ADHD Symptoms

“Suddenly, a Lifetime of Struggles Made Sense”

Lazy. Slow. Disorganized. Selfish. Too many adults spend their lives feeling defective, when really undiagnosed ADHD is to blame. Overlapping symptoms, persistent myths, and stigmas all make diagnosis difficult — here is what you need to know about ADD in adults.

Adult adhd is very real, if you're wondering if you have adhd you shouldn't believe that adhd is only for children.
1 of 19

Adult ADD Is Real

ADHD was once considered a pediatric disorder, but it’s now clear that many children never outgrow their symptoms. In fact, up to 80 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD have symptoms throughout adolescence. And up to 75 percent will have it as adults. Hyperactive and/or impulsive symptoms often improve in adolescence, while inattention persists or gets worse as you age.

A depiction of the brain, which is where adhd is caused, and thus whose doctor you should consult if you are wondering if you have adhd.
2 of 19

The Causes of ADHD

ADHD is a neurologically based condition caused by a shortage of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, and the inability of the brain to transmit these chemicals to the brain's neurons. ADHD is not caused by poor parenting or too much sugar, and it is not synonymous with laziness. Most adults with ADHD, in fact, work incredibly hard to devise coping systems to compensate for symptoms.

If you are wondering if you have adhd, a cluttered office, like this one, is a possible symptom.
3 of 19

Could YOU Have ADHD?

Adults with ADHD find it hard to manage clutter, be on time, and complete projects. They may interrupt others, or blurt out words without thinking. They are often distracted while driving, reading, and doing other tasks — all of which leads to trouble at work and home. Exhibiting one or more of the behaviors above does not mean you have ADHD. For a full overview of symptoms, read on. 

[Self-Test: Could You Have Adult ADHD?]

There is more than one type of adhd and if you are wondering if you have adhd, you should be sure to check all of them.
4 of 19

Three Types of ADHD

Doctors diagnose ADHD using detailed criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM-V defines ADHD and stipulates that all cases are diagnosed as ADHD, with one of three quantifying types: Primarily Inattentive, Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive, or Combined.

  • Primarily Inattentive type: People with inattentive ADHD make careless mistakes because they have difficulty sustaining attention, following detailed instructions, and organizing tasks and activities. They are forgetful, easily distracted by external stimuli, and often lose things. This is more common in adults and girls.
  • Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive type: People with hyperactive ADHD often fidget, squirm, and struggle to stay seated. They appear to act as if “driven by a motor” and often talk and/or run around excessively. They interrupt others, blurt out answers, and struggle with self-control. This is more common in children and men.
  • Combined type: People with combined-type ADHD demonstrate six or more symptoms of inattention, and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.

To be diagnosed with ADHD, at least five of the symptoms that follow must be present, be chronic, and be noticeable before age 12.  (For more on symptoms, take the Adult ADHD Self-Test.)

One symptom of adhd in some adults is constant activity and the ever present feeling of too much energy.
5 of 19

1. You're Always Restless

Most teens and adults with ADHD learn to control their energy, and may not appear overtly hyperactive. On the inside, however, they feel jumpy and restless, even when they have nothing to do. If you have inattentive ADHD, your mind feels like it is whirring along at 90 miles per hour, skipping from topic to topic. People might call you a chatty Cathy or struggle to follow your logic. The hyperactivity of the condition expresses itself verbally and mentally more often than it does physically.

Being easily distracted, such as texting while driving, is possibly a symptom of adhd.
6 of 19

2. You're Easily Distracted

You start gathering dirty clothes, and then the phone rings. Your spouse reminds you it's trash pick-up day and that inspires you to go buy new recycling bins. Two hours later, the laundry is still untouched. Adults with inattentive or combined-type ADHD have trouble staying on task and finishing projects. It's not that you don't want to follow through, you just notice stimuli that others tune out easily, and even when spoken to directly, you have trouble focusing on the conversation.

