ADHD Symptoms Checklist: Signs of Each Subtype in Adults & Children
Do you have ADD? Signs of ADHD? Consult this checklist of ADHD symptoms common to each subtype — hyperactive, inattentive, or combined type attention deficit — in adults and children.
What Causes ADHD?
ADHD is a brain-based, biological disorder that, according to research, is likely genetic. Researchers suspect that a gene involved in the creation of dopamine, a chemical that controls the brain’s ability to maintain regular and consistent attention, may be traced back to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). In other words, it is not caused by bad parenting, too much sugar, or too many video games.
How Is ADHD Diagnosed?
Pursuing an ADHD diagnosis can be a complicated process. ADHD is a nuanced neurological condition with three distinct subtypes — inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, and combined type — and there is no one test that determines whether ADHD is present in an adult or a child. A professional diagnosis usually follows symptom tests and interviews, a thorough medical history, and evaluations for conditions commonly diagnosed alongside ADD – including oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, mood disorder, and autism spectrum disorder.
What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?
ADHD or ADD symptoms in adults and children typically include:
- Short attention span, especially for non-preferred tasks
- Hyperactivity, which may be physical, verbal, and/or emotional
- Impulsivity, which may manifest as recklessness
- Fidgeting or restlessness
- Disorganization and difficulty prioritizing tasks
- Poor time management and time blindness
- Frequent mood swings and emotional dysregulation
- Forgetfulness and poor working memory
- Trouble multitasking and executive dysfunction
- Inability to control anger or frustration
- Trouble completing tasks and frequent procrastination
- Difficulty awaiting turn
What Are the Types of ADHD?
ADHD is a neurological condition defined by a consistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactive impulsivity that interferes with daily functioning in at least two settings – for example, at school and at home. It impacts children and adults, boys and girls, and people of all backgrounds. The symptoms above represent the broad range of symptoms associated with ADHD, though symptoms differ with each subtype.1 ADHD comprises three subtypes:
- inattentive type
- hyperactive or impulsive type
- combined type
ADHD symptoms in children differ from symptoms of adult ADHD. But this is universal: If you recognize yourself or your loved one in the following ADHD symptoms, and those symptoms persistently disrupt life in multiple settings, contact your medical health-care professional for a diagnosis and bring the results of the ADHD symptom tests below with you for review.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders2, at least six of the following ADHD symptoms must impair daily functioning in two or more settings to merit a diagnosis.
ADHD Symptoms: Inattentive ADD Checklist
- Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
- Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
- Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or failure to understand instructions)
- Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
- Loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
- Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
- Forgetful in daily activities
ADHD Symptoms: Hyperactive and Impulsive ADHD Checklist
- Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
- Leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
- Runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness in adults)
- Has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
- Appears “on the go” or acts as if “driven by a motor”
- Talks excessively
- Blurts out the answers before the questions have been completed
- Has difficulty awaiting turn
- Interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
For more detailed hyperactive/impulsive ADHD symptoms in adults and children, take the Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD Symptom Test for Adults or the Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD Symptom Test for Children.
ADD in Adults: Does ADHD Go Away?
ADHD symptoms rarely disappear with age; roughly two-thirds of children with ADHD become adults with ADHD.3 A 2019 study found that prevalence of ADHD among adults rose by 123% between 2007 and 2016, and that diagnoses among adults were growing four times faster than ADHD diagnoses among children in the United States.4 That said, many adults do not receive an ADHD diagnosis until one of their children is diagnosed. Some adults might feel it’s pointless to pursue a diagnosis if ADHD hasn’t stopped them from getting married, pursuing a career, or having children. But unmanaged ADHD symptoms can cause job loss, relationship conflict, and substance abuse. Better understanding of ADHD and its three sub-types can help children and adults pursue an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.
A recent study5 found that ADHD in adults presents in two sub-types: attentional and emotional. The researchers found that this framework offered a more clinically relevant approach to diagnosing ADHD symptoms in adults than did the current DSM-V criteria, which is based on research conducted on children aged 6 to 12. This evidence adds volume to the choir calling for more research on how ADHD symptoms change and evolve with age, and specifically how emotional dysregulation impacts adults with ADHD.
Similarly, treatment strategies for adults with ADHD merit further exploration. A study from the Netherlands recently found that older adults with ADHD experienced symptom improvement when taking a low dose of stimulant medication, which was well tolerated and did not cause clinically significant cardiovascular changes.6
Sources on ADHD Symptoms
1Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health (2019). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml
2Symptoms and Diagnosis of ADHD. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. American Psychiatric Association (2013). https://www.(d(.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html
4 Chung, Winston, MD., MS., et al. “Trends in the Prevalence and Incidence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adults and Children of Different Racial and Ethnic Groups.” JAMA Open Network (Nov. 2019). 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.14344
5Reimherr, Frederick, et al. “Types of Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Replication Analysis.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Apr. 2020). https://www.psychiatrist.com/JCP/article/Pages/2020/v81/19m13077.aspx
6Michielsen, M., Kleef, D., Bijlenga, D., Zwennes, C., Dijkhuizen, K., Smulders, J., … Kooij, J. J. S. (2020). Response and Side Effects Using Stimulant Medication in Older Adults With ADHD: An Observational Archive Study. Journal of Attention Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054720925884