What Happens to Young Adults with ADHD?

May 22, 2017

Written by

Claudia Black Young Adult Center

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By Krysha Thayer

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD for short, is a mental health disorder that is most commonly found in children between the ages of 4 and 17. Upon entering young adulthood, it is common for people who have been diagnosed with ADHD to grow out of it. But this is not true for everyone. Many young adults with ADHD continue to struggle with it throughout their young adult life. Still, others who may not have been diagnosed during childhood can be diagnosed with late-onset ADHD.

Around 60 percent of children who are diagnosed with ADHD in their childhoods continue to struggle with ADHD into their adult lives. That means that roughly 5 percent of the adult population in the United States has been diagnosed with ADHD. That is nearly 11 million people. Some studies have shown that the number of people struggling with this disorder is probably much higher than 5 percent because many cases of ADHD are never diagnosed and go untreated.

Other studies have shown that people who are diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood (also known as late-onset ADHD) did not have ADHD during childhood. Statistically speaking, about 70 percent of people diagnosed with late-onset ADHD or Adult ADHD did not meet the criteria to be diagnosed when they were children but later developed the symptoms of ADHD upon entering adulthood.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD for short, is a mental health disorder that is most commonly found in children between the ages of 4 and 17.

Symptoms of ADHD 

ADHD can be characterized by two types of behavioral problems: inattentiveness or difficulty concentrating and focusing and hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Many people have symptoms that fall under both categories, but this isn’t always the case. Difficulty concentrating and focusing is characterized as ADD. This form of ADHD often goes undiagnosed because the symptoms are less evident than more severe ADHD symptoms. 

Warning Signs of ADHD

What are the signs of ADHD? It is important to remember that symptoms of ADHD in young adults can often be unique to each individual. Some people experience mild characteristics of ADHD while others experience more severe ADHD symptoms. Some individuals cannot focus on anything, even if it is something that they are highly interested in. Others can concentrate on certain things that of interest them for long periods of time. While outbursts of anger may be a common occurrence for some, others may never or rarely have angry outbursts, but have great difficulty in showing up to things on time.

However, there are some common warning signs of ADHD to look out for, if you suspect someone you love may be struggling with ADHD. 

Difficulty Concentrating 

People who find it hard to follow complex or even simple directions, concentrate on the task at hand, finish a task that they have started, organize their work, or have a difficult time remembering information could have ADHD.

Hyperactivity and Impulsiveness

Hyperactivity and impulsiveness are characterized by the inability to sit still and concentrate on tasks, constant fidgeting, excessive talking and physical movement, acting without thinking, interrupting conversations, and little or no sense of danger. These symptoms of ADHD can significantly impact a child’s life, including underachievement at school, poor social interaction with other children and adults, and low discipline. 

Reckless Driving 

Due to the inability to focus on the task at hand, people who have ADHD are more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.

Poor Listening Skills 

When you have a difficult time paying attention, listening becomes a difficult task, which often ends in zoning out, misunderstanding things and missing important bits of information like a time and date for a meeting. Poor listening skills can also cause many problems in relationships and marriages, especially if the person who is dealing with ADHD has never been formally been diagnosed with it.

Dual Diagnoses

More serious conditions that are not necessarily caused by ADHD but in many cases co-exist with the disorder include addiction, depression, anxiety, and even self-harm.


About 53 percent of adults who have been diagnosed with ADHD also battle anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety usually include feeling stressed out, edgy, and/or extremely worried for hours or days at a time. Anxiety may go hand-in-hand with ADHD due to some of the logistical problems caused the disorder like chronic lateness, the inability to finish a task that was started, and poor listening skills. Though these issues may not directly cause anxiety, they can trigger more anxiety in someone who is already prone to struggling with it.


Depression often accompanies difficulties at home, on the job, in school and in life in general. For someone who has severe ADHD symptoms, these difficulties are basically inevitable. Whether there are relationship problems, learning disorders, problems with keeping a job or focusing on the job that needs to be done, or just having problems with focusing on things of interest like hobbies and various forms of entertainment, any of these things can trigger depression. These triggers for depression can lead to more serious problems like addiction and self-harm.


Addiction is another condition that often co-exists with ADHD. Adults who have ADHD have been shown to be more likely to become addicted to smoking and find it more difficult to quit than adults without ADHD. Other addictions to prescription drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol are also common. In one study of ADHD in young adults, only 30 percent said they used substances to get high. Seventy percent said they used drugs or alcohol to improve their mood, sleep better, calm their brains enough to be productive or to self-medicate for other reasons.


Self-harm can be a way for people with ADHD to release the emotions that they keep bottled up inside of them. Self-harm is the act of causing oneself physical harm through cutting, pulling out hair, burning oneself, and other methods. Self-harm is not the same thing as suicide, as the intent of self-harm is not death. Many people with ADHD, have difficulty expressing how they feel, what they are thinking, and what they are going through. As a result, they may turn to self-harm as a way to release their emotional pain.

More serious conditions that are not necessarily caused by ADHD but in many cases co-exist with the disorder include addiction, depression, anxiety, and even self-harm.

Help for Young Adults with ADHD and Co-occurring Conditions

Left unaddressed, ADHD and the co-existing conditions can develop into negative outcomes. But with proper treatment, even someone suffering from more extreme cases of ADHD, addiction, anxiety and/or depression can overcome these obstacles and persevere in life. The Claudia Black Young Adult Center utilizes the Test of Variables of Attention (T.O.V.A) in its assessment protocol. Essentially, T.O.V.A. is a computerized test of attention that assists in the screening, diagnosis, and treatment monitoring of attention disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

T.O.V.A. complements the multidisciplinary clinical assessment developed by nursing, our general medicine, and addictions specialists, along with our psychotherapy and psychiatry staff. Using the T.O.V.A is a critical piece to comprehensive assessments to address the complexity of symptoms and ADHD behaviors in our clients. It raises our high standard of service to an even greater level. This corroborative psychological testing helps to better understand each patient as an individual.

At the Claudia Black Young Adult Center, we help young adults with ADHD take control of their lives. Please call 855-333-6075 to begin your journey.