ADHD Signs Hidden in Plain Sight: Overlooked Symptoms



Although it manifests itself in disparate and dichotomous ways, ADHD is often associated with only a handful of stereotypical behaviors and presentations. So when not-so-obvious ADHD symptoms appear in broad daylight, they can be ignored or misdiagnosed.

Then, when the subtle but permanent symptoms of ADHD explode (as they probably will) under unique and stressful circumstances, they suddenly become unmanageable. And only then do many adults get the help they need.

Here are often overlooked signs of ADHD, including unexpected symptoms and even those that seem contrary to the diagnosis.

Signs that indicate ADHD

1. Your ongoing difficulties with concentration, restlessness and impatience did not affect your job or your family – until life changed dramatically.

You can still have ADHD even if you were not diagnosed as a child. Usually, symptoms of poor focus, hyperactivity, and impulsivity remain manageable with well-established coping mechanisms that collapse with a major life event, such as getting your first job, getting married, or starting a family. . Maybe, for example, your symptoms stayed under control until you found yourself in the middle of the global pandemic.

2. You are not hyperactive or impulsive, but rather have periods of low motivation and choice paralysis.

ADHD exists on a spectrum and presents itself with multiple variations of symptoms. The DSM-V class ADHD in three subtypes: predominantly inattentive type, predominantly hyperactive type and combined type. Girls are more often inattentive than boys, who are more often hyperactive and impulsive.

[Click to Read: 3 Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks]

A disruptive little boy is more likely to trigger the worried attention that leads to a diagnosis of ADHD than a fuzzy but non-disruptive little girl who forgets her homework. When young girls are hyperactive, it is usually the mildest and least disruptive form of excessive chatter. These “invisible” symptoms are rarely associated with ADHD in girls.

Additionally, overt hyperactive and impulsive behaviors sometimes subside or transform earlier in girls, who tend to become more responsive to the perceptions of others than most boys. However, their hyperactivity does not go away; it turns into internal restlessness and a noisy brain, which looks like difficulty making decisions and an apparent lack of motivation.

3. You can concentrate, sometimes to excess.

“ADHD” is a misnomer. It is not so much an inattention disorder, but rather an inconstant attention disorder. Attention fluctuates depending on a person’s level of interest in an activity. Hyperfocus, or intense interest, is at one extreme, but still linked to dopamine deficiencies which also contribute to inattention.

ADHD is often missed in adults who focus more than they struggle with inattention. Hyperfocus, in some ways, can be seen as a positive and helpful symptom. But this has its drawbacks – the transition out of intense concentration can be difficult, which can interfere with daily activities.

[Read: ADHD Hyperfocus Is a Blessing and a Curse]

4. You have no history of difficulty in school – unlike your peers with academic problems that led to their early diagnosis of ADHD.

ADHD is NOT related to your intelligence, your academic performance, or your level of achievement. You can be a good, knowledgeable, and successful student while still being diagnosed with ADHD.

Individuals with a High IQ are often overlooked for ADHD because they can still perform above average or at an adequate level despite their deficits. The time and effort required to compensate for ADHD symptoms often obscures their “normal” functioning.

5. You are organized and meticulous, not disorganized and sloppy.

It is common for people with ADHD to develop somewhat obsessive and compulsive behaviors to manage their symptoms. You can for example:

  • Prepare too much for an exam to deal with anticipated time management, focus, and planning issues that can impact your grade.
  • Become obsessed with order and have a fascination with decluttering techniques and gadgets. For you, it is essential in order to overcome your overconsumption and your organizational difficulties.
  • Adopt quasi-compulsive checking behaviors to manage chronic forgetfulness and misplacement of objects.

These ADHD coping strategies can mimic obsessive-compulsive disorder (TOC), but the two disorders are distinct.

6. You have trouble managing your feelings, oscillate between excess of emotions and absence of them.

Whether diagnosed in childhood or late in life, someone with ADHD is more likely to hear negative comments about their symptoms and behaviors. They may overhear relatives, friends and others talking about their failures and be accused of laziness, immaturity and selfishness. These constant criticisms can lead to feelings of guilt and shame, and they exacerbate problems with emotional regulation.

Dysphoria sensitive to rejection, a phenomenon that refers to intense negative feelings from perceived or actual criticism, is also part of emotional disruption as an important part of the ADHD experience in adults.

7. You already suffer from a mood disorder and / or anxiety.

Unless you are directly assessed for ADHD, a more noticeable mood or anxiety disorder may be diagnosed first – or misdiagnosed instead. A wrong diagnosis, in particular, can lead to multiple drug failures before receiving a correct diagnosis.

Most psychiatrists are not as familiar with adult ADHD as they are with mood and anxiety diagnoses. It is only in recent years that ADHD in adults has been taught in psychiatry residency programs.

Symptoms of ADHD can be mistaken for other conditions during an initial psychiatric evaluation. Your clinician may mistakenly label your “overwhelmed and excitable” emotions as anxiety. You may even suspect that you have a mood disorder because you feel “bored and unmotivated”. In fact, a 2016 study by Sternat found that 34% of patients referred with a treatment-resistant mood disorder met criteria for ADHD.

8. You fight against sleepless nights.

Historically, lack of sleep was seen as a separate problem from ADHD. However, researchers recently hypothesized that ADHD is also associated with a deregulated sleep-wake cycle. It is estimated that 75% of children and adults with ADHD have a problem sleeping. (European College of Neuropsychopharmacology)

Adults with ADHD often experience several sleep problems. They have difficulty falling asleep due to a brain that does not turn off and have difficulty staying asleep due to physical agitation. They also have problems waking up, as they tend not to enter the deepest phase of sleep until early in the morning.

9. You are battling drug addiction and eating disorders.

Lack of enough dopamine in your brain can lead to boredom and impulsive behaviors such as substance abuse and even eating disorders, especially if ADHD goes undiagnosed.

When people finally seek help, they may be misdiagnosed or diagnosed with only a mood and / or anxiety disorder, resulting in an ineffective drug regimen and more hopelessness and hopelessness, perpetuating the cycle of substance abuse, self-medication and messy eating habits.

10. You have problems with all kinds of relationships.

It is more difficult to pay attention and listen to others when distraction is an issue. ADHD can affect your ability to communicate and connect naturally with a wide range of people. Your relationships can suffer, and you may ultimately feel disconnected from your partner, family, and friends.

You can easily lose touch with others because of ADHD symptoms like forgetfulness and disorganization. Unfortunately, this can cause others to label you as egotistical and selfish.

ADHD can also disrupt your emotional and physical intimacy with your partner and possibly prevent you from forming a romantic relationship in the first place.

ADHD Signs: Next Steps


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Updated April 13, 2021


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