Is There a Difference in ADHD Symptoms Between Children and Adults?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Yes, there are differences in ADHD symptoms between children and adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This is not surprising considering the diversity in their environments and in how society expects both to act. Children who are ADHD-I inattentive type tend to be forgetful during daily activities.  They also get easily distracted by whatever it is that attracts their attention at that moment. Here’s a typical scenario:

Tim’s mom placed a dab of toothpaste on his toothbrush, telling him to go brush his teeth as the school bus would be coming any minute.  Tim, who has ADHD, started brushing his teeth, but then he spotted a bug climbing up a wall.  How a bug could climb up such a slippery surface totally fascinated Tim that he didn’t hear the school bus pull up, nor his mother repeatedly calling his name.

Tim’s always doing that, forgetting what he’s supposed to be doing, and getting preoccupied with whatever he’s not supposed to do. One time at school, he got up to post something on the board, but got distracted, and spent the next fifteen minutes watching a couple of birds doing their mating dance. Make him memorize the table of elements, he can’t; but spend some time with him, and he’d describe to you the circumstances behind every one of Babe Ruth’s home run. These are classic ADHD symptoms.

Adults with ADHD are not as forgetful, nor do they tend to be as easily distracted.  What adults with attention deficit typically do is procrastinate.

Bob, 21, a staff assistant of an attorney specializing in personal injury lawsuits, is feeling hot under the collar.  Yet again, he’s being summoned by his boss.  Bob knows what for:  the legal memorandum he’s working on.  At 6 years of age, he was diagnosed as having ADHD, and was on Ritalin for some time. He seems to have outgrown his tendency to be easily distracted by a self-management system he’s worked out for himself with the help of an ADHD professional, a psychiatrist friend of his Dad’s.  

Bob has this small flip chart on his office table listing down his “things to do” for the day.  The problem is that Bob has difficulty sticking to his schedule.  “I’ll do it later,” he keeps telling himself.  Already, things have come to a head, with his boss calling him into his office about legal memoranda being prepared at the last minute.

The difference between children and adults with ADHD extend to the way they exhibit hyperactivity. Where children fidget, run and climb excessively, or interrupt conversation, adults might show evidence of their hyperactivity by having highly active and stimulating jobs, working long hours, or seeking constant activity even after work. Here are a couple more examples:

Dave, 6, is in kindergarten, and is always on his teacher’s radar. It’s because Dave’s totally unlike everyone else:  he has ADHD. He doesn’t take part in circle time, when children should sit still and listen.  If the teacher gets him to sit at all, he’d be up and running within 30 seconds.  During activity time, he never settles on painting. Instead, he would start a new game which he’d just as soon leave in favor of another one.

Paul, 26, has every reason to celebrate.  For the sixth straight quarter, he’s not only made target but exceeded them by as much as 20 percent!  Right now, he’s the star salesman of their real estate company selling condos and timeshares in California all the way to Cabo San Lucas in Baja Sur.  He feels the job is tailor-fit for him.  He actually relishes the competition, and thrives amidst the pressure. After work, you’d find him still at work, working on his prospects at posh restaurants or at golf courses.

These two cases may seem on the surface to be normal individuals with lots of energy and enthusiasm, but they are cases of ADHD.  If you or a loved one is exhibiting these symptoms, see a medical professional and ask about ADHD. There are ADHD treatment options and ADHD medications that can help you.