Why is ADHD not diagnosed until adulthood in some people?

Structures can work… until they don’t.

Dr. J. Faye Dixon talks about how the gap between the demands of life and one’s coping skills can cause a person to recognize their ADHD – in their 20s, 30s, 40s and older.

Transcription follows this 2:58 minute video

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Transcription Lightly Edited

Well, as we get older the demands in our environment increase and supports like family, teachers decrease. And what may happen is that symptoms that were kind of managed because parents were doing a nice job of providing structure, teachers were doing a nice job of providing structures.

As we get older, those resources may become less, so that symptoms that were there very early on now begin to present difficulties.

I work with medical students and I have had medical students who got a diagnosis of ADHD not until, you know, they were well into their 20s. They tell me, well I was always disorganized, I was always kind of inattentive, but I could read anything and remember 100 percent of it, so I could go in and I could ace the tests.

But as I got into, you know, more professional studies where I had to coordinate four or five different things at the same time, suddenly I was losing track. You know, I couldn’t remain focused or I would forget, oh, I need to do this thing.

So as we get older, the demands in the environment increase and often the kind of supports that may have helped us when we were younger fade away.

About the Speaker

J. Faye Dixon, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. She has a long history of work in child psychopathology, specifically the areas of depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD and learning differences in children. Currently, Dr. Dixon is the director of clinical management and community outreach for the AIR (Attention, Impulsivity & Regulation) Lab. She is responsible the clinical and diagnostic fidelity of the AIR Lab research. She also has spent many years educating and training psychology graduate students, interns, and post-doctoral fellows as well as medical students, residents and child psychiatry fellows.