Adult ADHD isn’t forgetting your keys. It’s not acting spacey, or having trouble matching names to faces, or difficulty concentrating on a conversation. It’s not trouble with social conventions or blurting things out at random or freaking out when confronted with a multi-step task. It doesn’t mean that you don’t know where to start. It doesn’t mean that you get easily overwhelmed by small tasks. It doesn’t mean that adulting is incredibly difficult. It doesn’t mean that you can’t start basic tasks, like laundry, or that you might exist in a swirl of chaos.
Adult ADHD means all these things at once.
There are a lot of misconceptions about adult ADHD. Either people think adults don’t get ADHD at all — that it’s a kids’ condition women manufacture in order to pop methamphetamines for weight loss — or that they, personally, have a raging case of ADHD because they forgot where they put their car keys.
Neither of these things is true.
I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until I was 32, but when I was, everything clicked into place. I wasn’t lazy. I wasn’t spacey. I wasn’t nuts, or morally deficient, or somehow broken. I am, instead, non-neurotypical. Literally. My neural pathways are not wired the same way yours are. This is value-neutral. It’s not a sickness or a pathology; it just is. It means I need special drugs to help me function in a world built for neurotypical people. But it doesn’t mean that I’m somehow deficient. I just have ADHD, like 4.4% of the US adult population does. However, unlike an incredible 80% of them, I seek treatment for it. Sound crazy? That’s because most people don’t know they have it.
Maybe you wonder if you’ve got it. While only a doctor can give you real answers, here are some things that, when taken together, may point to adult ADHD, according to some major ADHD experts and symptom tests.
1. You lose things all the things all the time.
Not a few things from time to time. You lose everything. It’s a running joke that you can’t get out of the house without forgetting something. Your diaper bag didn’t contain diapers (like mine). You lock your keys in the car, in the house. I left my car running in the Target parking lot the other day with the keys locked inside them. As Health says, if “losing your cell phone, wallet, or keys is part of your daily routine,” you may be looking at adult ADHD.
2. You have poor time management skills (i.e, you’re always late and so is all your stuff).
Always the last mom at the playdate? Always running fifteen minutes behind? Yeah, I used to be, until I got on some serious meds. More than just being late, though, you can’t hit deadlines. You put things off until you’re freaking out about them, and then you’re freaking out so bad you become paralyzed and things never get done. You may be unable to keep a calendar and double-book yourself all the time.
3. You may have trouble with impulsiveness.
This means a lot of things to a lot of different people. For a while, it meant I would spend enormous sums of money at Target on a regular basis. I also have a tendency to say whatever I’m thinking whenever I’m thinking it without regard to niceties like conversational turns, which have eluded me since I was a child. You also could have issues with alcohol or drugs (ADDitude says that people with adult ADHD tend to suffer from elevated rates of alcoholism).
4. A “hot temper” can be another symptom.
Super-pissed all the time? I thought I was just a rage monkey. No, I just have adult ADHD. Many of us are hypersensitive to criticism, real or imagined, and it can make us fly off the handle.
5. You have trouble getting organized.
If your house is mess, your car is a mess, your laundry is in piles, you can’t find those tax forms, you can’t turn in important papers on time, you can’t remember when you run out of dog food, toilet paper, or trashbags, then you might want to look at getting screened. And yes, with two adults with ADHD, I just described my household.
6. You also may have poor listening skills.
This could be for many reasons. You could be easily distracted (another symptom in itself). You could be so busy thinking of what to say, with your brain running a mile a minute (yet another symptom) that you aren’t paying attention to what the other person is saying. Or you’re just simply spacing out.
7. You’re easily distracted.
You know the old “Look! A squirrel!” joke? Yeah, it’s kind of like that, except for real life. You get on the internet to do one thing, but are swiftly distracted by another and another and another, until it’s an hour later and you remembered you were supposed to be doing what again? You may walk into a room and forget to walk out of it again.
8. Important tasks go undone.
Because you’re either too freaked out to do them, too disorganized to do them, or too spaced out to remember to get them done. Things like wedding thank-you notes and taxes and dentist appointments for you kids. Things that would horrify other people. If this is you, seek help.
If you find yourself nodding along with more than a few of these symptoms, talk to a doctor. This isn’t medical advice, just a gently urging to take care of yourself and your health. Adult ADHD can be managed in a variety of ways, from behavioral therapy to medication. But if you have it, it is possible to get your life back on track. I did. And even though my car isn’t clean, my socks match. Most days.