If you find yourself making many spur of the moment decisions, such as splurge purchases while shopping, you might have adhd.
7 of 19

3. You Make Spur-of-the-Moment Decisions

You act impulsively, whether it's splurging on those way-too-expensive shoes, going out when you should be studying, or eating too much. Since you can't wait for people to finish their sentences, you often interrupt, no matter how many times you resolve not to. Acting without thinking is a common trouble for adults with ADHD, which can lead to regret, financial problems, and social trouble after sticking your foot in your mouth too many times.

[Quiz: ADHD Myth or ADHD Reality? Check the Facts About ADHD.]

Forgetfulness can be one of the symptoms of ADHD.
8 of 19

4. You're Very Forgetful

You rarely leave the house with everything you need on the first try. Where did I put the keys? Is the oven off? Can you call my phone? You spend a big portion of every day looking for things you've misplaced, or retracing your steps to see if you've actually done something. The inattention of adult ADHD can come out as spaciness that leaves others frustrated with your behavior — and you feeling like you let everyone down.

Losing track of time and failing to make deadlines is another symptom of adhd.
9 of 19

5. You Lose Track of Time

Why is it that when you're playing a video game, hours go by in a flash, but when you sit down to pay the bills, you can't seem to concentrate even for a second? Adults with ADHD are able to pay attention to tasks that interest them — sometimes so intensely they lose track of time and place. It's called hyperfocus, and it doesn't often kick in for “boring things” like finishing a tedious project at work. You can feel inadequate or like you're falling short at life because you just.can'

If you have trouble planning ahead and sticking to plans you might have adhd.
10 of 19

6. You're Not Good at Planning Ahead

Your to-do list is never-ending, but you never seem to cross any important tasks off. You know when you need to pick the kids up at school, but somehow you're always late. Executive functions — planning ahead, getting organized, managing time, concentrating on a task, and being motivated — are often impaired in adults with ADHD, leaving you feeling scattered and disorganized.

Relationship issues are another possible sign that you have adhd.
11 of 19

7. Your Relationship is on the Rocks

Adults with ADHD have higher divorce rates. Often, we get swept up by the novelty and intensity of a new relationship, only to lose focus later. Non-ADHD partners may interpret lack of focus as lack of interest. We also have trouble proactively finishing chores, paying bills, and remembering important dates, which can cause relationship problems.

If you're wondering if you have adhd, trouble sleeping is one possible symptom.
12 of 19

8. You Have Trouble Sleeping

You struggle to fall asleep at night, or wake up during the night. You describe yourself as a night owl — in part because your bullet-train brain keeps racing with thoughts and worries long after it's supposed to shut off. You stay up too late and then have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Many of the same regions of the brain regulate both attention and sleep, so a brain that has trouble paying attention will often have trouble going to sleep.

A man explodes in anger, showing symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder in adults.
13 of 19

9. You Hate Your Job

There is no perfect career for someone with ADHD. Adults diagnosed with ADHD succeed in many different fields, but they all tend to hate monotonous jobs that require a great attention to detail and long periods of sustained focus with little stimulation. Russell Barkley, Ph.D., suggests careers in sales, acting, the military, and many trade professions. Your ability to hyperfocus and to generate creative ideas can be an asset in these and other jobs.

Adhd is well known to have a genetic factor, so if your child has adhd, you might have adhd as well.
14 of 19

10. Your Child Has ADHD

While scientists are still looking for the gene (or genes) responsible for ADHD, the condition does appear to run in families. Children with ADHD usually have at least one close relative with ADHD, and studies have shown that one third of all men who had ADHD in their youth have biological children with ADHD. Often, parents will go for an evaluation after recognizing their child's symptoms in themselves.

There is no single test to diagnose adhd and your doctor will only make a judgement after reading a detailed medical history and interviewing others in your life.
15 of 19

Diagnosing ADHD

There is no single test for ADHD in adults. Your physician will make a diagnosis after taking a detailed medical history, and interviewing people in your life like parents, and former teachers. Sometimes neuropsychological tests are given when looking for co-occurring conditions, such as learning disabilities. Conditions like mood disorders, OCD, ODD, autism, sensory processing disorder (SPD), learning disorder, or some other emotional, psychological, or neurological problem cause symptoms that mimic those of ADHD. Research now suggests that more than half of all individuals who have ADHD also suffer from at least one co-existing condition, which makes symptom detection and diagnosis difficult.

