The Symptoms of High-Functioning Adult ADHD

Many adults can have ADHD without even realizing it. In adulthood, ADHD typically shows up as difficulty controlling focus, disorganization, forgetfulness, and chronic lateness. These individuals may have all these symptoms, but found ways to cope with them and get through life without major issues. This is known as “high functioning” ADHD. For people with high functioning ADHD, learning they have this disorder can help them improve even more.

According to Dr. Laura Linebarger Walsh, a clinical psychologist and researcher, specializing in substance abuse within the ADHD population, here are some of the signs of potential high functioning ADHD:

  • Difficulty finding the right words – This can come from the brain operating faster than the ability to speak the words. It can be heightened by the social anxiety that often accompanies ADHD.
  • Difficulty distinguishing right and left directions – This is a kind of right and left dyslexia that often occurs in those with ADHD.
  • Constant fatigue at work – People with untreated ADHD often have difficulty focusing at work which can lead to exhaustion by the end of the work day.
  • Hyperfocus on things of interest – For those with ADHD, hyperfocus is the flip side of lack of focus. People with ADHD are able to focus intensely on things they are interested in. It is a matter of motivation.
  • Excessive gambling – For someone with ADHD, gambling may be a way to raise the levels of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. This can lead to a gambling addiction, and research has shown that the ADHD population has a greater risk of such addictive behavior.
  • Infidelity or boredom in relationships – For the same reason, someone with ADHD, in a committed relationship, may be tempted to cheat on their partner. Risky and impulsive sexual behavior can stimulate the production of dopamine. Because of this need for stimulation and novelty, a person with ADHD may also get bored with a regular partner and may lose interest in sex or even fall asleep during sex.

None of these symptoms, but itself, implies high functioning adult ADHD. But in combination, they may indicate the need to consult a therapist about the possibility.


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  1. Maggie

    You forgot hyper-focus on and/or over-use of technology; withdrawal from family/kids/friends; along with gambling, addiction to video-gaming, pornography, drugs, or alcohol; “forgetting” appointments, special occasions, cards, gifts etc. And, you hardly touched on the impact to relationships going from hyper-focus in courtship to mentally barely-there after a few years (if you’re lucky). If it is acknowledged by the adult with ADHD (in our case, inattentive type), there is at least an explanation, if not hope for management of the symptoms. Unfortunately, the myth that an individual with ADHD can “outgrow” it is still too pervasive in society. In truth, I don’t believe anyone outgrows it, I think some folks just acknowledge it and learn to recognize and manage their symptoms better than others.