This article is about adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The childhood ADHD FAQ is here.

Is ADHD even a real disorder?

Yes, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has over three decades’ worth of research supporting its diagnosis in adults and children. There is no longer any legitimate debate about whether ADHD really “exists” or not. Hundreds of ADHD researchers around the world agree that ADHD exists.

Can an adult have an attention deficit disorder and not be hyperactive?

Yes. This is known as ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive presentation. Adults with this presentation will often daydream and have a hard time focusing.

How does ADHD affect an adult’s work or job?

Adults with ADHD are at increased risk for lower job performance and social problems (including problems with co-workers and conflicts with their boss or supervisor). They have a greater chance of changing jobs more frequently due to these problems. A typical problem is an employee who doesn’t turn in work (such as a presentation or report), even though it has been completed. Many have “chaotic” desks, offices, or briefcases.

Is there a specific test to diagnose ADHD?

No, there is not one magic test. But a mental health professional will conduct a comprehensive assessment to ascertain whether the individual does indeed have the disorder. ADHD among adults is most commonly diagnosed and treated by a family physician or general practitioner.

Where should I go to get a diagnostic evaluation?

Where you seek an evaluation depends on your community and on the insurance plan the individual is covered by. The person conducting the evaluation should be a professional trained in assessing ADHD. Preferably the professional should specialize in the assessment and treatment of ADHD — ideally a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Are the medications recommended for ADHD safe?

Psychostimulant medications have been thoroughly studied and few long-term side effects have been identified. Problems, when they do occur, are generally mild and short-term.

The most common side effects are loss of appetite and insomnia. Rarely, children experience a negative mood or an increase in activity as the medication wears off. These side effects can be addressed by changing the dosage or by changing to a slow-release formulation.

Is Ritalin over-prescribed?

Results from a seminal study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in April 1998 showed that while there may be some individual cases of children put on Ritalin when they have not had a thorough enough evaluation, generally there is no evidence that the medication is over-prescribed. It is more likely that we see increased rates of Ritalin prescription because more children are being identified and brought in for treatment.

More recent research suggests that, rather than stimulant medications like Ritalin being over-prescribed, it may be that attention deficit disorder is being over-diagnosed, especially by well-meaning family physicians and other non-mental health professionals. For the best, most reliable diagnosis, a person should rely on seeking out a mental health professional — such as a psychologist or psychiatrist — for a possible diagnosis of attention deficit disorder.

How effective are medication-free treatments?

Non-medication treatments have shown to be proven just as, or even more, effective than stimulant medications. There are a wide variety of psychological treatments and psychotherapies that are used to treat ADHD in adults effectively. Seek out a psychologist or therapist who has specific experience and training in the use of these techniques for the treatment of adult ADHD.

What could the workplace or my employer do to help with my ADHD?

It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against any individual on the basis of a health or mental health concern. Employers who follow the law should make accommodations based upon your specific needs (such as giving you more time to complete an assignment, ensuring your workplace is free from distractions, etc.).