Adult ADHD or Lack of Focus?

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Stress. Woman stressed

On a rough day, have you ever felt unfocused, overly scheduled or mentally cluttered and caught yourself saying “I’m so ADHD”?  I know I have, even though I really know better.  We use that terms loosely now, but are there some adults who may have ADHD? When is it just a simple lack of focus due to stress or bad habits and when might it be ADHD? 

Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a NYC based licensed clinical neuropsychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services specializes in ADHD and other learning disorders. She offers some characteristics that when chronic tendencies could mean ADHD and is worth getting screened for it.  

  1. You have NO filter and are highly impulsive.

Being candid, bold, opinionated is one thing and many people with strong personalities possess these traits. If you find you are getting into frequent arguments with family, friends and co-workers who accuse you of not thinking before speaking or acting, then there could be more going on. “You have to look at how certain behaviors impact the general well-being of your life, explains, Dr. Hafeez. If you are unable to keep a job, and 50% of people with ADHD struggle to do so, then it would be wise to get an assessment for ADHD,” she says. “People who find they consistently miss deadlines and simply forget or rush through them without a careful eye on quality of the output are red flags. Of course, there are other psychological considerations and implications but having an ADHD assessment is a good suggests Dr. Hafeez.”

  1. You’re constantly putting out fires.

People with adult ADHD frequently lose important papers, documents on their computers or their personal belongings like cell phone, credit cards, keys etc. They find they consistently miss appointments, arrive to work late, feel disorganized and scattered. This inattention to the details of life leads to being in crisis mode cleaning up your own messes. According to Dr. Hafeez this is a recipe for high stress, poor confidence, second guessing oneself, and low self-esteem. “When you are constantly cleaning up mistakes or apologizing for lateness you start to question your abilities and judgment. This is the uneasiness that may even lead to depression if adult ADHD isn’t properly diagnosed and treated with the help of a trained licensed therapist who specializes in ADHD,” cautions Dr. Hafeez.

  1. You are either easily distracted or off in your own world.

ADHD often has people focusing in two different ways. First, they may have such trouble focusing that they can’t sit through meetings at work, dinners with family or friends, can’t remain engaged in conversations and just feel antsy and always onto the next thing. The second way ADHD impacts focus is where they are so immersed and deeply focused in something that everything else around them is non-existent. “Someone who is in this hyperfocused state can easily lose track of time, their kids, and other commitments because when you have ADHD, nothing is more important than what you are on hyperfocused on,” explains Dr. Hafeez. She goes on to say that people with ADHD feel they “lost time” because they were focused on one thing for so long and didn’t realize where the time went. 

  1. You feel like there’s never enough time for anything.

This is because people with ADHD typically overschedule themselves and under-estimate the time it takes for certain tasks. Time management is a big challenge for people with adult ADHD. They often add to their anxiety by creating unrealistic to-do lists then struggle to get things accomplished because they’re distracted. Anxiety is often an overlapping condition, as are obsessive compulsive traits. “There’s a self-defeating cycle going on where they take on too much then feel inadequate when things aren’t completed. They frequently say that there aren’t enough hours in the day,” says Dr. Hafeez. 

It is important to really do your research and be honest with your overall quality of life. Then seek out a professional who can offer a detailed assessment which is the first step to diagnosing and effectively treating ADHD. “It is never just one thing. When I offer a thorough assessment, using not just a very comprehensive interview but a complex battery of standardized tests that measures brain functioning, I discover loads of information the patient never saw coming, and so the treatment I design is accurate, long lasting, and can bring about lasting change,” Dr. Hafeez says.

About the Doctor:

Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical neuropsychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens. 

Dr. Hafeez masterfully applies her years of experience connecting psychological implications to address some of today’s common issues such as body image, social media addiction, relationships, workplace stress, parenting and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…). In addition, Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse. Dr. Hafeez often shares her credible expertise to various news outlets in New York City and frequently appears on CNN and Dr.Oz.

Connect with her via twitter @comprehendMind or 


  1. Annemarie LeBlanc says

    I think I am more stressed than lacking focus. What I really need right now is a good long vacation in a place far away from the urban jungle. Some quiet time, just a little quiet time (like one year) would do wonders for me.

  2. says

    I have always said I had Adult ADHD and looking at these characteristics it might be true. I dont need to get diagnosis because I know I dont have anything severe with these traits, it just being an adult can make you scatterbrain anyways.

  3. My Teen Guide says

    Wow. This is such an eye opening post. There is indeed a fine line between lack of focus and adult ADHD. I usually find myself always feeling that there is not enough time for me to do what I have to do. I don’t know if I am just overloading myself with work or I am not focusing enough.

  4. says

    I have heard a lot of interesting things about people who suffer from Adult ADHD. My ex says that she suffered from it. I always wondered whether there was something she could do about it all.

  5. Pam says

    I have adult ADHD and it can be a struggle. I have a hard time staying on task, especially when I’m not really interested in the first place.

  6. Cheryl says

    My son had recently been diagnosed with ADHD and sometimes I wonder if I don’t share some of his symptoms.

  7. says

    I was not aware of such kind of issue. It will be more helpful if you tell why it happens? and Is there any early stage to get rid of it rather than the later solution?

  8. NYC Single Mom says

    interesting symptoms for Adult ADHD, As much I would like to think I have adult ADHD, I dont have symptom # 1. there is nothing impulsive about my behavior.

  9. says

    I am married to an ADHDer and I have 2 ADHD boys ;) This is a great general list of things to watch for in yourself if you suspect you may have ADHD! I love that awareness is spreading for a disorder that has (in previous decades) been so widely misunderstood <3

  10. says

    We’ve been dealing with these issues with my son recently. I sometimes wonder from this experience if I may have it myself but was never diagnosed as a child. That being said it probably is that I take on too many responsibilities rather than it actually being ADHD but than again that is one of the symptoms you mentioned. thanks for the insights.

  11. says

    Honestly I didn’t know to much about adult adhd and your post has helped me understand how this works. I have several friends who have some kind of adhd. They have learned how to handle and over come.

  12. says

    I was diagnosed with adult ADHD after many years of people thinking I had this. I went through the tests to get the diagnosis when my oldest daughter was diagnosed with it. It is good to know about this and also to get medication to help with focus.

  13. says

    I know a couple of adults with ADHD. They were so relieved when they were actually diagnosed and not left wondering what was wrong with them. It’s so important to get the proper treatment.

  14. robin rue says

    My son has add, so I feel confident that I know and understand the signs. I would definitely seek professional advice and get tested if I thought I had it as an adult.

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