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HealthInfo Aoraki-South Canterbury

ADHD in adults

Aroreretini i 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.

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 will need to be treated first.

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.

If you think you might have ADHD, talk to your GP about what assessment is best 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.

Or you can choose to pay to see a private psychiatrist or psychologist.

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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: 119705

Review key: HIAHA-117521