Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder typically diagnosed in childhood that often persists into adulthood. While its symptoms are universally experienced, their manifestation can differ significantly between men and women due to a range of factors, including societal expectations, hormonal differences, and diagnostic biases.
We’ve compiled this guide with the latest scientific research and insights from leading mental health professionals in the field to help unpack ADHD in men, including its complexity and treatment options.
If you’ve been grappling with symptoms that suggest ADHD and you’re unsure about the next steps, there’s no need to face this journey alone. Klarity connects men who have ADHD with experienced healthcare providers who can guide them toward effective treatment.
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What Are ADHD Symptoms in Men?
Understanding the nature and range of ADHD symptoms in men is crucial to identifying and managing the condition effectively. It’s important to note that while these symptoms can be present in anyone, they are often more pronounced in people with ADHD. Common symptoms like mood swings, poor organizational skills, and even substance misuse can often be overlooked.
If you or someone you know are experiencing one or more of the symptoms discussed below, you should speak to a mental health professional about a possible ADHD diagnosis. Below, we examine three common symptom categories associated with ADHD in men: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness.
For many, the term ‘ADHD’ might conjure images of a young child who can’t sit still. While hyperactivity is indeed a prominent symptom of childhood ADHD, adults and specifically men, can also experience it—although it may not be as conspicuous. In men, hyperactivity often manifests as restlessness, a constant need for stimulation, or the tendency to talk excessively.
They might fidget, have difficulty relaxing, or feel an ongoing sense of under-stimulation. Hyperactivity in men with ADHD can also lead to feelings of internal chaos, making them seem impatient or having difficulty waiting their turn in conversations or activities.
Impulsivity refers to a tendency to act without thinking about the consequences. Men with ADHD might struggle with impulse control, leading to abrupt decisions or actions. This could be seen in various aspects of life, including financial decisions, career choices, and personal relationships.
The impulsive behavior could range from interrupting others during conversation and making hasty life-changing decisions to engaging in risky behaviors. The consequences of such impulsivity could lead to significant turmoil in your personal and professional life.
Inattentiveness is another common symptom of ADHD in men. This doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of focus or concentration but rather an inconsistent ability to focus. Men with ADHD might struggle with maintaining attention on tasks that they find mundane or lacking in immediate rewards, which might come off as forgetfulness, disorganization, or lack of motivation.
However, the same men can exhibit hyperfocus, or intense concentration, on tasks they find particularly engaging or stimulating. Understanding this inconsistent attention span could be an indication that you are struggling with ADHD.
What Causes ADHD in Men?
The causes of ADHD in adult men are multifaceted and not attributed to any single factor. Genetics play a substantial role, as ADHD often runs in families, suggesting that inherited traits are involved. Certain genes, particularly those related to dopamine regulation, have been implicated.
Brain structure and function are also involved. Neuroimaging studies indicate differences in the brains of men with ADHD, particularly in areas governing attention, impulses, and self-regulation.
Environmental factors can contribute to the development of ADHD as well. Exposure to tobacco smoke or alcohol during pregnancy, lead exposure in early childhood, low birth weight, and premature birth have been linked to an increased risk of ADHD.
ADHD in Men vs. Women
ADHD presents differently across genders and developmental stages, a dynamic that still isn’t fully understood. During childhood, boys are diagnosed with ADHD more frequently than girls. However, this gender gap narrows in adulthood. Studies suggest that ADHD persistence into adulthood is more common in women.
Gender also plays a role in how ADHD symptoms manifest. Adult men with ADHD are often more prone to combined symptoms, including heightened hyperactivity and impulsivity, while women tend to exhibit more inattentive symptoms. Over time, hyperactive and impulsive symptoms generally decrease, while inattentive symptoms persist.
The gender divide also extends to the prevalence of comorbid disorders. Males with ADHD are more likely to experience “externalizing” disorders, such as substance abuse, antisocial personality disorder, or conduct disorder. Females, on the other hand, are more prone to “internalizing” disorders, including anxiety, depression, somatic symptoms, or bulimia. This pattern of comorbidity can often lead to misdiagnosis, particularly in women with ADHD.
What Does ADHD Treatment Look Like For Men?
The primary aim of ADHD treatment is to manage symptoms, improve quality of life, and promote better functional performance in various areas of life. Treatment plans for men with ADHD tend to be individualized, taking into account their specific symptoms, co-occurring conditions, and personal circumstances. Therapies often involve a combination of medication and behavioral interventions. Here, we will focus on two key types of medication used to manage ADHD symptoms: stimulant and non-stimulant medications.
