Do I Really Have ADHD or Am I Just Forgetful? A Peek Inside Attention Deficit Disorders

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Written by Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

18 Oct, 2022

Imagine this: you walk into the kitchen to grab a snack. You look over and on the counter are the grocery bags from earlier. You decide now is a good time to put them away.

Once you put the groceries away you see a few dirty dishes in the sink. From there you decide to load up the dishwasher and let it run. As this happens you remember you have a coffee mug from the morning sitting on your dresser. You decide to throw that in the dishwasher as well.

You walk into your room to grab the mug only to see that your carpet is really overdue for vacuuming. You run to grab the vacuum but as you do so you notice that your cat's litter box needs to be changed.

Thirty minutes later you sit down on the couch exhausted. Only to realize you never finished loading up the dishwasher. Heck, you never even grabbed that snack.

If you don’t need to imagine this scenario, but rather live that kind of life daily, you might have ADHD.

But, how do you know if you really do have ADHD or you’re just forgetful? How do you know if you have a diagnosable attention deficit disorder or if you just think you do?

Let’s talk about it.

What Is ADHD?

Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder, or, ADHD, is one of the most common neurological disorders to date.

It’s a condition that not only affects the way a person thinks but ultimately how they behave. Poor concentration and lack of impulse control, and consistent restlessness are three common characteristics of someone with ADHD.

However, there are many lesser-known symptoms that can cause someone with ADHD to struggle in life such as:

  1. Short attention span

  2. Low tolerance for boredom

  3. Extremely forgetful

  4. Has trouble with losing or misplacing things

  5. Difficulty following directions

  6. Switching from task to task quickly

  7. Time management or time blindness

  8. Hyperfocus

  9. Difficulty regulating emotions

  10. Inability to sleep well at night

  11. Impulsive spending

As you can see, some of these symptoms aren’t specifically related to childhood ADHD. This is because while it’s more common to be diagnosed in your early years, adults too can be diagnosed with ADHD.

Can I Be Diagnosed With ADHD As An Adult?

There’s no doubt, that someone diagnosed with ADHD early in childhood has a much greater advantage than an adult who has lived their entire lives without the support, help, or guidance with their disorder.

Since ADHD often presents itself early on, it’s often the case that adults with ADHD have struggled with it for years and years before finally getting answers. While many children do outgrow ADHD it’s thought that around 60% carry it with them into adulthood.

Some symptoms of ADHD can present themselves differently in adults than children, also making it more difficult to diagnose the older you get.

For example, an inability to sit still in a child may look like an adult who is constantly fidgeting, wiggling their legs, or tapping their fingers. However, the root cause is still the same: stimulation.

Of course, you’re not going to see an adult with ADHD climbing all over furniture at the doctor's office, or running around in circles at the mall. Adults with ADHD suffer more from things such as: always being late, anxiety, losing important items (such as car keys), forgetting major dates or appointments, or poor organizational skills.

Other symptoms of adult ADHD include:

  1. Inability to prioritize tasks

  2. Procrastination

  3. Fatigue

  4. Speaking out of turn or interrupting

  5. Constantly starting new tasks or projects before finishing the last one

  6. Hyperfocus on an activity for a few weeks then sudden disinterest

  7. Excessive spending on a new interest

  8. Impulse spending

  9. Financial immaturity

  10. Risk-taking behaviours

  11. Racing thoughts

If you believe you have adult ADHD it’s important to speak with your primary care physician on the next steps to take.

The Stigma Behind an ADHD Diagnosis:

ADHD has been said to be one of the most misunderstood yet highly stigmatized mental health conditions in Australia. Despite 1 in every 30 Australians being diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder, it remains the butt of many jokes and criticism.

Some people believe that an individual seeking help for ADHD is purely in it for the medications. Others believe that diagnosing a child with ADHD is morally wrong. Others, simply refuse to believe ADHD even exists.

Stigmatization of a mental illness strictly stems from being uneducated. It comes from a lack of understanding and empathy.

ADHD has been researched and documented as a very real, very difficult disorder to live with on a daily basis. The stigma against an ADHD diagnosis has led many people to avoid seeking help, in turn causing a lower quality of life.

While medication is used for ADHD, both medical and mental health professionals encourage therapy, environmental changes, and social support for a complete treatment plan.

If You Think You Might Have ADHD…

You can self-assess, take online quizzes, and research until your hands are blue, but the only way to truly find out if you have ADHD is to get a professional's opinion.

They’ll run tests and have you fill out questionnaires to better understand your situation.

Your ADHD is not invalid simply because you weren’t diagnosed as a child. If you forget things as your environment changes, it’s okay to take time beforehand to write down any questions you may have for your provider.

Getting mental health treatment can be daunting for some while liberating for others. It’s likely you may feel a mix of the two. No matter the case, even being able to put a name to the problems you’re struggling with can set you on the right path to living a more balanced, easier life.

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Emma Reliason

B.A. - Psychologist

Emma is an accomplished writer with a passion for mental health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology where she gained insight into why people think, feel and behave the way they do.

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