ADHD in Disguise? 10 Lesser Known Symptoms of ADHD in AdultsFeb 21, 2023
Contrary to popular belief, ADHD isn’t just about attention issues.
Many people are familiar with the common symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) like restlessness, difficulty focusing, and impulsive behaviors, but there are also lesser known symptoms of ADHD in adults that can be just as disruptive.
In this article, we will discuss:
- 10 lesser known symptoms of adult ADHD, particularly women, and how they tend to show up in your life.
- The ADHD diagnosis process.
- The three types of ADHD and what is most common in adult women.
Let's dive in.
The Lesser Known Symptoms of ADHD in Adults
Below is a list of the lesser known signs of ADHD in adults. Keep reading for a more in-depth review of each symptom. I'll break down why it happens and how it shows up in your everyday life. By the end of the article, you may identify with one or more of these traits.
10 Lesser Known Symptoms of ADHD include:
- Memory problems
- Poor time management
- Struggling to complete tasks
- Relationship issues
- Emotional sensitivity
- Lack of motivation
Now it's time to expand on each trait.
1. Memory problems
As a memory health coach for women, chronic forgetfulness and memory problems are traits I work with often.
While everyone forgets things from time to time, women with an ADHD brain have a routinely hard time remembering information. For some, it’s more of an annoyance rather than a problem. Lost car keys, anyone?
For others, like the women I work with, it’s frequently disruptive and alarming. Memory problems can affect everything from your performance at work to your relationships at home.
It can also easily be confused as a sense of carelessness by others who don’t understand ADHD, amping up emotions about your memory problems.
If memory is a problem for you, you’re in the right place! Set up your free memory health coaching consultation, we’ll discuss your specific concerns and how I can help you think clearly again – even with ADHD.
ADHD is essentially rooted in differences in your executive functioning skills, or how you plan, execute, and monitor your goals and tasks. This includes being able to organize information, steps or items in a logical manner. Adults with ADHD may exhibit difficulty staying organized, both internally with information and externally within their environment.
Unmanaged disorganization can lead to chronic stress and worsening self-esteem both at home and at work.
3. Poor time management
Difficulty with time management is common in ADHD. This can show up as chronically running late or as procrastination.
It’s also not uncommon for ADHDers to demonstrate time blindness, or difficulty with time perception that can lead to poor managed or unrealistic timelines, aka always running behind or ‘losing track’ of time.
4. Struggling to Complete Tasks
Executive dysfunction or procrastination can result in struggling to complete tasks, even seemly insignificant tasks like washing the dishes or folding the laundry. In other words, you may pick up and put down hobbies or tasks easily, moving on quickly to the next idea or activity without finishing what you started.
As you can imagine, this can present challenges both at home and at work, as even important tasks may be left incomplete.
While adults with ADHD are commonly known for lack of focus and attention problems, the opposite can also be true. ADHDers can become extremely hyper-focused on a task, if they find it interesting. Hyperfocus can lead to being so immersed in a task that you lose track of time, skip meals and become unaware of anything else going on around you.
Bouts of hyperfocus can last for hours and they can interfere with necessary daily tasks like eating regular meals or getting enough sleep.
6. Relationship issues
ADHDers experience a lot of highs and lows.
They can be hyperfocused or easily bored, exhibit sudden mood swings or become overstimulated. All of these ups and downs can make it difficult to carry on conversations or remain engaged in long-term relationships.
Friends and family members may not understand the impact ADHD has on one's executive functioning skills, self-esteem, or daily life. Misunderstandings can occur often and lead to relationship issues.
7. Emotional sensitivity
While emotional dysregulation is not a part of the diagnostic criteria according to the DSM-5, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, many adults with ADHD, experience difficulty with emotional regulation without any other conditions to explain heightened sensitivity.
Emotional dysregulation can look like:
- inflexible thinking
- lower tolerance or resilience
- unrelenting focus on conflict
- chronic negative emotions or low self-esteem
When unaddressed, emotional dysregulation can lead to mental health challenges.
ADHD can feel like you have an internal motor that just won't shut off.