Keep in mind that while medication can play a critical role in managing ADHD symptoms, it’s typically most effective when combined with behavioral therapies, lifestyle modifications, and supportive counseling. The decision to use medication and the choice of medication should always be made in consultation with a healthcare provider who is familiar with ADHD and its treatments.
Non-Stimulant ADHD Medications
While stimulant medications are often first-line treatments for ADHD, non-stimulant alternatives can offer significant benefits for certain men. These medications work differently than stimulants and might be considered for men who have not responded well to stimulants, who have a history of substance misuse, or who have certain co-existing conditions.
Atomoxetine, a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), is one such medication. By selectively inhibiting the reuptake of norepinephrine, Atomoxetine enhances the concentration of these brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. This increase in norepinephrine can significantly improve focus and reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity in men with ADHD. Atomoxetine’s non-stimulant nature means it has a lower risk of abuse or dependency, and it provides continuous symptom control throughout the day, unlike some stimulant medications, which may wear off after a certain number of hours.
On the other hand, Guanfacine and Clonidine are alpha-2 adrenergic agonists, which work differently from both stimulants and SNRIs like Atomoxetine. These medications bind to alpha-2 receptors in the brain, which inhibits the release of norepinephrine. This, in turn, has a calming effect on certain parts of the brain, reducing hyperactivity and improving impulse control. Guanfacine and Clonidine can be particularly beneficial for those struggling primarily with impulse control and hyperactivity, and these medications can also help improve sleep in those with ADHD, a common problem area.
Additionally, Bupropion has commonly been found to effectively treat ADHD in adults. However, it is classified as an atypical antidepressant. It inhibits the reuptake of both norepinephrine and dopamine, two neurotransmitters involved in attention and focus. Like other non-stimulant medications, Bupropion is less likely to be abused than stimulant drugs. Some people may find it additionally helpful for managing co-occurring conditions like depression or anxiety.
The choice of medication always depends on the specific needs, medical history, and individual response of the patient. As such, these decisions should always be made in close collaboration with a healthcare provider well-versed in ADHD treatment, like those found on Klarity.
Stimulant ADHD Medications
Stimulant medications are the most commonly prescribed treatments for ADHD. They work by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain that help with thinking and attention. There are two main types: methylphenidate-based (like Ritalin and Concerta) and amphetamine-based (like Adderall and Vyvanse).
Methylphenidate-based medications primarily increase dopamine levels in the brain, whereas amphetamine-based ones increase both dopamine and norepinephrine. Both types of medication have proven highly effective in reducing adult ADHD symptoms like inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
How Do You Know If You Have Adult ADHD?
Recognizing the signs of adult ADHD can be challenging, as the symptoms can often resemble those of other mental health conditions or could be attributed to general life stressors. If you consistently experience difficulties with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity that interfere with your life across multiple settings (e.g., work, home, and social relationships), you might be dealing with ADHD.
Keep in mind that everyone can experience these difficulties from time to time, but in adults with ADHD, they are more severe and persistent. If you suspect you might have ADHD, it’s important to seek a professional evaluation. Self-diagnosis can be inaccurate and potentially harmful, as other conditions can mimic ADHD symptoms. A medical professional will evaluate your symptoms, family medical history, and personal medical history to make an accurate ADHD diagnosis.
How to Find an ADHD Medical Provider
If you’re seeking a diagnosis or treatment for ADHD, finding the right medical provider is a crucial step. Start with your primary care physician, who can provide an initial assessment and refer you to a specialist if necessary. When looking for specialists, consider their experience and expertise in treating ADHD, as the mental health condition is overlooked or misdiagnosed in many adults.
Speak with an ADHD Healthcare Provider in 48 Hours With Klarity
Identifying and managing ADHD can feel like an uphill journey, especially when faced with barriers like long waiting periods for appointments, limited access to specialists, and the hassle of travel. However, innovative platforms like Klarity aim to simplify this process, connecting you to ADHD healthcare providers online within 48 hours.
Don’t let your questions about ADHD wait another day. Take our free, 2-minute evaluation now to learn whether online ADHD treatment is right for you.
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Cleveland Clinic. ADHD medication. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/11766-adhd-medication
Mayo Clinic. (2021, March 12). Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Symptoms & causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adult-adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350878
Psych Central. (2020, August 18). ADHD in men: A misunderstood & overlooked population. https://psychcentral.com/adhd/adhd-in-men
Sibley, M. H., & Yeguez, C. E. (2020). Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Emerging Adulthood: Advances and challenges. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 45(8), 851–861. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7561166/
WebMD. Nonstimulant therapy and other ADHD drugs. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/adhd-nonstimulant-drugs-therapy