Signs of high-functioning ADHD in adults


6 Signs of High-Functioning ADHD in Adults

High-functioning ADHD may not present with the traditional symptoms that one might expect, making it challenging for adults to realize they have the condition.

Understanding the signs of high-functioning ADHD and seeking appropriate help can lead to beneficial strategies for managing symptoms and thriving in various life aspects. This article will uncover what high functioning ADHD is, explore the signs in adults and specifically in females, and delve into treatment options.

What is High-Functioning ADHD?

High-functioning ADHD is not considered a formal psychiatric diagnosis.

High-Functioning ADHD is a term used for individuals who exhibit symptoms of ADHD but are able to maintain adequate or above-average functioning in daily life. These individuals may excel in academic, professional, or social settings, often masking their ADHD symptoms and being seen as "overachievers". 

High-functioning ADHD can look different in different people.

For example, some people with high-functioning ADHD:

  • Develop strategies to compensate for symptoms
  • Have mild symptoms that don’t interfere greatly in daily life or work
  • Experience only some symptoms but not others

One study found that adults with significant ADHD symptoms who achieve professional success do so largely thanks to compensation strategies. Because these people are high achievers despite their symptoms, they may not even realize that they have ADHD.

However, putting in extra mental effort to find daily workarounds can be stressful and exhausting.

Who is more likely to have high-functioning ADHD?

Anyone, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. can be impacted by ADHD.

However, females are more likely than males to be able to mask their ADHD symptoms and to find coping mechanisms to compensate for their ADHD.

This leads to an under-diagnosis of ADHD in females, and women being diagnosed with ADHD later in life. 

Research has also shown a link between having ADHD and entrepreneurship. One study in particular points to a genetic link between a dopamine receptor gene that is associated with having ADHD and a tendency to be an entrepreneur. If you’ve reached success by taking big risks or starting your own company, it could be a sign of high-functioning ADHD.

6 Signs of High-Functioning ADHD:

1. People refer to you as a workaholic

Are you one to work late into the evenings and on the weekends and find it hard to take a day off? This may be because of your dedication and passion, or because you have to put in the extra time and effort to get your work completed due to your ADHD symptoms.

2. You consider yourself a great multitasker 

Are you one of those people who is always doing multiple things at once? Like if you're watching TV, you also have to be scrolling on your phone. Or if you're on a work meeting, you're also checking your emails. This can indicate difficulty in concentrating on one task and stimulation seeking, which can be signs of ADHD.  

3. You consider yourself a perfectionist

Many with ADHD, especially females, whether they realized it or not, developed ways to compensate for their challenges. This may have included constantly striving for perfection so as to fit in with everyone else. While it's great to maintain high standards for yourself and your work, perfectionism can lead to low self esteem.

4. You are easily exhausted by social interaction

Those with ADHD may find social interaction difficult and exhausting if they are spending energy trying to mask their symptoms. If they've been bullied or ridiculed in the past for being "different" in social situations, they may now compensate by putting in an extra effort to monitor and control their behavior, which can be draining.

5. You work best under pressure

Do you tend to perform best when the pressure is on, or when there is urgency to the task you're completing? Feeling a sense of urgency stimulates the brain, which is beneficial for those with the condition. If you’re in a high-pressure profession, it could be one reason why you’re successful.

6. You're an entrepreneurial risk-taker

As mentioned previously, research suggests a link between ADHD and entrepreneurship. So if you don't like being told what to do and have an inclination for working for yourself, this could be a sign of high-functioning ADHD.

    Treatment Options for High-Functioning ADHD:

    You may have noticed that some of these compensation strategies are actually beneficial! However, people often find relief when they receive a diagnosis and can find helpful ways to manage symptoms.

    1. Medication:

    • Prescription medications can help manage symptoms effectively.

    2. Therapy:

    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy or ADHD coaching can provide strategies for managing symptoms and improving organizational and time-management skills.

    3. Support Groups:

    • Joining a support group, whether in-person or online, can connect individuals with others who have similar experiences and challenges.

    4. Lifestyle Modifications:

    • Changes such as a structured schedule, organized living and workspace, and regular physical activity can significantly improve symptoms.

    5. Supplements

    *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  


      Recognizing the symptoms of high-functioning ADHD is crucial for adults to seek the help and support they need. Understanding the unique signs, especially in females, and exploring various treatment options, can lead to effective management of symptoms and a more structured, organized life.