Anxiety with ADHD can look like chronic worrying, replaying negative scenarios in your head, self-doubt. You may spend much of your time in your head wondering, "why am I this way?" or "why does it seem so much easier for other people?" This chronic stress can lead to anxiety that interferes with your daily life.
9. Lack of motivation
Lack of motivation can be easily mistaken as laziness in adults with ADHD. You may endure periods of wanting to do everything all at once followed by a complete lack of motivation. Or a sense of dread carrying out tedious or boring tasks.
This can make adults with ADHD more prone to procrastination or leaving things to the very last minute.
Mental and physical fatigue are common with adult ADHD.
It can feel extremely effortful to stay focused or make yourself engage in tasks at work, conversations with friends, daily chores, etc. All that effort can lead to bouts of fatigue. Additionally, many adults with ADHD struggle with sleep disturbances or insomnia due to an overactive brain, racing thoughts or from general restlessness.
ADHD medications may also impact sleep function, especially if you're adjusting to a new medication.
How do you get diagnosed with ADHD as an adult?
It can be hard to grapple with undiagnosed ADHD as an adult. Seeking a diagnosis can be extremely validating and it can lead to more support to manage your ADHD symptoms.
Currently, there is no one-size-fits-all way to diagnose ADHD. In the United States, testing for adult ADHD typically involves interviews with various medical professionals including your primary care physician and/or a clinical psychologist. In these interviews they will assess:
- Your current health status
- Any associated mental health conditions, like anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, mood disorders or substance abuse
- Adult ADHD symptoms
- Your behavioral history to determine if these traits have been present since childhood or are entirely new
A complete psychology evaluation is best practice to determine not only if you have ADHD, but which type and what your strengths and weaknesses are. This information can be used to tailor treatment plans, which may consist of combination of medication, therapy, support groups, and/or coaching.
Types of ADHD
ADHD can be classified in three different ways, depending on your specific traits. I prefer the term traits to symptoms because while ADHD is a condition, it’s not all negative.
Many girls and women with ADHD are highly creative, empathetic, and inspiring people. My young daughter is one of them. And as a memory health coach, I find it’s important to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, without vilifying them.
ADHD is classified as:
- Hyperactive type
- Inattentive type
- Combined type
The most identifiable type of ADHD is hyperactive. This is because people with hyperactive ADHD are outwardly, you guessed it, hyperactive.
This can show up in women with ADHD who exhibit restlessness behaviors or love to be on the go. It may also present as women who have the gift of gab, often unintentionally interrupting others in conversation.
Women with hyperactive behaviors may appear impatient and antsy. Hyperactive kiddos are more likely to be flagged and diagnosed growing up. However, hyperactive ADHD is less common than the inattentive type in women.
Women who are diagnosed with ADHD are more commonly diagnosed with inattentive type ADHD. Inattentive ADHD is often overlooked and is dramatically underdiagnosed due to the nature of its invisibility.
Women with inattentive ADHD are more prone to exhibit disorganization, difficulty with attention, and memory problems. These traits are less outwardly obvious and left unaddressed can lead to internalized chronic stress, feeling the need to be perfect in an effort to overcompensate for challenges and frequent self-doubt.
Read “Why am I so Forgetful and Absent Minded” for a closer look at a woman with ADHD and memory problems.
Combined Type ADHD
Individuals who exhibit characteristics of both hyperactive and inattentive ADHD may be diagnosed with combined-type ADHD.
Combined type ADHD may look like a woman who is chronically forgetful, struggles to focus, and talks a lot. She appears restless and is always moving about. She may have bouts of excessive energy followed by days of complete exhaustion.
What should I do if I suspect I have ADHD?
Chances are you've landed here for a reason. If you're googling lesser-known symptoms of ADHD in adults or you're questioning your mental health and focus lately... it's time to act on it. Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your concerns and find support to address your symptoms.
It's never too late to get the help and support that you need.
ADHD is about so much more than just attention issues.
It can show up in your time management, your motivation, and your relationships. It can impact your memory, your energy levels, and self-confidence.
If you feel like you may have ADHD, address it. It can’t hurt to learn more about yourself and to provide yourself with the support and slack you need to be successful.
Want to read more on this topic? Check out this case study of a 40-something year old woman (and former client) with ADHD.