For years, health professionals believed the signs and symptoms of ADHD vanished by the time a child became a teenager, with no long-lasting effects. Now they know that as many as two out of three children will continue to battle the disorder into adulthood. In addition, they are finding that an increasing number of adults who were misdiagnosed with other psychiatric conditions (such as a learning disability or attitude problem) or who went undiagnosed through childhood and adolescence actually have ADHD. For these individuals, ADHD can wreak havoc with personal relationships and pose problems at work; they also may be prone to substance abuse and depression. But with proper treatment, adults can learn to harness and capitalize on the extra energy and ingenuity often associated with the disorder.

To diagnose ADHD in adults, practitioners conduct a thorough review of their childhood, take a detailed behavioral history and assess their academic and job performance. Family relationships and the nature and quality of friendships are evaluated. Sometimes family members are asked to help identify symptoms or behaviors consistent with the disorder.