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Understanding What ADHD Is and Isn’t Later in Life

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by hyperactivity, inability to pay attention and impulsivity.

It is often acknowledged as a disorder that primarily arises in childhood. However, Emma Mahony, author of Better Late Than Never, was diagnosed with ADHD in 2017 alongside her son.

In her book, Mahony delves into the topic, dispelling misconceptions and outlining the ways in which the condition can present itself in adulthood.

In addition, she shares some advice to help readers survive and thrive after a midlife diagnosis.

How to Recognise the Traits of ADHD

There are three primary traits of ADHD.

In order to qualify for a diagnosis, the traits must not be explained by another mental disorder.

Inattentive Presentation

This trait is characterised by an inability to stay focussed and is assessed with the questions indicated below.

    • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities
    • Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities
    • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
    • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g loses focus, becomes side-tracked)
    • Often has trouble organising tasks and activities
    • Often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as homework)
    • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g books, tools, wallets, keys paperwork)
    • Is often easily distracted
    • Is often forgetful in daily activities


The presence of this trait is indicated by a score of:

    • Six or more, for children up to the age of sixteen
    • Five or more, for ages seventeen plus

Hyperactive and Impulsive Presentation

    • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat
    • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
    • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adults or adolescents may be limited to feeling restless)
    • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly
    • Is often “on the go”, acting as if “driven by a motor”
    • Often talks excessively
    • Often blurts out an answer before the question has been completed
    • Often has trouble waiting his / her turn
    • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g butts into conversation or games)


The presence of this trait is indicated by a score of:

    • Six or more, for children up to the age of sixteen
    • Five or more, for ages seventeen plus

Combined Presentation

Combined presentation refers to:

    • Children under sixteen who present symptoms of six or more traits from both lists
    • Adults seventeen and over who present symptoms of five or more traits from both lists


Extract from Better Late Than Never by Emma Mahony, Trigger Publishing, £11.99.


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