Articles & Events | Psychiatric Associates of Iowa CIty

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Adults and ADHD

November 1, 2019

By Molly O'Brien | DNP, PMHNP-BC, Psychiatric Associates

When we hear about ADHD, most people usually think about it as a pediatric problem. We’ve all heard about kids being treated for it.

But what we don’t really hear about are about the adults who have it, too. (Yes, adults can have ADHD.)

Diagnosed cases of adult ADHD have increased over the past years. One reason is because clinicians are finally starting to recognize that there are some adults who’ve had it since childhood but were never diagnosed.

In the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area alone, as many as 45,000 adults could have ADHD. The majority of these adults probably don't realize it, however, as ADHD among adults tends to be underdiagnosed.

ADHD is present in childhood

Adults with ADHD also had it as kids. The disorder doesn't suddenly just happen in adulthood. Often, adults recall having a hard time in grade school or even high school and either had to work very hard to get good grades or just didn't get good grades at all. I often hear adults tell me that they were regarded as “lazy” when they were in school. 

Some were able to overcome the challenges and cope with it. But many never followed through with higher education. Or they feel like they could’ve done better in school. 

Maybe they were disorganized and always forgetting to turn in homework or remember deadlines for assignments. Many daydreamed but were able to hyper-focus on things they enjoyed—such as a certain genre of books or video games. 

Also, many adult females tend to get missed for an attention-deficit diagnosis in childhood because they are more of the “inattentive” types and not the “hyperactive” types that get noticed in the classroom.  

Symptoms of adult ADHD

Many of my adult clients tell me that they struggle with time-management, skimming emails and missing important information. They may also have problems listening to others when they are speaking because they're so distracted by their own thoughts and other things going on around them. 

Adults with ADHD can seem disorganized and forgetful, often misplacing things of importance such as their car keys or forgetting important tasks such as paying bills. They often procrastinate, which interferes with their work performance and can lead to trouble with maintaining their job performance or a job in general. 

Why it’s important to get treated

Many of the adults I see with ADHD have learned how to cope with the disorder. But coping can’t always cover for the symptoms. That can lead to problems with work, relationships and even finances. 

Adults with ADHD also tend to have other disorders—such as depression or anxiety—that are either independent of the ADHD or have arisen from prolonged problems caused by the ADHD. 

Seeking treatment for ADHD and any related disorders can make a big difference in overall quality of life. Medication is always an option. Most adults also greatly benefit from medication in addition to psychotherapy so that they can learn new techniques to deal with their ADHD and any other challenges. 

If you feel like you may have ADHD, don’t hesitate to get evaluated. Even though you may have learned to cope fairly well with it, you may be surprised at how much easier life could potentially be with treatment. 

To find a Psychiatric Associates provider who treats ADHD, go to the Our Providers page on our website and use the "Type of care needed" drop-down. Or call us at 319-356-6352.



Molly O'Brien, DNP, PMHNP-BC

Molly O'Brien helps adults with depression, anxiety, bipolar, borderline personality and other disorders. As a veteran who completed a tour of duty as a combat medic in Iraq, she is also uniquely qualified to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Molly is a firm believer in the power of psychotherapy and medication used together. She also encourages clients to make healthy lifestyle changes. She is bilingual (English and Spanish) and welcomes Spanish- and English-speaking clients.