5 Signs of Undiagnosed ADHD

Signs of Undiagnosed ADHD

While awareness of ADHD is on the rise, many adults remain undiagnosed. What are the signs of an undiagnosed ADHD, and more importantly, why is it crucial to seek diagnosis? The answers and more in this article. 

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Written by

Tayler Hackett

Mental Health Writer and ADHD Expert
In this Article
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What Can Happen When ADHD is Not Diagnosed

Many adults may have a hard time when they receive their ADHD diagnosis. Factors like financial constraints, accessibility of mental health services, or a lack of awareness, can hinder someone from confronting Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder head on 😢. Many people with ADHD tend to be left out in the dark when it comes to recognizing their struggles and having the proper treatment options to have a successful life.

When you let untreated ADHD persist, the struggle may become harder and harder, affecting different aspects of your life. Left unmanaged, other mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders, depression, or even substance use, can develop along with this neurodivergent condition.

Having an ADHD diagnosis is essential to make your daily functioning more bearable. Though an official ADHD diagnosis cannot make symptoms and struggles disappear instantly, it can give you a better understanding of yourself, and therefore, you become better equipped to manage your condition. When you have ADHD, it means that certain things will always be more difficult for you. However, your symptoms will become more manageable with proper treatment and support 🤗.

From an Unknown Struggle to Having an Official ADHD Diagnosis

For almost 29 years, I have struggled with things I couldn’t understand well. I had plenty of relationship problems, run ins with poor school performance, and I reached the point where my self-esteem got so low that I didn't want to face the world anymore 😭. The worst part was that I was struggling with something that I did not know about. The vicious cycle of struggles-confusion-struggles continued until I decided enough was enough.

When I realized that whatever I was going through was already bothering the way I think, feel, and behave, I finally consulted a mental health professional. 🧑‍⚕️ After years of not knowing what was happening, I finally had an answer: I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

I felt mixed emotions when I got my ADHD diagnosis. I felt happy, relieved, sad, and angry all at once. But then, more questions popped inside my head, what is Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (I didn't know it back then), do I have a mental illness (No, definitely not), or will my family or friends be supportive people when I tell them (I'm glad they were).

While I was still processing everything inside my ADHD brain, the struggles I experienced suddenly made sense. I now acknowledge these difficulties and have accepted that they are not my fault. When these symptoms of ADHD happen again, I'm now more equipped with the right mindset, attitude, and approach to face them 👌.

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Possible ADHD Symptoms You Are Already Struggling With

After my official diagnosis, I researched what my health care providers told me. They have provided some helpful information about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but I have to supplement them with my own research. Aside from that, they always say that ADHD is complex, and what may be a struggle for me might just come easy for someone with the same adult ADHD. So I looked for other factors and similar symptoms that can affect someone with ADHD.

When you are kept in the dark about your ADHD diagnosis, your struggles and difficulties sometimes don't make sense. There are moments when you feel that you are easily distracted and have poor time management skills ⏲️. I've been there, too. I knew I needed to change my ways to address these issues.

The same way goes for people who have yet to be diagnosed with ADHD. They continue to experience several symptoms that bother them daily but are unaware that it is already a part of their mental health condition. Here are some of the signs and symptoms that may indicate that you or someone you know has ADHD:

Losing Interest is an On-Going Thing

Have you ever wondered why you had so much interest in playing baseball when you were a kid 🏀, then shifted to collecting stones and precious pebbles when you were an adolescent, and now you can't find the right hobby that would last? Many adults with ADHD can find it difficult to sustain their interests, which can be a significant source of low self-esteem.

Losing interest in your hobbies

Most adults with undiagnosed ADHD do their best to be good at something, only to find out later that their drive to pursue this interest has dramatically diminished. I find it hard to accept that after getting into activities or hobbies I thought I'd want, it will become inevitable for me to drop them later on. It’s frustrating that after just a few tries or a couple of days, I would lose interest in these activities eventually. 

The struggle of sustaining interest can be one of the many symptoms of ADHD a person can experience. It is not limited to childhood ADHD, where their interests are often short-lived. Even if you are an adult, sustaining interests can still be a struggle.

Mismanaging Finances and Money Matters

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can also affect you financially. In fact, there may be times when some symptoms of ADHD can make you spend more on something 💰. Several studies suggest that impulsivity, one of the primary symptoms of ADHD, can often result in money management problems. However, it is not just hyperactivity & impulsivity that limits your bank account from growing, but also a combination of other symptoms that make it hard for you to save money. Let’s look into those other factors a bit more. 

The struggle to manage money

Dopamine, a brain chemical that functions as a neurotransmitter, is known to be affected when you have ADHD. Reports say some people with this neurodivergent condition have higher levels of dopamine transporters, which means they might remove dopamine more quickly than normal. This can lead to dopamine deficiency and result in people with undiagnosed ADHD having difficulty controlling their spending habits. But, how? 

You see, we may often tell ourselves that we need to buy something because buying something we want can give us that dopamine boost that our brains need. The problem is, the things we want (and buy) are usually things that we don’t need. 

Aside from impulse buying, the “ADHD tax” can also keep us from having smooth-sailing financial habits. No worries, ADHD tax is NOT a payment you make to the government because you have a neurodivergent condition. Rather, it is the extra cost we need to spend to accommodate our condition. For instance, we may need to pay for lost items or buy them twice because we forget that we already have them at home. Late charges can also be a part of the ADHD tax if we miss paying on the due date because of our inattentive symptoms.

