Adult ADHD: How it manifests in the workplace

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is commonly understood to be a ‘childhood disorder’. But according to the South African Society of Psychiatrists, 6070% of symptoms continue into adulthood. This is what you need to know about ADHD in the workplace, including signs and tips for management.

ADHD is a neurological disorder that’s usually diagnosed in childhood. Some of the common symptoms of ADHD include being extremely forgetful, struggling with social situations and cues, being distracted and having difficulty focusing.

While these symptoms may be overlooked in a child, having adult ADHD becomes more challenging, as it interferes with the responsibilities an adult needs to uphold, including managing work.

ADHD and work performance

  • Sign: Frequently daydreaming or zoning out during conversations.
    What this looks like: Not paying attention or being disengaged during meetings.
  • Sign: Experiencing boredom often and seeking out more stimulating activities.
    What this could look like: Moving from one task to another, letting incomplete work pile up.
  • Sign: Overlooking details often.
    What this could look like: Frequently making errors and regularly missing deadlines.
  • Sign: Poor organisational skills.
    What this could look like: Struggling to cope with and complete tasks.
  • Symptom: Low self-esteem and hypersensitivity.
    What this could look like: Struggling to handle criticism even when it’s constructive.
  • Symptom: Becoming easily flustered and stressed out.
    What this could look like: Missing work regularly and using sick days often.

Adult ADHD in women

ADHD is underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed in women, with 50% fewer girls than boys being referred for treatment and evaluation. The condition often presents later in females, during puberty. This makes it even more difficult to diagnose, as teenagers naturally experience hormonal fluctuations, which affects their emotions.The social and cultural pressure that women face to perform well makes them more equipped to hide or manage their symptoms. As a result, ADHD may manifest differently in women at home, socially and at work.

Tips to manage ADHD at work

  • Create a supportive work environment by surrounding yourself with the right tools. This could mean taking notes during work or after social meetings, choosing work that motivates you and setting reminders on your phone for tasks.
  • Use your resources. Practise coping techniques as advised by your doctor and take your medication as prescribed. Reach out to support groups such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, reachable on their toll-free ADHD helpline.
  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. This will provide you with the energy you need to focus better, complete your tasks and manage your commitments.
  • Lean on your safe people. If you find socialising difficult, try to keep your circle small. Maintain important connections, such as a close friend or colleague.
  • Conquer time management. Try to finish tasks you don’t enjoy immediately. Ask colleagues or a close friend to hold you accountable with a daily check-in.

Note: If you suspect you have ADHD, talk to your doctor, who can refer you to a mental health expert for an official diagnosis.

For more advice related to mental health, read these helpful articles:

For confidential assistance, contact Life EHS; SMS your name to 31581 and the Care Centre will call you back.

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.


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