11 Subtle Signs You Might Have A Learning Disability As An Adult

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If you've always felt distracted and misunderstood, and thus have struggled at work and in your relationships, it could be a sign you have a learning disability as an adult. While the issue has likely been there since you were a kid, struggling your way through adult life can tip you off that something's wrong. So, what could it be?

"Some of the common learning disabilities in adulthood include dyslexia, ADHD, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and processing deficits," Dr. Shelly Chandler, licensed mental health counselor and provost of Beacon College in Florida, tells Bustle. "All of [these] learning disabilities can affect home and work life." If you suspect one of these issues has been plaguing you, Chandler suggests contacting a psychologist who's familiar with learning disabilities. He or she can pinpoint the disability, then teach you coping mechanisms.

Depending on your disability, you'll likely be taught how to better structure your life — with lists, reminders, and daily planning. You might receive a coach. And, you might even be offered medication to help you better handle anxiety, which Chandler tells me is common among people with learning disabilities. Read on for a few signs this might be the best route for you.

1. You Often Feel A Little Lost

It can be incredibly frustrating when your accomplishments don't match up with what you feel capable of doing. "Many people with learning disabilities have great talents but the talents are often never used because they give up, feeling lost," Chandler says.  

2. It's Hard For You To Keep A Job

If you're struggling with an underlying learning disability, it can make simple things — like getting through the work day — feel extra difficult. "At work, the undiagnosed adult may be regarded as the employee who just can’t get things together," Chandler says. "They may have experienced job terminations and have been told they seem so bright, but they just have difficulty getting things done."

3. You Have Trouble Connecting With People Sometimes

Yes, you're an incredibly likable person with good intentions. But, thanks to your disability, others just can't see it. "[Your] disability may cause [you] to forget, argue, postpone, procrastinate, get angry, and not follow through," Chandler says. And, even though it's not your fault, others may not find these traits very likable.

4. You Have A Short Attention Span

One of the biggest signs of a learning disability is a short attention span, which is often a sign of ADHD. It can affect you at work, where you might struggle with the issues I just mentioned above. But the lack of focus can also make you seem a bit despondent, and that can derail your relationships.

5. Many Of Your Relationships Are Tumultuous

Whether it's with friends, family, or significant others, you seem to have a pattern going where you just can't hold down a healthy relationship. And that's an incredibly common issue among people with learning disabilities. As Chandler says, "If the disability is not diagnosed and understood, family members can believe the person with the disability is choosing his or her behaviors. Failed marriages are a common result."

6. You Get Angry & Don't Know Why

When dealing with a frustrating issue like a learning disability, you might feel annoyed and impatient throughout the day. And this, among other things, can cause you to lash out in anger. "Anger may be part of the behaviors seen in adults with learning disabilities," says Chandler. "They may experience less inhibition and may get angry quicker than others."

7. You've Struggled With Low Self-Esteem, Anxiety, Or Depression

Or hey, maybe you've had all three. "Typically, adults with learning disabilities ... have secondary psychological problems, such as poor self-esteem, anxiety, and/or depression," says Chandler. This could be due, in part, to the embarrassment and frustration you feel from your slue of failed relationships and jobs, as well as the sense you're not living up to your potential.

8. You've Been Turning To Drugs Or Alcohol

If you're turning to drugs as a coping mechanism, take note. "Someone who struggles with a learning disability has often been blamed for family chaos, and has been the scapegoat at work and home," Chandler says. "Year after year, the negativity they have experienced pulls down their self-esteem. The cycle they have been trapped in may cause the person to use alcohol or drugs for relief."

9. You've Always Been "Bad" At Reading Or "Bad" At Math

With learning disabilities such as dyslexia, which can affect reading and writing, or dyscalculia, which can affect your ability to do math, you might be convinced you're stupid. But that is not the case. "It is important to recognize that learning disabilities have nothing to do with intelligence," clinical psychologist Dr. Mayra Mendez, PhD, tells Bustle. "A person struggling with learning differences may score extremely well on an IQ test, but still have trouble working with number sequences, spelling accurately, and comprehending reading passages."

10. You Have A Hard Time With Directions

Are you always getting lost? Do you struggle with differentiating between left and right? As clinical psychologist and radio host Dr. Joshua Klapow says, "You get directions or instructions wrong, even when you are sure you understand them." And that can be a sign of a disability, such as ADHD.

11. You Get Overwhelmed Easily

Since things don't come easily to you (like being able to maintain attention) you often feel overwhelmed. As Klapow tells me, this can be especially noticeable in loud, busy, or distracting situations. You also likely feel overwhelmed when being given instructions, which instantly sound "too long," causing you to glaze over and forget.

Sound familiar? Then it might mean you have a learning disability as an adult. If you think this may be the case, definitely reach out to a psychologist. They can tell you what's up, and help you learn some ways to better cope.

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