Can’t Focus? Is it ADHD or Something Else?
If you feel like focusing is a struggle for you, it could be because of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD.
It may shock you to learn that an inability to focus is a common ADHD symptom. Perhaps you’ve heard some ADHD symptoms that don’t sound like the issues you deal with and dismissed the idea that you could have ADHD. The truth is that ADHD can manifest in multiple ways, and symptoms even tend to change as you get older.
Of course, there’s a possibility that your lack of focus is due to something else. In this article, we seek to help you understand what could be at the root of your focus issues.
ADHD Isn’t Just a Childhood Disorder
Many people tend to think that ADHD is a childhood diagnosis for hyperactive kids. While it’s true that hyperactivity is one of the hallmarks of ADHD in children, as you age, the symptoms of your ADHD can change.
For example, though your hyperactivity will likely decrease, you may notice that you feel impulsive, reckless or have trouble focusing. These are all symptoms that adults may experience, and it can lead to trouble with work or relationships.
Although everyone deals with at least one of the below symptoms in their lives, if you’re dealing with them on a consistent basis (and have been since you were young), there’s a good chance that you have adult ADHD. Sometimes an adult with ADHD may also suffer from other conditions, like depression and anxiety.
ADHD Symptoms You Should Look For
The main indicators of adult ADHD are trouble paying attention, impulsivity and restlessness. That said, you may exhibit other symptoms as well, which we’ll also cover.
Read on to learn more about common adult ADHD symptoms.
Trouble Paying Attention
This symptom may not seem like too big a deal, unless you take the time to realize how many tasks require focus and attention. One of the problems that adults with ADHD may experience are car accidents due to a lack of focus while they’re behind the wheel.
This can be a stressful experience for the person with ADHD as well as their family – the person with ADHD has no awareness that they’ve lost focus and are now driving unsafely, and may tend to beat themselves up over the repair or medical costs involved in their accident.
There is also an increased risk of other accidents. Some examples of this are mishaps while cooking, operating machines/machinery, etc.
Impulse control is difficult for ADHD adults to master. Here are some examples of impulse control issues that you may struggle with:
- Interrupting conversations. If you have a tough time listening to someone else talk and find yourself wanting to interrupt (even if there’s nothing constructive to add), that’s an impulse control problem.
- Making poor decisions (risky, destructive behavior). If you find yourself gravitating toward things that you know will end poorly just for the sake of doing them, there’s a chance that you’ve got adult ADHD. Examples of risky behavior include using drugs, engaging in unsafe sex, fighting, etc.
- Rabbit trails. If you find yourself following a thought to another thought and eventually wondering how you even got there, then you’ve just found yourself on a rabbit trail.
- Spending money you don’t have. Those with ADHD often purchase things they don’t need for the dopamine hit in their brain, even if they know they can’t afford to. Justifying purchases as a “need” can be another good indication of ADHD.
- Explosive anger. If you wonder why you get so angry so quickly, and then the anger subsides just as quickly as it came, that’s a symptom of ADHD.
Children with ADHD are often seen as hyperactive, but for adults, ADHD comes across as restlessness. If you have trouble relaxing or feel tense or edgy much of the time, then it’s possible that you have ADHD. If you feel like you have too many ideas flying through your brain to be able to adequately pinpoint them, that’s a sign that you’re too restless.
Another indicator is if you have trouble relaxing. Are you the type of person who’s able to rest and drink in the moment, or do you manage to feel restless even when there’s nothing for you to do? An internal feeling of restlessness or discontent is often an indicator of ADHD.
Other Adult ADHD Symptoms
Here are some other common adult ADHD symptoms:
- Problems prioritizing
- Poor time management skills
- Low tolerance for frustration
- Trouble coping with stress
- Poor planning skills
A Note About ADHD and Gender
In the same way that adult ADHD symptoms are different from childhood symptoms, the way that ADHD manifests is different between males and females. Male symptoms are often what first comes to mind when you refer to ADHD, but women can suffer from the disorder as well.
This is why females are often undiagnosed, and when they are diagnosed, it’s usually much later in life than it is for their male counterparts. Women tend to have higher levels of inattention or internalized symptoms. These may include:
- Frequently misplacing things
- Becoming easily distracted
- Having trouble regulating emotions, especially when stressed
- Forgetting to pay bills, attend appointments, etc.
Other Conditions That Cause Focus Issues
If you find that you don’t relate to any of the above symptoms, it’s possible that you’re having trouble focusing for another reason.
Here are some of the other reasons why you might have trouble focusing:
- If you experience anxiety or fear, it can be hard to pay attention to what’s going on in front of you. Indecisiveness is another symptom of anxiety.
- Depression affects more than your ability to be happy. In addition, it affects your attention, decision-making processes, and memory.
- Thyroid issues. If your body is underproducing or overproducing your hormones, it can have a direct effect on your ability to concentrate.
- There are certain types of medications that are known to cause focus issues. These include medications for sleep, allergies, incontinence, depression, or muscle spasms.
If you think you may be suffering from ADHD, your first call should be to your primary care physician. Standard treatments for ADHD in adults typically involve medication, education, skills training and psychological counseling. A combination of these is often the most effective treatment.
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