What Does Undiagnosed ADHD Can Look Like in Successful Adults?

January 15, 2024
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What Does Undiagnosed ADHD Can Look Like in Successful Adults?

With recent awareness, more people understand that ADHD can be present during the adult life, regardless of success in life, academic achievements or profession. While assessment often takes place in childhood, adult ADHD diagnosis is more nuanced.

Like any other diagnosis, there can be endless examples of someone suffering from ADHD without appropriate treatment or diagnosis. Today, we will cover some of the more up-to-date examples:

Undiagnosed ADHD in professionals

A young professional may recently obtain a new position that they always aspired to. However, they are finding themselves anxious and stressed. They are now staying late at work, not being able to wake up in time or they may work over the weekend on the days off to compensate. For many years, they are known for starting work late and finishing late. The person may not take the annual leave, or book everything at the last minute.

A young professional sleeping

The feedback received from the manager is that they are focused on projects or tasks that are not important to the company. They are in constant dislike of administrative tasks; and they find themselves thriving in situations where they can find a last-minute solution. 

During university, they may have struggled or remember to be at risk of dropping out. However, despite all the difficulties, they managed to secure good jobs. Recently, they may came across a colleague being diagnosed with ADHD or reading an article about this condition and started to identify some of the symptoms. The suffering person may be described by others as very talented, creative, or good in coding, however, when it comes to planning ahead or managing others, they often find it difficult.

A long list of code wating to be solved

Undiagnosed ADHD in Students

A teenager student struggling at school during their final exams, underperforming in the mock tests in particular in science subjects: such as Maths, Physics.  All along the primary/elementary school, they were known as one of the best in the class, bright, but now they are falling behind with the increased volume of homework. They are always late with their homework and assignments, unless having substantial support. They start underperforming at school despite the family and teacher describing them to be bright. During the mock exams, they may underperform, and everyone was surprised.

A student sitting in bed and studying late in the night, struggling with time management

Some may be able to compensate with exceptional intelligence and get to the next stage in life, at the university of choice. However, in the first academic year, they start falling behind for the first time in their life, due to an increased amount of work, essays and time management. They start questioning themselves, although before they used to be top of the class.

A teacher, or colleague may notice they are drifting off during the classroom or staying quiet. A friend may mention about inattentive ADHD, and after reading about the condition they started to identify some of the symptoms. They may be in the process of repeating a year or resitting the exams and the confidence levels diminish.

A student feeling stressed due to falling behind with assignments..

Time management is problematic, finding themselves distracted in other activities. On some occasions, the person can become depressed or anxious as they are falling short compared with their peers.

Undiagnosed ADHD In Business and Entrepreneurs

A well-established and accomplished businessperson, being successful and recognised in the industry. They may be starting to become anxious or feeling to fall behind. However, this time cannot find the cause. A friend or a family member may be recently diagnosed with ADHD. In their situation, never considered to suffer from such condition, because they have always been successful. Some may already have tried therapy or treatment with limited success. On further exploration, the support team may be less for them, or the other half, spouse, or business partner may not be able to help as much as they used to.

A worried businessperson wondering what is going to be in the future

Maybe they have a higher volume of emails, the paperwork they need to deal with, or the need to micromanage situations. On some occasions, they report that nothing much has changed, and everything seems to become boring. Regardless, there is a sense of anxiety, and few can understand them. Some may report feeling better when they are outside of the city environment and enjoying their hobbies in the open nature. 

Business man looking to escape the city to decrease the anxiety

This person is naturally very good at solving urgent situations, innovating and operating in stressful environments. Many from the outside would see them as someone they would like to aspire to. A diagnosis of ADHD may be seen by others as uncommon in this particular group and is often misunderstood.


Some people may live their entire life unknowingly with ADHD, and still achieve success. This can often be possible with adequate family support, delegating admin tasks, or the nature of their job such as involving creativity, risk taking, flexible schedules, or spending substantial time in nature. On the other hand, the four letters of a diagnosis name, can have limitations in understanding someone's journey.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, with recent studies indicate a genetic transmittance factor. Everyone is different, and considerations need to be in place for personal values, social factors, cultural aspects and psychological matters. Success may not be measured by what you accomplish, but by overcoming the obstacles encountered during the journey.

A happy woman on trails in the mountains achieving success and having a good ballance

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Entrepreneurship and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a large-scale study involving the clinical condition of ADHD | SpringerLink

How childhood ADHD-like symptoms predict selection into entrepreneurship and implications on entrepreneurial performance - ScienceDirect

ADHD and Academic Success in University Students: The Important Role of Impaired Attention - PMC (nih.gov)

Genetics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder | Molecular Psychiatry (nature.com)

Genetic nurture versus genetic transmission of risk for ADHD traits in the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study | Molecular Psychiatry (nature.com)


The information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content, and information, contained in this article are for general information purposes only and do not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional.

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