Many people with ADHD aren't aware they have it. They will be aware however that everyday tasks seem more difficult for them than for others. Typical symptoms are finding it hard to focus, missing deadlines and trouble controlling impulses, ranging from impatience to mood swings and outbursts of anger. Other symptoms include:
The above list may be familiar to most people at different times in their lives. If these symptoms occur only occasionally, they probably don't have ADHD. A doctor usually diagnoses when someone’s symptoms cause problems that stop a person working, finding stable housing, or living normally and safely.
Diagnosis of ADHD in adults is often trickier because the same symptoms also occur in mental health conditions, such as anxiety or mood disorders. Many adults with ADHD also have at least one other mental health condition (depression and anxiety are the most common).
Symptoms usually start before the age of 12 and continue into adulthood.
ADHD is a lifelong condition, though it often becomes less marked in adulthood. But it can be effectively managed. The first step is to see a doctor and start seeking a diagnosis.
In the UK, the incidence of ADHD in school-aged children is thought to be between 3 and 5%. In adults it is between 3 and 4%.
We still don’t know for sure. An enormous amount of research is focused on finding the causes of ADHD. Factors that may be involved include:
The risk of a person developing ADHD may increase if:
ADHD has been linked to:
Making the diagnosis normally includes:
ADHD is normally treated through a two-pronged approach:
Doctors might prescribe stimulants for ADHD – which might seem counterintuitive, but has a strong evidence basis for regulating brain activity.
Some ADHD patients might also benefit from antidepressants or other medication, but in every case a doctor is best placed to advise on what to take.
Psychotherapy is indicated for people with ADHD but behavioural therapies can also help manage traits that make people with ADHD disorganised, and teach useful skills as well.
NHS Choices provides information about the signs, symptoms and treatment for depression.
For people with an ADHD diagnoses, this charity provides resources and advocacy.
Aimed at young people, this profile of ADHD explains what it is, how to seek treatment and mental health concerns for people with ADHD in a clear and straightforward way.
When a person demonstrates they’re angry by raising their voice, lashing out with words or actions, or by hurting others, they and people around them will assume they are angry.
When a person uses inaction or withholding when they are angry, people around them might interpret this avoidant behaviour as ‘passive’ aggression. Passive aggression is still an expression of anger.
A person might worry about their anger if they or people around them notice that they’re displaying any of the following behaviours:
Anger is a normal emotion, but it is not always appropriate (or advisable) to just let it out. Feeling irritable, cynical or angry from time to time is normal. But it is not normal for anger to feel overwhelming or out of control, to dread or look forward to losing your temper, or for friends and family to feel unsafe around you.
If a person has been advised that they might lose their job, children, partner, home, driving licence or other privileges or relationships due to their outbursts, they may choose to get help.
Anger can feel uncontrollable when it doesn’t ‘fit’ a setting – for example, feeling very angry at home or school, at a work event, or in public.
All anger is ‘normal’ but not all expressions of anger are acceptable. When anger and outbursts put relationships, work, safety or sense of belonging at risk, it might be a sign that feelings underneath the anger need space and attention. Therapy is a good way to begin dealing with those feelings.
People with chronic health conditions or PTSD and people who’ve been bereaved might be more likely to experience uncontrollable anger. While it’s understandable that circumstances might make it harder to manage emotions, people are obliged to deal with their anger whatever they are going through.
Anger is a natural emotion and causes vary wildly, even in the course of a day. But for most people most of the time, anger is a manageable emotion.
Overwhelming anger might be a sign of chronic stress, or common mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
If your partner is persistently angry or passive aggressive, particularly for petty reasons or no reason at all, it makes relationships stressful and difficult. In a few cases it might make a person feel unsafe if their partner has a short fuse. Therapy is a good place to make decisions about how to cope with the way your partner expresses anger, why you might be choosing to stay with an angry partner, and whether the relationship can survive the anger in it.
It takes a while for children to learn to regulate their emotions, and even adults struggle to keep a lid on it sometimes. But when a young child is angrier than peers or siblings, it can make parents worry that something is wrong with them, or at school, in the family or in the community. When a teenager is angry, it can be hard to know what is ‘normal’. But feeling unsafe, or worrying that your child will hurt you, themselves or others, might lead you to seek help.
Anger is often characterised with physical sensations such as:
Anger might also make a person feel or think of:
Anger problems can resolve of their own accord, but they can also continue or escalate. Leaving anger without treating it means living with the risks, or feeling, it could worsen. If a person is worried about the potential damage their anger could cause, then seeking help can protect them, and those around them.
Therapists deal with anger with almost every, if not every, client they work with. Therapy is a safe place to unpack anger and passive aggression, or look at reasons why it feels impossible to voice anger or express your anger directly. Therapists can give clients a chance to explore the emotions that anger overshadows, many of which will have stayed hidden out of shame or guilt. Therapy can also help clients to better understand and contextualise the circumstances that cause persistent anger for them, such as stress, abuse or ill health.
CBT is a common approach to anger management, and some therapists will specialise either in CBT or in CBT for anger management.
Therapists might be able to advise clients on exercises or techniques to help them slow down when they feel they are about to lose their temper.