Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Adults

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

ADHD in Adults: Diagnosis, Treatment

Quick GuideADHD in Adults: Signs, Cause, and Management

ADHD in Adults: Signs, Cause, and Management

What are causes and risk factors for adult ADHD?

While there is no one specific cause for ADHD, there are a number of biologically and socially based risk factors that can increase the likelihood of a person developing the illness. Children with ADHD are more likely to grow into teens and adults with the condition. Brain-imaging studies indicate that traits of the brains of people who have ADHD include a tendency to be smaller, to have less connection between certain areas of the brain, and have less regulation of the neurochemical dopamine compared to people who do not have the disorder.

Risk factors for ADHD before birth include maternal stress, smoking during pregnancy, and low birth weight. Males and having a family history of this disorder increase the chances that a person will be diagnosed with ADHD. Low family income and low educational achievement for a person's father are social risk factors for developing ADHD.

How prevalent is adult ADHD?

Although it is estimated that 2%-6% of adults have ADHD, this illness begins during childhood. While the condition is assessed more often in boys than in girls, it appears to occur in men and women at equal rates. Nearly two-thirds of children with ADHD retain some symptoms of the illness as adults, and about half have just as many symptoms of sufficient severity to still qualify for the diagnosis of ADHD. Other key statistics include that more than 90% of adults with the condition describe having trouble focusing, and more than 50% have both distractibility and hyperactivity/impulsivity, while more than one-third have just distractibility.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/8/2016

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