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The ADD Adult

Life-size Chaos in Action


Updated June 12, 2006

Does an ADD child always become an ADD adult?

Approximately half of all children with ADD symptoms and behaviors will retain these behaviors into adulthood. However, the impacts during adulthood are now much more troublesome since they affect a person's ability to develop and enhance a career, have a successful marriage and succeed at the parenting of children, cope with complex financial arrangments, and stay compliant with the myriad of rules and laws that regulate society. Here are the variety of ways that adults with ADD may experience problems:

Constant Mental Activity and Anxiety: ADD adults often report they feel constantly bombarded by thoughts about a hundred different subjects at once. This is especially true when bored. The majority of these thoughts have nothing to do with the task at hand, causing the ADD adult to be distracted, overwhelmed, confused, and un-focused. The obvious outcome is a half-finished or poor effort at completing the desired task. The primary coping skill practiced by ADD adults to control this mental whirlwind is to make notes and keep a calendar. If there is a common, predictable, organized place where a person can record information, schedules, steps, plans, appointments, deadlines, etc., then the ADD adult will develop the habit of using this calendar, and they will have the information they need when they need it to stay organized.

Physical Restlessness: ADD adults may not be as visibly hyperactive as the ADD child, but they feel it in their bones. While sitting still, at work or entertainment, the adult with ADD may be tapping a foot, doodling, playing with pens or other nearby instruments, flitting their vision from place to place, etc. Although this energy can very powerful when harnessed, it more often just exhausts the ADD adult and the people around them. A useful coping skill for the nervous energy common to adults with ADD is to develop and practice a moderate exercise regimen that fits easily into the person's existing schedule. It's important to realize that if a too-difficult regimen is attempted, the logical result of poor follow through will result!

Impulsivity: Impulsivity in children gets them into trouble for bad behavior. In ADD adults, impulsivity can have disastrous consequences, such as spending thousands of dollars on a whim, telling off the boss, having an emotional outburst that damages a relationship, or bending and defying rules, laws and regulations injudiciously. Impulse control is a learned skill. The ADD adult's best chance to curb impulsivity is to learn to identify when he or she is about to act on impulse and then to walk away from the action for 15 minutes. If the ADD adult still wants to proceed after the 15 minute cooling off period, then it's probably an acceptable action to take.

External Distractibility: In addition to the ADD adult's constant inner mental activity, there is an additional layer of chaos introduced by the stimuli of the outside world. Everywhere he or she looks, the adult with ADD takes in millions of bits of visual, auditory and sensory information, adding to the person's already overworked mental processes. This factor makes it harder for the ADD adult to function in certain environments where there is excess noise, color, or other stimulating content. As a coping skill, the adult with ADD can attempt to modify his environment to reduce this effect. When attempting to complete a task, turn off music or reduce background noise, move to a quiet location and look for an environment with calming colors and style.

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