Is it possible for an adult to have ADHD? I thought this was a childhood disorder.

Answers from Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) always starts in early childhood, but in some cases it's not diagnosed until later in life. It was once thought that ADHD was limited to childhood, but symptoms frequently persist into adulthood.

ADHD, sometimes called attention-deficit disorder (ADD), includes a pattern of inattention or hyperactive-impulsive behavior or both. Many adults with ADHD aren't aware they have it — they just know that everyday tasks can be challenging. Adult ADHD symptoms can lead to a number of problems, including unstable relationships, poor work or school performance, and low self-esteem, which can improve with treatment for ADHD.

Diagnosis of ADHD in adults can be difficult because certain ADHD symptoms may be similar to those caused by other conditions, such as anxiety or mood disorders. And adults with ADHD may have at least one other mental health condition, such as antisocial personality disorder or another personality disorder.

If inattention, hyperactivity or impulsive behavior continually disrupts your life, talk to your doctor about whether you might have ADHD. Because signs of ADHD are similar to those of several other mental health conditions, you may have a condition other than or in addition to ADHD that needs treatment.

Aug. 07, 2014 See more Expert Answers