The inability to sit still was a defining characteristic of Phillip Urbak's childhood.
While classmates would quietly sit at their desks, Urbak was a squirmer.
He made good grades, he recalled, and often was on the honor roll. But he was easily distracted and had trouble with time management.
Those patterns continued into college, where he would procrastinate and then pull all-nighters to study for an exam.
He missed out on an internship one year because he forgot to show up for an interview.
And he was always losing things — his car keys, his cell phone and important paperwork.
Urbak said he received his degree and has gone on to have a successful business career.
"But my life was often a roller coaster," the Hagerstown man said. "I could be very focused and then suddenly inattentive. I was restless and disorganized."
That fidgety kid had grown into a fidgety adult.
It wasn't until his son was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that Urbak finally made sense of his life.
"I was doing some research on the topic," he said, "and began to realize that I was reading about myself."
While most people associate ADHD with children, data from Medco Health Solutions, a New Jersey company that operates mail-order pharmacies across the U.S., indicates that about 1.5 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 are currently taking medication to treat the disorder. And most were diagnosed well into adulthood.
Urbak, 46, said he was diagnosed while he was in his 30s and leads "a transformed life" thanks to a combination of medicine and behavioral therapies.
His story is similar to other adults diagnosed with ADHD, including celebrities like comedian and actor Jim Carrey; Olympic medalist Michael Phelps; and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a condition caused by signaling problems in the brain. The primary symptoms are impulsiveness, restlessness, inattention, and poor self-regulation. It is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood.
"As a child with ADHD matures into adulthood, symptoms may become less noticeable or change over time. But symptoms persist into adulthood in as many as 60 percent of cases," said Melissa Grove, licensed professional counselor with Summit Behavioral Health, an affiliate of Summit Health.
Grove noted that the prevalence of ADHD is estimated to be between 2 and 4.4 percent of adults.
If not diagnosed in childhood, Grove said there are several common signs of adult ADHD that include:
- Frequent forgetfulness
- Difficulty completing tasks or projects
- Ongoing problems with concentrating and paying attention
- Restlessness and fidgeting
- Excessive talking and/or interrupting others
- Difficulty listening when spoken to directly