Adult ADHD: How does it affect behaviour?

Written by: Dr Utpaul Bose
Published: | Updated: 13/12/2023
Edited by: Laura Burgess

In adults as opposed to children, ADHD presents as a syndrome of extremes. In addition to inattention there is hyper-focusing, which is when an emotion is attached to a task at hand. There is both procrastination and impulsivity; hyperactivity and hypoactivity; disorganisation and perfectionism. The main feature of adults with ADHD is their variability.

This article explains how adult ADHD presents in both men and women and the negative effects that it can have on people’s behaviour if left untreated.


Man with adult ADHD sat on a computer

How does ADHD affect people’s behaviour?

Adult ADHD is not predominately a behavioural disorder as opposed to childhood ADHD. Not all people with ADHD suffer from temper outbursts. In fact, some spend all of their mental energy trying to control their tempers, with the odd occasional leakage. When temper outbursts do occur, they are usually because of frustration due to impatience like missing a train or the person in front of them spending too long in a queue.


Does ADHD have a negative effect on people’s behaviour?

Individuals with ADHD are impulsive; that is they prefer smaller immediate rewards rather than larger long term benefits. Therefore they have financial difficulties, problems organising themselves and with household tasks such as running a family.



Compulsive behaviours

They are also particularly prone to compulsive behaviours, which can range from shopping, masturbating, knitting exercises and risk-taking behaviours such as gambling, extreme sports, risky sex, risky driving (speeding) and shop lifting. Some of them self-medicate with illegal drugs.


How can ADHD be managed?

This can be managed with ADHD medication, life coaching or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The benefits of treatment for ADHD are often much more dramatic than other psychiatric disorders.



Does ADHD present differently in men and in women?

There is a trend amongst women for more internalising symptoms such as:


However, these symptoms can be very prominent amongst men and there are also many women who are sensation seeking risk-takers.


How do you assess someone for adult ADHD?

As children cannot tell you how their brain works, childhood ADHD is diagnosed based on their behaviours. General adult psychiatrists, however, use the mental state examination to diagnose mental disorders. It is therefore appropriate not to use specialised checklists that were designed for children but to diagnose it primarily on the way the individual describes their:

  • mood; 
  • thinking; 
  • behaviours and;
  • sleep.

Don't hesitate to book an appointment with one of Top Doctors leading psychiatrists if you're concerned that you have adult ADHD

Dr Utpaul Bose

By Dr Utpaul Bose

Dr Utpaul Bose is an esteemed consultant forensic psychiatrist with over 25 years of experience working in both inpatient and community settings across South London. He is one of the few forensic psychiatrists in the UK with a specialist interest in the diagnosis and treatment of Adult ADHD. Dr Bose has a wide experience of medico-legal work, having prepared over 1000 psychiatric reports in criminal, civil and immigration proceedings. Thanks to Dr Bose's extensive knowledge, he is able to prepare reports for ADHD, anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and PTSD. 

Dr Bose's research interests include the underdiagnosis of ADHD in forensic services, as it is becoming increasingly linked as a contributory factor to crime. He has also given lectures on the topic of ADHD in adults, and has taught seminars at both University College London and the Institute of Psychiatry. Dr Bose is a member of both the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the General Medical Council. 

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