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ADHD in adults

ADHD in children often continues into adult life. Adults can be diagnosed with ADHD for the first time but the symptoms will usually have been present when the person was younger.

Adults usually have different symptoms than children. Hyperactivity is usually less of a problem, but inattention is most likely to persist.

Adult ADHD is common and the adult psychiatric services struggle to see all adults with this condition. Many people need to have private assessments to make the diagnosis and be able to start treatment. To diagnose ADHD, the doctor or psychologist needs to rule out other conditions that may explain the symptoms. Other possible conditions include depression, anxiety, and drug or alcohol dependency. If these conditions are present, they will need to be treated first.

There aren't many support services or sources of information available for adults with ADHD. It is likely to be an increasing area of need in the community and mental health services.

If adult ADHD isn't treated, it often leads to alcohol or drug problems, problems at work, relationship problems, antisocial behaviour, and involvement in the justice system.

If you think you might have ADHD, talk to your GP about what assessment is most appropriate for you. If your symptoms are severe, for example if you are unable to work, they may refer you to the public adult psychiatry service for assessment and treatment.

If your symptoms are less severe, your GP may suggest that you see a private psychologist or the University of Canterbury Psychology Centre for further assessment. You will have to pay for this assessment. Your GP 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.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2016.

See also:

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in children

Challenging behaviour in people with intellectual disabilities

Page reference: 117521

Review key: HIAHA-117521