Signs You May Have High-Functioning ADHD by Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on March 18, 2019 Sources © 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Swimmer Michael Phelps has won 23 Olympic gold medals. He has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For many, the stereotype of people with ADHD is someone who has trouble concentrating and does poorly in school. But many people with ADHD strive for and live highly productive, independent lives. This may be called high-functioning ADHD.

This term has been used to describe people with ADHD who have a normal or high IQ. It’s also been used to describe people who have a mild form of the disorder, and people who may have a stronger form, but are able to function well in certain areas of their life.What they tend to have in common is the ability to use strategies to overcome some of their symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

The signs of ADHD are the same for everyone. You may not have all of them, but adult ADHD symptoms may include:

  • Being impulsive or restless
  • Being disorganized
  • Missing deadlines
  • Putting off tasks
  • Hyper focus: Concentrating on one thing so hard, you lose track of others
  • Having trouble multitasking
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Forgetting meetings or social engagements
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • A hard time reading

Everyone has moments of forgetting a meeting or missing a deadline or an important task. It’s when these things become habits or problems that you may wonder if you have ADHD. People with high-functioning ADHD manage to work around some of the symptoms or use them to their benefit. Because of this, they often go undiagnosed into adulthood.

They may rely on their hyper focus — ability to focus on one thing — to get things done. They may be highly creative and may develop activities to work around their tendency to procrastinate. They may have the energy to pull through at the last minute, but at the same time they may feel a project could have been better if they hadn’t waited until the last minute.

Adults with high-functioning ADHD may find careers that play to their strengths, but still face challenges in their personal lives.

They may have depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses. It’s often when seeking help for these other conditions that they are diagnosed with ADHD.

Sometimes adults discover they have ADHD when seeking treatment for their child with the condition. No one knows exactly what causes ADHD, but it does tend to run in families.


Treatment and Diagnosis

People with high-functioning ADHD are more likely not to be diagnosed as a child. This may be because they are less likely to be disruptive or have behavior issues. But if you get diagnosed as an adult, it means you had the disorder all along.

If you want to find out if you have ADHD, there isn’t one test to diagnose you. Usually the doctor will ask you the history of your symptoms and give you a physical exam. They may also take a personal history and give you a psychological test.

If the doctor determines that you have ADHD, they may suggest treatment including medication, counseling, behavioral therapy, or a combination of all three. Your medication will likely include methylphenidate (brand names Ritalin, Concerta, etc.) or amphetamine (Adderall, Vyvanse, etc.), which are stimulants that balance the chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters.

Treatment can help, even if you’re high-functioning. One study followed five college-educated adults with professional jobs who had ADHD and were prescribed methylphenidate. The subjects reported that the medication made them less impatient, cranky, and impulsive, and they said they didn’t need to constantly self-monitor to get tasks done. Some also reported less forgetfulness.

Counseling and behavioral therapy will help you to:

  • Improve your time management
  • Reduce your impulsiveness
  • Improve your problem-solving skills
  • Improve your relationships with family, friends, and co-workers
  • Work on your self-esteem
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on June 29, 2020
© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *