 2022
5 minute read
Mairead Quigley

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that occurs in children, teens and adults. Its core symptoms are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADHD is commonly diagnosed in childhood and around two thirds of children will continue to demonstrate symptoms of ADHD in later life.  

However, there are many people with ADHD who are not diagnosed in childhood and go on to be diagnosed later in adulthood. This is especially true for women, who often can go undiagnosed for years.

While scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes ADHD, it is believed to be caused by a combination of genes, environmental factors, and differences in how the brain is hardwired. Some other factors suggested as potentially having a role in ADHD is premature birth, having a low birth weight or smoking, drug, or alcohol abuse during pregnancy.  

What are the symptoms of ADHD in adults?

In adults, ADHD symptoms often looks quite different compared to those of children. Children with ADHD can often display excess energy, hyperactivity, and lack of emotional control.

If you have adult ADHD, you may struggle with things such as:  

Such symptoms are unique to the individual and can range in terms of severity. Adults with ADHD may also have difficulty maintaining relationships or find social interaction difficult.  

Such symptoms can often have an impact in daily life and may cause problems within work, interpersonal relationships, and self-motivation.  

What is the diagnosis for adult ADHD?

If you think that you may have ADHD, the first step would be to speak to your GP. A GP cannot formally diagnose you, however you can discuss your symptoms and concerns with them, and they will be able to refer you for a specialist assessment if necessary.  

The GP may discuss with you how long you have your symptoms for, rule out any other mental health conditions and make an assessment on whether your symptoms are now causing moderate or severe functional impairment.  

Getting diagnosed with ADHD can often be a lengthy process. To obtain an ADHD diagnosis, a mental health specialist (usually a psychiatrist) would undertake an assessment and look at whether a patient’s symptoms have a moderate effect on different areas of their lives. This might include underachieving at work or education, dangerous driving, difficulty in relationships with partners or maintaining friendships. These symptoms are then matched with the ADHD symptom checklist.  

Treatment of adult ADHD

There are several treatment options available to treat ADHD. The best combination of treatment is medication and talk therapy.  

The most common treatment is stimulant medication. These are considered a first-line treatment for adult ADHD and fall into two major categories:

Research has shown that people with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine in their brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that plays an important role in the regulation of pleasure, reward, and mood.  

Stimulant medication works by increasing the dopamine levels in the brain to boost concentration and focus while reducing hyperactive and impulsive behaviours.  

There is also the option to take non stimulant medication to help alleviate ADHD symptoms should this be required.  

It’s important to work with your mental health practitioner to find a dosage that works for you in your daily life.

In addition to medication, therapy is also a beneficial treatment. Therapy can help you with ADHD coping strategies and help you with the management of your symptoms.  

Regular exercise can also be an incredibly powerful treatment for ADHD. Physical activity boosts the brains dopamine and serotonin levels and also burns off extra energy which can lead to impulsivity.  

For more information and resources on adult ADHD, please visit:

Or get in touch with our friendly pharmacy team.

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