Aroreretini ki ngā pakeke ADHD in adults

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) causes problems with your concentration, memory and impulsive behaviour. These symptoms are around from when you were a child, and sometimes they improve with time. But some people continue to have problems as adults.

Causes of ADHD in adults

We do not know the exact cause of ADHD, although we do know it is a neurological (brain) disorder. There is also a genetic link (it can be passed on from your parents). You are much more likely to have ADHD if it runs in your family.

Symptoms of ADHD in adults

The key symptoms of ADHD in adults are:

  • difficulty paying attention, for example, to workplace tasks, conversations, or personal belongings
  • hyperactivity, for example, fidgeting or being unable to sit still, or talking a lot
  • impulsivity, for example, interrupting conversations, being unable to wait in line.

You do not need to have all these symptoms to be diagnosed with ADHD. Each person varies in the type, frequency, and severity of their symptoms.

ADHD can have positive affects such as:

  • having high energy
  • being creative
  • being able to hyperfocus 
  • being enterprising.

Living with ADHD can cause relationship, emotional, and lifestyle difficulties.

  • If your symptoms are severe, for example, if you are unable to work, they may refer you to the public adult psychiatry service for assessment and treatment.

  • If your symptoms are less severe, your healthcare provider may suggest that you see a private psychologist for further assessment. You will have to pay for this assessment. Your healthcare provider can use this assessment to get medication advice from the public adult psychiatry service. Or you can choose to pay to see a private psychiatrist or psychologist.

    • To organise yourself, get in the habit of taking notes and writing lists. Maintain your newly organised structure with regular, daily routines.
    • Create space and reduce clutter by removing unnecessary things from your room, home and workspace.
    • Do not put off doing things, especially if you can do them in a few minutes.
    • Keep track of the time you are spending on a task. It can help to set a timer.
    • Give yourself more time than you think you will need to get somewhere or complete a task.
    • Plan to be early for appointments. Set yourself reminders.
    • Have everything you need ahead of time, so you are not looking for things like your keys or phone when it is time to go.
    • Ask yourself what the most important task is that you need to do, then plan your other tasks after that one.
    • Take things one at a time. Break down large projects or tasks into smaller, manageable steps.
    • Stay on task. Avoid getting sidetracked by sticking to your schedule, using a timer to enforce it if necessary.
    • Learn to say no so you do not get overloaded.
    • Prioritise tasks so you can do more important ones first. Have deadlines for everything, including setting them for yourself.
    • Reduce distractions such as noise and clutter. You could try using headphones and asking workmates not to disturb you when you need to concentrate.
    • To prevent restlessness and fidgeting, move around (at the appropriate times in the right places). For example, go for a short walk during a meeting break. This may help you pay attention later on.
    • Eat well, get plenty of sleep and keep physically active to help you stay calm, avoid mood swings and manage any symptoms of anxiety and depression if you have them. 
    • Relaxation exercise, such as meditation, yoga and tai chi can teach you to better control your attention and impulses as well as providing stress relief.
    • Mindfulness can be a way to practice stretching your attention span and bringing your focus back to something.
    • The Smiling Mind app is an excellent free resource to get you started with mindfulness. 

    Smiling Mind

Treating ADHD in adults

The treatment for ADHD will vary between individuals. It will depend on how much of a problem the symptoms are. Approaches include talking therapies and learning how to manage symptoms such as inattention. For some people, the treatment may include medication.

You need approval from a psychiatrist before starting an ADHD medication. Your healthcare provider may be able to get this approval without you needing to have an appointment with the psychiatrist.

ADHD medication — ADHD New Zealand (external link)

Related websites

ADHD New Zealand

Information and support for people with ADHD and their whānau.


Information about ADHD in children.

Clinical review

This content was written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. It has been adapted for Health Information and Services.

Clinical advisers — HealthInfo (external link)

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