Procrastination and the Drive to Keep us Going

I often have low self-esteem and motivation because I have the tendency to procrastinate. Don’t get me wrong, I may have an immense urge to start doing something 💪; the problem is, I usually do NOT have enough energy to finish these tasks. Only when the deadline is near or I enter my hyperfocus mode will I have the drive to push through.  There are moments when I question myself : am I just lazy? Am I really just stubborn?  Now I realize that my procrastination can be linked with my ADHD.

Doing things the last minute

Many young adults may continue to press hard on themselves when they don't understand their struggles, especially if they have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Because we don’t understand what’s happening, we risk doing things that don’t help. And the more we go against our ADHD brain, the more we have difficulty staying focused, getting things done, or achieving our goals. The possible result? We just procrastinate! 

Many adults with ADHD seem to have difficulty being productive because of procrastination. It can be hard to find the motivation to do anything when we constantly procrastinate and misunderstand the interests of our ADHD brain. We may have all the intention to start something, but procrastination can get in the way of our productivity 😥.

Not Remembering Details, Big or Small

One of the ADHD symptoms I know nothing about before my ADHD diagnosis involves my working memory. Working memory helps us remember things in the short term, for things like grocery shopping, making a phone call, or even remembering what we need to do for the day. The goal is to remember things long enough to accomplish a task. 

ADHD Misplacing things

Now, ADHD can affect our working memory. Take me, for instance. I always misplace important objects and finding them can sometimes take up most of the time of my day.

Aside from the anxiety I get looking for things misplaced, not being able to remember essential things can also take a toll on our day-to-day lives. I've missed deadlines 📆 for work, projects, and even bill payments because I forgot about them until it was too late. I had difficulties with these things for the longest time. After my ADHD diagnosis, I realized that I need help managing my memory so I can be more productive with my time.

Making careless mistakes is also a common sign of ADHD in adults. Because we have problems with our short-term memory, we often forget things we need to do, leading us to make mistakes. Missing details and instructions from bosses or colleagues can also affect our performance and make us susceptible to committing errors. We sometimes must compensate for our work and exert more effort to avoid making careless mistakes.

When Everything Else Feels Like Falling Apart

Without an official diagnosis, you won't know the ADHD symptoms, how it can affect adults in their everyday lives, the course of treatment it would take to have a more manageable life, and the right people to talk to to get help. All you know is that everything feels like it's falling apart, and you don't understand why. 

You feel like you are underachieving

Undiagnosed and untreated ADHD may make you contemplate life as a whole. 

All sorts of ideas may run through your brain. And to tell you the truth, it won't just be non-stop questions that will cause you to struggle; environmental factors will also add to your problems. These issues might contribute to the development of depression, more anxiety, or even substance abuse.

But we can avoid all of these if you just take the first step to get help. After my ADHD diagnosis, I realized that many of my problems were just symptoms of my undiagnosed condition. And once I started receiving effective treatments, things slowly started falling into place, and I was able to manage my symptoms better. I understood most, if not all, of my ADHD-related problems and why they were happening. I also found the right support system that helped me through my journey in managing my disorder ❤️.

The First Step To Treat ADHD

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the first step in treating ADHD is to get a proper diagnosis from qualified mental health professionals 🧑‍⚕️. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the mental health conditions that does not go away on its own. It is a chronic condition that can last well into adulthood and can only be managed and treated.

Many people ask about the importance of getting a diagnosis - is it really necessary?  Let me tell you that it was a life-changing moment for me. It gave me clarity and a sense of direction on what I needed to do next. I could understand why I was having difficulties with certain things, why some of my coping mechanisms were not working, and other things.

Another important thing when you have ADHD is acceptance. After talking with your doctor and confirming that you have adult ADHD, it is important to embrace your condition 🤗. It is not something that you can just ignore or brush off. ADHD will be part of your life from here on out; the sooner you accept that, the better. Once you do that, you can start seeking help and treatment for your condition. It can save you from having comorbid conditions, such as substance misuse, mood disorders, depression, or anxiety.

ADHD can be complex


Having untreated ADHD can pose many problems in your work or school life and your personal relationships 👩‍❤️‍👨. It can sometimes make you feel isolated, alone, and misunderstood. When we don't know what we are struggling with, the tendency to self-medicate and use different coping mechanisms can be high. This may or may not solve your struggles instantaneously, but it can also lead to more problems and worsen your condition.

Adults with ADHD often face many challenges, but it is essential to remember that you are not alone. Some people understand what you are going through and can help you along the way. Getting an official confirmation from your mental health professional and knowing more about ADHD in adults is essential. Several treatments, like behavioral treatments, medications, and therapy sessions, may be offered, but it is still up to your discretion on what will work best for you.

Signs of Undiagnosed ADHD: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are there many adults who have undiagnosed ADHD?

There are many cases of undiagnosed ADHD. The reason for this is that it's very difficult to diagnose ADHD in adults, as symptoms change over time and can be mistaken for other conditions such as anxiety or depression.

What is the importance of having an official ADHD diagnosis? 

The importance of having an ADHD diagnosis in adults is that it helps you understand yourself and your behavior better. You'll know what you're dealing with, and you'll also be able to find ways to improve your life.

What may happen if ADHD is left undiagnosed and untreated?

The most concerning consequence is that the person will not receive the treatment they need. For example, if they have been struggling with symptoms of ADHD for years, but their symptoms are not recognized as such, then that person may not receive any help from a doctor. This could lead to a worsening of their symptoms and more severe problems. The second possible consequence is that the people around this person will be affected by his or her behavior and actions.

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