New Adult Diagnosis of ADHD

Many adults diagnosed with ADHD will not have had a formal diagnosis of ADHD as children.  What this means from a practical standpoint is that they will have to learn how to manage their symptoms without having had any previous training in ADHD symptom management.

Newly diagnosed adults with ADHD face life challenges that are very different form the challenges faced by their younger ADHD cohorts.  ADHD Adults, who may have previously depended on parents for support performing their activities of daily living, must learn, on their own, how to best organize their day-to-day tasks.  These adults are often learning to negotiate other challenges as well such as how to navigate relationships, how to succeed with the demands of higher education, and how to succeed in their careers. 

This is a tall order for people whose ADHD symptoms have gone unrecognized or untreated.  For some adults with ADHD the ADHD symptoms have been present for a long time but the symptoms did not become a major impairment because of the support of parents or other family members.

These adults with ADHD will need to learn new life skills in order to manage their symptoms.  Most ADHD adults will also likely need medical intervention.   Psychological coaching, medication, cognitive training and EEG biofeedback have all proved useful in the management of adults with ADHD.

So where do you start if you are an adult newly diagnosed with ADHD?  Your first stop should probably be the container store.  No kidding!!    Organizing your personal space will go a long way to moving forward on more lofty goals.  Enlist the help of a relative or friend to help get you started but be careful to not allow your relatives or friends take over the job of  ‘organizing’ you.  You must learn to carry out these organizational tasks on your own.

A common problem that I have seen in adults with ADHD occurs when the ADHD adult has a partner, spouse, parent, or friend who enables the ADHD adult to continue to be disorganized and unproductive.  The partner or friend continuously ‘helps’ the adult with ADHD by continually performing for the ADHD adult the household and life tasks that the ADHD adult should be doing for himself or herself.

Inevitably the partner ends up resenting the one sided arrangement and the relationship ends up in ruin.  If you find that you have a pattern of surrounding yourself with people who do things for you, it may be necessary for you to get professional help from a counselor and coach in order to get you on your way to learning how to navigate your life tasks on your own.

Finding the right job is important for all adults but for adults with ADHD some jobs are a better match than others.  In general jobs that require repetitive tasks will be problematic for adults with ADHD.  Jobs that require that you sit still for long periods are also a poor choice.  Jobs such as firefighting, police work, paramedic work, waitressing, ER physician, Tour Guide, or teacher are probably better jobs than jobs in computer programming, bookkeeping, or accounting.

Finding the right spouse or partner is as important in life as finding the right job.  The best partners for adults with ADHD are patient and can tolerate a bit of disorganization but do not enable to adult to stay perpetually disorganized.  Good partners encourage, motivate, and help Adults with ADHD to complete their tasks and provide the necessary love and support to empower the ADHD adult to succeed.

The most important goal for a newly diagnosed adult with ADHD involves finding the medical and personal support that will facilitate their:

  1. Learning to organize your life
  2. Picking the right life partner of spouse, and
  3. Choosing the correct career.

Once the appropriate support is in place and these three areas are addressed, the life of Adults newly diagnosed with ADHD will be much more manageable.


  1. Great article Tess. The jobs you suggested would be perfect except I have terrible anxiety. Otherwise I would love them. Maybe You could do an article on what characteristics someone with add-pi or someone with SCT (like me) should look for in a job. I absoultey cannot do a job that is repetitive. I thought I would love a job in a bookstore and when I got one I was miserable and could not do the job which consisted of alphebatizing books all day. After 20 minutes my brain was asleep. I also tried being an accounting clerk. No success. I definitely need to move around and I need novelty and stimulation but I have anxiety so I could not be a firefighter. Any suggestions? Also do you know of any good medications for anxiety?

  2. Sometimes just the right amount of action and physical activity (without anxiety producing action or activity) is perfect. A job like event planner, teacher or animal caretaker can work too. I will think about some jobs and try to post an update.

  3. I believe that when you find out about adhd in adulthood you most often already have a partner and have a career of some kind. So it is not a matter of choosing the right one anymore but managing to keep what he or she has.


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