• The primary, or core, symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
  • The secondary, or peripheral, symptoms of ADHD may consist of academic/vocational struggles, problems with self-esteem, poor social skills, or difficulties with organization.
  • Co-occurs with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and learning disorders

Although attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is usually associated with children, it can be a lifelong disorder. Studies have uncovered statistically significant numbers of adults with ADHD. Estimates on how many Americans are ADHD-afflicted vary, from 1% on the low end to as much as 6%, which equals about 10 million people. Accordingly, several studies show that 80% of ADHD children grow into ADHD adolescents.

The profile of an adult with ADHD can vary from that of a child. Most experts agree that pure hyperactive behavior usually diminishes with maturity. Adults usually have problems with time management, self-control, planning for the future, and being able to persist toward goals.

It is recommended that adults with ADHD:

  • Get evaluated. You need a clinician experienced in diagnosing adult ADHD. Also, find out if there’s an ADHD support group or organization active in your area.
  • Get medication. For many adults, medications lessen the disorder’s internal noise and outward chaos, helping them to gain some sense of self-control. The same drugs used for ADHD children can be used for adults.
  • Get educated. There is a large and helpful body of literature on adult ADHD you can tap into.
  • Get organized. Get a calendar or personal organizer to help you build schedules and routines.
  • Get counseling. Adult ADHD can put tremendous strain on a marriage, a relationship, or an entire family. Talking it out can help.
  • Get moving. For ADHD adults, exercise is a healthy way to burn off excess energy.

ADHD in college students, largely estimated based on self-report, suggests that the prevalence ranges from 4% to 11% depending on the measures and threshold cutoffs used (Dupaul et al., 2001).  Considering that the prevalence of ADHD within the general population for children is estimated to be between 3% and 7% (American Psychiatric Association 2000), it appears that ADHD is carried into adulthood and equally represented on college campuses.  Of concern then is how ADHD symptoms impact the academic and social success of young adults with the disorder.

A few peripheral symptoms specific to college students with ADHD symptoms include difficulties with college adjustment, social skills, and self-esteem (Shaw-Zirt, Popali-Lehane, Chaplin, & Bergman, 2005).  One study found that college students with ADHD were more likely to be on academic probation, have a lower grade point average, and report more academic problems than students without ADHD (Heiligenstein, Guenther, Levy, Savino, & Fulwiler, 1999).  Also, students with ADHD are at risk for repeated exposure to failure, which can lead to feelings of helplessness depending on a student’s attribution style (Tominey, 1997).

The increase in eligibility for services of students with ADHD at the post-secondary level (Latham, 1995) requires a current examination of appropriate services and treatments that are available to college students.

The Office of Disability Services at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Central Office Location and Staff:
Lucy Stone Hall, Suite A145
Livingston Campus
54 Joyce Kilmer Avenue
Piscataway, NJ 08854-8045
Phone: (848) 445-6800
Fax: (732)-445-3388
Executive Director: William (Bill) Welsh


Students with a documented disability looking to apply for reasonable accommodations and services at Rutgers New Brunswick should visit