Is it Possible to Develop ADHD in Adulthood?

Feb 17, 2023
Is it Possible to Develop ADHD in Adulthood?
At first, you think it’s a sign of the times: You can’t focus because there are so many distractions — from News Alerts to emails to texts. But when you read a distracting News Alert article about ADHD, you recognize yourself. Could you have ADHD?

When you read through the symptoms for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you feel like you’re reading a personal profile. You struggle with nearly all of them on a daily basis. But you were never diagnosed with ADHD as a kid. In fact, you don’t remember being restless or unfocused as a child at all. Could you have developed ADHD as an adult?

Up to 80% of adults who were diagnosed with ADHD in childhood continue to struggle with symptoms in adulthood. Even those who don’t exhibit symptoms that interfere with their lives may have brain differences that are typical of ADHD, and which may continue to pose challenges.

Of course, those figures also apply to adults who had ADHD as children, but were never diagnosed. Since ADHD usually first appears before the age of 12, if you have ADHD now, you probably had an undiagnosed case when you were a kid, too.

However, some women and men do develop ADHD as adults, usually as a result of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). In addition, other diseases and conditions mimic ADHD symptoms, including sleep disorders, thyroid problems, anxiety, and depression.

Regardless of whether you have ADHD or another condition, you deserve to know why you struggle on a daily basis. Our expert mental health team at Mesquite Valley Integrated Health — guided by Jared Brink, FPMHNP-BC, and Troy Fulton, FPMHNP-BC, — pinpoint the cause. They then customize science-based treatments at our Mesa, Arizona, facility. 

Do you have ADHD? 

Adults who struggle with relationships, careers, and substance abuse might actually be dealing with ADHD. Some signs that you have ADHD as an adult are:

  • Changing jobs or careers frequently
  • Going through a number of relationships
  • Being rude
  • Acting impulsively
  • Procrastinating
  • Being disorganized
  • Having trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Feeling restless or hyperactive
  • Struggling with substance abuse

More than 80% of adults with ADHD also have mental-health issues, including substance use, anxiety, or depression. 

ADHD requires a diagnosis

No matter how many New Alert articles you read about ADHD or adult-onset ADHD, you can’t self-diagnose the condition. Many other diseases and disorders can be mistaken for ADHD, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Conduct disorders
  • Learning disorders
  • Language deficits
  • Insomnia
  • TBI
  • Low blood sugar
  • Developmental disorders
  • Seizure disorders
  • Thyroid problems
  • Hormone imbalance

Even certain medications can create symptoms that are similar to ADHD. In addition, ADHD itself can cause some of the above disorders.

How we diagnose ADHD in adults

If you’re worried about your inability to focus or complete tasks, or if you flit from job to job or relationship to relationship, a thorough and comprehensive exam and workup can give you the answers you need. The answers then allow you to make the improvements you want. 

When you come to Mesquite Valley Integrated Health with the symptoms of ADHD, we start your evaluation with a comprehensive physical exam. We then take a complete personal and medical history. This includes insights into past or present substance use, as well as any prescription medications you may currently use.

In addition, we administer tests that help us narrow down the cause of your symptoms. We may give you a psychological test, to help identify mental-health issues. 

We also select a rating scale to evaluate your ADHD symptoms. A rating scale assesses:

  • Frequency of ADHD symptoms
  • Severity of ADHD symptoms
  • Levels of functional impairment
  • Impact on quality of life
  • Impact on finances

Based on the results of all of these tests (not the rating scale alone), we then diagnose the reason or reasons for your struggles and customize a treatment plan.

Treatment for ADHD in adults

If you do have ADHD, we offer a variety of therapies and treatments to help you manage symptoms and take control of your life. Some options may include:

Cognitive behavior therapy 

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) teaches you to look at and react to your mental processes and behaviors more objectively so that you can make active, conscious choices about how to respond to your own benefit. You also learn to change negative thought patterns into positive ones. 


Stimulants such as methylphenidate and amphetamine balance the neurotransmitters in your brain and boost the neurotransmitter dopamine, which aids motivation and attention. Stimulants effectively control symptoms in up to 80% of people who have ADHD.

Nonstimulant drugs such as atomoxetine can also be effective, and have fewer side effects. Certain antidepressants also help your brain relax so that you can focus better.

If you have trouble with focus, task completion, or struggle with your quality of life, find out if adult ADHD is the reason by calling our office or requesting an appointment online for an evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment today.