There are varying levels of adhd and if you're wondering if you have adhd, you might have some symptoms but not others.
16 of 19

Mild to Severe Symptoms

ADHD is not like diabetes, where a person tests either positive or negative. Instead, it’s more like a mood disorder, where symptoms occur along a continuum of severity. In order to obtain a diagnosis, symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with normal functioning at home and at work.

Perscription medication can aid some adhd adults in managing their symptoms.
17 of 19

Treatment: Medication

Stimulant medications are often prescribed to treat ADHD. The two basic classes — methylphenidate and amphetamine — are sold under several different brand names and are administered as pills, patches, or liquids. No drug can cure ADHD, but the right medication regime can help manage core symptoms. Studies have shown that stimulant medications alleviate symptoms in approximately 80 percent of those diagnosed with ADHD. Improvements are generally seen 30 to 90 minutes after a dose is administered.

Adhd coaches are a great resource for adults seeking to control their lives.
18 of 19

Treatment: ADHD Coaching for Adults

Most adults improve with medication, but many continue to struggle with poor habits or low self-esteem. ADHD coaches can help. They are different from psychiatrists in that their focus is practical and goal-oriented. An ADHD Coach is like a life coach, but they have additional knowledge specific to ADHD. Most coaches will offer a free initial interview to make sure the match is a good fit.

A healthy diet can go a long way toward mitigating the symptoms of adhd.
19 of 19

Treatment: Nutrition and Alternative Therapies

While ADHD is not caused by too much sugar or other nutritional factors, eating healthy meals can help to keep symptoms under control. Omega-3 supplements supply healthy fats that can improve focus. Protein steadies blood sugar levels, increasing attention. Foods rich in fiber (whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and legumes) can stabilize energy levels.

[Free Download: Your Guide to Debunking Annoying ADHD Myths]

11 Related Links

    1. Had it been the straight article without being broken up, I wouldn’t have been able to finish it. As it is, I still had to reread several paragraphs multiple times because of my mind going elsewhere. Lots of triggers.

      Thanks, ADDitude for breaking it up. 👏

    2. I agree with ctina2v. The slideshow format drives me nuts. Too many clicks and distractions. I hardly ever finish one of the articles formatted this way.

    3. Agreed. Slides annoy me. It would be good if there was an option to view as one page, ditching the extra pictures and just having the information. Still have the default as slides but give the other as an option.

    4. OmG. I read the first para “here is what you have to know” and then I scrolled down looking for the article to resume but by the time I got to the comments I’d forgotten what I was reading. Read your comment and was like..”what slideshow presentation?” and scrolled up to see what you were on about.

      I wonder how many articles I haven’t read because the presence of a box automatically registers as “paid for content” that I skip over. hahaha

      The struggle is real.

      1. How would you all know if it’s limited. Few people make comments, comparatively. I’m trying to hyper-focus so I can finish this reply. [ENTER: novelty phase] Sometimes I want to make up new words, to try to make it quicker to type this out. I considered replacing “trying to hyper-focus” (which started out as “having trouble”, but …) forget it. I’m done. Dang It!

    1. ADDitude responded to a comment from me about the slideshow format. I was told that if I went to print, a preview of the whole article would appear and I could copy and paste it. However, it did not do that – it just went directly to print. Not happy. Apparently the slideshow format works for some, but not for many. Why not be able to click to an “article only” view? Suzanne

  1. FOR ALL PARENTS , WHETHER ITS SUSPECTED OR NOT , PLEASE CONSIDER GETTING YOUR CHILD EXAMINED FOR ADD/ADHD. Maybe it does not need to be a requirement for all but heavily advised especially for children/minors!

Leave a Reply