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ADHD in adults

Aroreretini ki ngā pakeke

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) causes problems with your concentration, memory and impulsive behaviour. These symptoms are around from when you're a child, and sometimes they improve with time. But some people continue to have problems as adults.

Sometimes ADHD is first diagnosed when you're an adult.

Adult ADHD is common. It affects about one person in 20 (5% of the population), and more men than women are diagnosed with it.

We don't know the exact cause of ADHD, although we do know it's a neurological (brain) disorder. There's also a genetic link (it can be passed on from your parents). You're much more likely to have ADHD if it runs in your family.

Diagnosing ADHD in adults

To diagnose ADHD, a doctor or psychologist needs to do a detailed assessment and rule out other conditions that may explain the symptoms. Other possible conditions include depression, anxiety, trauma and drug or alcohol dependency. If these conditions are present, they'll need to be treated first.

Thumbnail image. Follow the link to the CADDRA formThey may ask you and someone close to you to complete an assessment form to help decide if your symptoms are likely to be caused by ADHD.

If you think you might have ADHD, talk to your general practice team about what assessment is best for you. If your symptoms are severe (for example, if you're unable to work), they may refer you to the public adult psychiatry service for assessment and treatment.

If your symptoms are less severe, your general practice team may suggest that you see a private psychologist or the University of Canterbury Psychology Centre for further assessment. You'll have to pay for this assessment. Your general practice team can use this assessment to get medication advice from the public adult psychiatry service. Or you can choose to pay to see a private psychiatrist or psychologist.

Treating ADHD in adults

The treatment for ADHD will vary between individuals depending on how much of a problem the symptoms are. Approaches include learning how to manage symptoms such as inattention, talking therapies and for some people, medication.

If adult ADHD isn't treated, it can lead to difficulties at work, relationship problems, and struggles with managing bills or home-based chores. If it's more severe, it may lead to involvement in the justice system, or more complex difficulties in other parts of your life.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Self-care for ADHD in adults

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2020.

See also:

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in children

Page reference: 117521

Review key: HIAHA-117521