See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 25, Issue 1

Adults Can Have ADHD, Too

Newly recognized, adult ADHD threatens the success and well-being of 4 percent of adults. A combination of treatments can help the afflicted lead a more productive life

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Zoë Kessler went through the first four decades of her life thinking something must be wrong with her. When she was a child, Kessler could not understand why she kept misbehaving. “I spent a ton of time in the hall for talking and being the class clown,” she says. “My mom couldn't control me, and I couldn't control me.” In adulthood, her behavior improved, but she was so unfocused she had trouble figuring out what she should be doing minute to minute, and she struggled to complete the projects she had once been so excited about starting.

Then, at age 47, Kessler was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). She realized that a lot of the traits that had long made her feel out of place were actually symptoms of a condition that could be treated. “I've had to rethink my entire life,” she says. “Why didn't anyone tell me?”

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