Adult ADHD

For many years, mental health and medical professionals assumed that children with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder) “outgrew” this neurological condition which is characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and/or impulsiveness.  In recent years, however, there is a growing awareness that ADHD does not usually disappear, with the majority of children diagnosed with ADHD continuing to experience at least some of their symptoms into adulthood.

ADHD symptoms, however, may manifest differently over time, with hyperactivity typically decreasing and becoming more subtle and difficulties relating to concentration and organization becoming more prevalent in adulthood.  The classic symptoms of ADHD – such as an inability to focus, disorganization, restlessness, and difficulty following through on tasks and remembering details – can cause behavioral, emotional, social, vocational and academic problems for adults in numerous realms of their lives.  Impairments in interpersonal relations are not uncommon and can negatively impact both family life and employment opportunities.  As a result of these difficulties, many adults with ADHD experience frustration, low self-esteem, and feelings of failure.

To make matters worse, most adults with ADHD were never diagnosed as children and may still be unaware that they actually have this condition.  They may sense that something isn’t quite right, but have no idea that there is a name for many of the symptoms which they are experiencing.  Their ADHD often remains undiagnosed or misdiagnosed until one of their children is identified as having ADHD and, lo and behold, they come to understand that they too have this genetically inherited neurological condition.  This discovery often clears up years of confusion and shame about their own difficulties and can enable these adults to finally receive the appropriate treatment and help which may have eluded them for so long.

Although ADHD does pose many challenges, individuals with ADHD also have many positive traits that are connected to their active, impulsive minds.  These traits include creativity, curiosity, enthusiasm, spontaneity, a quick mind, a high energy level, and the ability to hyper-focus for long periods of time on tasks or projects that they find interesting.

Success for adults with ADHD often stems from identifying and building on their strengths, while not over-focusing on their weaknesses.  Discovering one particular talent or specialized area of accomplishment is critical for adults (and children) with ADHD.  The earlier in life that individuals with ADHD identify their strengths, the greater the likelihood that they will succeed as adults in their chosen academic or occupational fields of interest.

For all you parents of children with ADHD, remember that helping your children find their passion and encouraging them to pursue their natural interests and talents at an early age is the most important gift you can give them.  This gift will last a lifetime and will help your children grow into self-confident adults who will have experienced success and achievement at a young age, in spite of and sometimes because of their ADHD.


Aviva Zahavi-Asa, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., is a clinical social worker and a certified couples and family therapist who specializes in treating adolescents and adults with ADHD and/or learning disabilities.  She also works with couples and families in which a spouse and/or a child has ADHD.  Aviva maintains a private therapy practice in Efrat and Jerusalem and can be reached for consultations and therapy appointments at 052-8567977.  Services are provided in both English and Hebrew.