What It Can Be Like for an Adult to Live with ADHD in Today’s World

As kids with the disorder grow up, often their symptoms accompany and evolve with them. This is one woman’s story.


If you picture a room of unruly kids bouncing off the walls when you hear the term “attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)”—you’re not alone. ADHD has three main symptoms, including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, and it’s not something only children (over 6 million in the United States) deal with. An estimated 11 million adults in the U.S. struggle with ADHD, too.

As kids with ADHD grow up, often their disorder continues and evolves with them. (It does not suddenly develop in adulthood.) But rather than being disruptive in the classroom, adults with this disorder might often forget to return calls, have trouble sitting still, or space out when a loved one is speaking to them. Courtney S.*, a 30-year-old woman from Wisconsin who has been living with ADHD her whole life, recalls the evolution of her symptoms in a recent interview with Marie Claire.

Growing up with ADHD

As a kid, her teachers grew frustrated with her behavior in the classroom and told her parents, “Courtney is really disruptive in class and can’t focus.” Sadly, these sentiments aren’t uncommon within the education community, where there can be a lack of understanding of how to accommodate students with ADHD, and what causes the disorder. In a recent report, 1 in 4 public school teachers believe ADHD is a result of bad parenting.

Courtney’s parents had her evaluated for ADHD, and her family doctor officially diagnosed her at the age of 8. But even after her doctor started Courtney on a treatment plan, she still struggled with her ADHD symptoms. For example, as Courtney got older, she struggled in social situations. This is something ADHD patients tend to have trouble with because they struggle with things like inattention or interrupting during a conversation.

Makes sense when you think about it. Not being able to pay attention, or cutting friends off mid-conversation, can make them feel unheard.

Transitioning to adulthood with ADHD

When Courtney started at Bradley University to study broadcast journalism in 2008, she continued to struggle with ADHD symptoms. Her new schedule, as she transitioned to college and adjusted to a new routine, started to overwhelm her because she couldn’t use the same coping mechanisms.

courtney at college tv station
Courtney in a video editing room.

As adolescents age into adulthood, certain symptoms, like hyperactivity, may become less noticeable or present in other ways. “Girls with ADHD are often overlooked because they don’t exhibit the typical hyperactive symptoms that are most commonly associated with this condition,” notes Dr. Theresa Cerulli**, a psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center based in Boston. “Therefore, many women internalize their core ADHD symptoms as a personality trait or flaw, which can lead to a delayed diagnosis or even a mis-diagnosis, preventing women from getting the support they need.”

After graduating in 2012, Courtney began working at a TV station in Peoria, Illinois. At work, her symptoms seemed to be more under control, although she later realized her ADHD symptoms were still affecting her at home and in social settings. “A lot of things would slip my mind. Things like forgetting to make appointments with my doctor, or not responding to family and friends, which left them concerned or worried. I would often lose my keys or cell phone, making me late to work,” she remembers. By 2015, she was missing bill payments or forgetting to buy food for her cat, Penny Lane.

courtney on the job
Courtney, operating the camera at work.

Talking to a doctor and discussing a treatment plan

“Things got to the point that I knew I had to do something,” she says. So she met with her psychiatrist who reevaluated her and confirmed her previous diagnosis of ADHD. She discussed her disorder with the doctor who recommended a treatment plan that included Vyvanse®(lisdexamfetamine dimesylate), a prescription medicine used for the treatment of ADHD in patients six years and older.

“My psychiatrist explained that Vyvanse may make me feel jittery and she recommended I take it in the morning to decrease the possibility that I would have trouble falling asleep at night. She worked with me to make sure I felt comfortable in the decision to try Vyvanse. It’s important for doctors to go over all the potential risks and benefits, and explain that Vyvanse is not for weight loss and it is not known if it is safe and effective for the treatment of obesity.”

Doctors will ask if you have ever abused or been dependent on alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription medicines since Vyvanse is a federally controlled stimulant medicine that can be abused or lead to dependence.

Doctors also want to know about any history and family history of heart conditions, and suggest regular blood pressure and heart rate checkups. Patients taking Vyvanse should tell their doctor right away if they have chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting while taking Vyvanse.

Scroll below for additional Important Safety Information, including Boxed WARNING for Abuse and Dependence. Click here for Medication Guide and discuss with your doctor.

Since she’s been on this treatment plan, Courtney feels like her ADHD symptoms are more manageable. Along with finding the right medication, she also made lifestyle adjustments that help her, including:

  • Utilizing technology (like her phone calendar) which seems to help her stay organized so tasks don’t slip her mind. She says this strategy has been especially helpful while working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Leaning into her support system, which consists of her brother, friends, boyfriend, and especially her parents who always encourage her to take a breath when she is stressed.
  • Seeing her psychiatrist regularly (even virtually, if necessary) to discuss her treatment plan and any concerns about her disorder.

    ADHD in today’s world

    Especially now, in the wake of the pandemic, Courtney recognizes the importance of prioritizing her health and wellness by keeping in close contact with her doctor. She stresses that for her, it’s been important to be open to extra support.

    Courtney hopes that her story will inspire other ADHD patients to seek help and open up about their own journeys with the disorder. She also wants others struggling to know it’s vital to be their own health advocate and work with their doctor to find the right treatment plan for them, which for Courtney took nearly 15 years.

    Dr. Cerulli echoes Courtney’s sentiments. “Adults often internalize their ADHD symptoms rather than seek professional help.”

    “I would encourage anyone who may be silently suffering to reach out to their doctor or other healthcare provider. If youve been diagnosed with ADHD, its important to remember that it is a real medical condition and its treatable,” says Dr. Cerulli.

    “It’s easy to feel like you’re alone, and that you’re different because of your ADHD,” Courtney adds. “My hope is to help encourage others to not give up and have an open and honest conversation with their doctor about ADHD.”

    *Name withheld to protect subject’s privacy

    ** Dr. Cerulli is a paid spokesperson for Takeda


    For additional safety information, click here for Medication Guide and discuss with your doctor.

    You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

    Takeda is committed to helping ensure the proper use of stimulant medication. Please see the Proper Use of Prescription Stimulant Medication Brochure for additional information.

    To learn more about Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate), go to vyvanse.com.

    Want to learn more about ADHD? The Attention Deficit Disorder Association, The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) are all great resources.

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