Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological
disorder that can make people behave in inattentive,
impulsive, and hyperactive ways – and it can have a
significant impact on their lives. It is also sometimes known
as attention deficit disorder, or ADD.
Professor Philip Asherson, who specialises in clinical and
molecular psychiatry at King’s College London, told BuzzFeed:
“Although some [people] will have had full-blown ADHD with
impairment (problems arising from the symptoms), some others
may have only a few symptoms, [that are] not necessarily
Being diagnosed with ADHD as an adult can be tricky – one
criterion is that “several symptoms were present before
the age of 12 years”. ADHD symptoms are also frequently
mistaken for symptoms of other mental health conditions in
adults such as anxiety, depression, personality disorder, and
even bipolar disorder.
“There is more knowledge and awareness of ADHD in adults
[now], but clinician expertise is still catching up with the
current state of knowledge and understanding of this
condition,” Asherson said.
We spoke to Gareth, 23, Maeve, 27, and Danielle, 24, about
their experiences with ADHD in their twenties. Gareth was
diagnosed when he was 22, Maeve at 27, and Danielle at 21.
5. But it
can be quite a lengthy process.
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“The diagnosis process was quite difficult – there’s not a
lot of information out there about how to get diagnosed as an
adult, and I had to be really determined. I tried to do it
through the NHS when I lived in the UK, but their mental
health services are so stressed that a potential ADHD
sufferer is quite low on the priority list, which is
understandable because it’s not a mental health emergency. I
had to go private in the end.” – Maeve
“I met with a psychologist, and went through about four hours
of testing that consisted of puzzles, reading passages,
word/memory games, and some surveys about my habits and
symptoms.” – Danielle
life organisation can be difficult, especially when it comes to
juggling your work and social life.
“I find it difficult to plan my weeks, reading books, and
saying no to things. My ADHD makes me impulsive, so I’m likely
to choose short-term enjoyment instead of acting responsibly.”
makes university a challenge for some people.
“This is the area which affected me the most. I struggled
massively with applying myself at university, which meant I
repeatedly failed exams, handed essays in late (if at all), and
had fierce poor attendance. Twas bleak!” – Gareth
easily distracted from doing your work is incredibly
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“I find it really, really difficult to apply myself to
anything that doesn’t interest me. It comes across as lazy,
and is frustrating for employers. It’s frustrating for me
too, because the fact is, any job involves tasks you don’t
like. I go to do them and instantly get distracted, or my
mind wanders elsewhere. It’s like I can’t keep focus on
anything for too long.
“In the long term, with any job I’ve had, I fall out of love
with it really quickly, for these reasons, so I’m kind of
stuck in a cycle now of going to work somewhere, loving it at
first, and then growing to hate it because I feel like I’m
failing at it.” – Maeve
crippling fear of failure can seep in pretty quickly.
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“I feel as though people with ADHD exude a ‘devil may care’
attitude, so when we do fail, it’s easy to believe that we
have done so intentionally or that we are not bothered by our
failure.” – Gareth
“I do worry about my work ethic, and if I’ll ever be able to
achieve the things that I want to achieve. There are so many
creative things I know I’d be good at, but I find it very
hard to see a project through to the end. I fall away, and I
worry that if I keep going that way I’ll never get anywhere.”
still an awful lot of stigma around ADHD.
“I’ve seen a lot of comments from people saying that people
with ADHD are just lazy and lack discipline. That one really
bothers me. I have always been a very dedicated student, an
athlete, and a very ambitious person overall. I know I am
definitely not lazy, and no amount of discipline could change
my problems with focus or memorisation. ADHD is a real medical
condition, and when others blame us for our problems it makes
me feel like they are trying to invalidate that diagnosis. It’s
incredibly frustrating.” – Danielle
“There’s a lot about ADHD not being a real thing, and that
people who say they have it are just lazy. Let me tell you it’s
very real! I really, really wish I could apply myself
sometimes, but my brain doesn’t work that way. It literally
switches off sometimes when I’m working on something and I
won’t notice until I’ve lost an hour without realising. I’ve
also seen the media say it’s just an excuse for laziness, which
is just gross in my opinion. Trying living in this head for a
day and you’ll see how much time can just evade you!” – Maeve
fact, sometimes, it can be fucking great.
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“The flipside of inattention symptoms is hyperfocus, which
means that if I’m actually interested in something, I throw
myself into it completely. I’ll read for hours and hours
about it, talk about it endlessly, and if it’s project-based,
I’ll put my all into it.
“ADHD makes me interesting and funny. There’s a lot about it
I like, and to be honest I’m not sure I’d change it. I’ve
obviously had ADHD my whole life, and so much of my
personality is tied to it, good and bad. I like myself, so it
mustn’t be too bad!” – Maeve
For more information about ADHD see the
NHS website, or speak to your GP.