Why is there a distinction between adult ADD and ADD as it is applied to children? The only other disorder or disease that is labeled for both that comes to mind is diabetes. Certainly ADD in adults and children is caused by the same dysfunction. ADD presents differently in grown-ups and kids. The kids may seem a bit fidgety and hyperactive, show early signs of not following rules in school and generally can’t focus unless it’s a hyper-focus moment on a pet subject. Adults may follow a similar pattern, but it will manifest in different ways. Adults may have difficulty paying the bills on time, the house may be cluttered, and, due to lack of follow-through, they may have trouble staying at one job. Maybe the job gets boring or there’s too much paperwork. The supervisor sitting next to the employee at a long meeting notices tapping pens or pencils, jiggling feet, fidgeting. The same employee may nod in understanding of instructions, but lack the focus and clarity of thought to complete the task. Adult ADD can be just as annoying as that in children, possibly more annoying. Adults are supposed to be able to suck it up and get hold of themselves, to compensate or ship out..
The sad fact is, adults have probably dealt with their issues for so long, it isn’t even apparent that help is needed or available. The adult who trumpets the diagnosis every time a sheaf of papers is lost or there’s a failure to note a date on the calendar can be equally exasperating. There are special classes in employment law for so many disorders that annoyance at reasonable accommodation can certainly be expected in the workplace. ADD, like many problems, can be managed with organization, checklists if necessary, and even coaching. Parents, schools and doctors don’t really give kids a say in whether or not their ADD is treated. Adults usually won’t ask for help, especially if it means that someone has to actually see the messy house or the pile of unpaid bills.
Society raised people, at least until this generation, to be self-sufficient and keep one’s disorders to one’s self. The Oprah generation is all about disclosure, so these are the exuberant younger people you see holding up counters instead of working, sharing their diagnoses with the other annoying adults in the employee lounge. Some theorists believe that these brains are wired for the future, that they are not dysfunctional at all. Whether or not that eases the annoyance factor is a matter of perspective.