Maybe you’ve heard that people with ADHD are “creative” or “risk-taking” or “extroverted.” The truth is, people with ADHD are individuals.
Yes, the estimated 10 to 20 million of these adults in the U.S. alone have distinct personalities, talents, backgrounds, and attitudes. And, like everyone else, they don’t fit neatly into a box.
Still, there’s one thing adults with ADHD do have in common: a syndrome that manifests very differently across the spectrum, depending on which traits predominate.
That’s why if you rely on shaky stereotypes about Adult ADHD, you might never see the Big Picture.
Instead, you’ll see only caricatures, not people with a complex condition that closely resembles the human condition writ large. More important, you’ll miss the fact that someone you love might have it.
Let’s Start with ADHD Symptoms
To gain a clearer snapshot of ADHD , let’s begin by considering its symptoms, adapted in the chart below for the ADHD Partner Survey. (Note: You don’t need all the symptoms to qualify for the diagnosis, just a certain number and to a degree that causes impairment in life.)
From this symptom list, ADHD Partner Survey respondents were asked to select behaviors that their ADHD partners displayed more frequently or strongly than most people their age. (That’s because you don’t expect a 22-year-old to have the same maturity as a 50-year-old.)
Selections are ranked from the most commonly reported to the least. As you can see, these are the top vote getters:
- Distractibility—Being easily diverted from the intended focus of attention
- Disorganization—Losing track of time, items, and the order in which tasks should be done
- Poor sustained attention—Difficulty initiating and/or finishing tasks
- Forgetfulness—“Blanking” on everything from small tasks to important obligations to entire conversations
- Restlessness—Feeling “on the go” mentally or physically
- Poor listening skills—Hearing only half of what is said or mishearing huge chunks of it
If you don’t recognize in this chart your ADHD partner’s biggest hot spot (could it be irritability, poor sleep habits, low self-esteem, or spending impulsively?), don’t worry; we’re just getting started. There’s plenty more to understanding how cut-and-dried symptoms come to life and take shape in real people.
Next time: Survey respondents tell us their preconceptions about ADHD—before they learned the facts.