ADHD Symptoms

Recognizing ADHD symptoms is the first step to effective treatment. Learn more about the signs to look out for and see a healthcare professional to get personalized help.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health [1*] , an estimated 4.4% of American adults aged 18-44 have been diagnosed with ADHD.
Despite its prevalence, ADHD often goes unrecognized, especially in adults. This leads to challenges in various aspects of life, from work to personal relationships. Read on to explore common symptoms of ADHD as well as uncommon ones and gain valuable insights into this widely experienced yet frequently misunderstood condition.

4.4% of American adults aged 18-44 have been diagnosed with ADHD

Do I Have ADD or ADHD?

Today, ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are the same condition. In the past, ADD covered only trouble focusing, and now ADHD can define a wider range of symptoms. To better distinguish between different manifestations, three main types of ADHD [2*] were proposed:
  1. Predominantly inattentive. It is similar to the old definition (ADD), focusing on attention difficulties without significant hyperactivity. It is the most prevalent type of ADHD [3*] .
  2. Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive. Characterized by hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
  3. Combined ADHD. A combination of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.
Symptoms of inattentiveness
  1. Inattention to detail
  2. Difficulty sustaining attention
  3. Decreased reaction when spoken to directly
  4. Inability to follow instructions
  5. Difficulty organizing tasks; poor time management
  6. Lack of interest in mentally demanding tasks
  7. Losing necessary things frequently
  8. Being easily distracted
  9. Increased forgetfulness
Symptoms of hyperactivity
  1. Fidgeting
  2. Often leaving a seat unexpectedly
  3. Restlessness
  4. Inability to engage in activities quietly
  5. Often being “on the go”
  6. Talking excessively
  7. Blurting out answers before questions end
  8. Difficulty waiting their turn
  9. Often interrupting or intruding on others

Based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition.

Explore different types of ADHD
Struggling with focus, attention, or hyperactivity? Discover the features of ADHD types and how they are diagnosed.

What Does ADHD Feel Like?

Signs of ADHD can vary from person to person. But there are also symptoms and experiences many adults with ADHD share:
  1. Busy brain. It may feel like your mind is juggling multiple thoughts at once, making it hard to focus
  2. Intense focus at times. You might find yourself hyper-focused on something you find interesting, losing track of time.
  3. Quick decisions. You might act on impulse, making decisions without much thought.
  4. Restlessness. It manifests as a constant need to move or fidget, like tapping your foot or playing with objects.
  5. Strong emotions. Emotions can hit harder and be tougher to manage, whether it’s excitement, frustration, or disappointment.
  6. Struggling with routine. Everyday tasks, especially repetitive or boring ones, can be a challenge, often leading to procrastination.
  7. Issues in social interactions. ADHD can make social situations harder, like accidentally interrupting someone or missing social cues.
  8. Time management problems. You might often find yourself underestimating the needed time.
Start your ADHD treatment journey
Learn more about symptoms and causes of ADHD type as well as available treatments, insights, and self-help tips.

10 Common Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in Adults

ADHD affects different areas of life, but it is still often overlooked. Let’s unveil some common and less-recognized indicators to better understand when to seek professional support.

People with ADHD often find it challenging to maintain attention on one task. They have an urge to switch from one activity to another, usually not completing any of them. With time, it may significantly affect their work and daily functioning because of:

  • Higher distractibility. Minor distractions can significantly disrupt focus.
  • Procrastination. Involves putting off tasks, especially those perceived as mundane or challenging.
  • Incomplete projects. Starting various tasks but struggling to see them through to completion.
  • Overlooking details. Missing crucial information in conversations or written instructions.

In the long run, this may result in workplace challenges, such as issues in maintaining consistent performance.

Impulsive behavior in adults with ADHD can affect financial stability, relationships, and life planning. A person may act without full consideration of consequences. The signs representing it include:

  • Limited self-control. This might lead to verbal outbursts or difficulty in controlling emotions.
  • Impulsive decisions. This includes making quick decisions without weighing the pros and cons.
  • Irritability. Adults with impulsive tendencies may react angrily to situations without much provocation.
  • Susceptibility to addictions. Adults with impulsive traits might be drawn to activities like gambling, driven by the thrill and adrenaline, which can lead to addiction.
  • Risk of self-harm. In some cases, impulsivity can lead to dangerous behaviors, including self-harm.

If you have an urge for self-harm of any kind, contact your healthcare provider or a Crisis Hotline at 988.

Hyperactivity is commonly associated with ADHD in children but adults with this condition may experience it too. The key signs that may indicate it are the following:

  • Constantly feeling the need to be active.
  • Interrupting or intruding on others.
  • Exhibiting excessive energy.
  • Struggling to engage in quiet activities.
  • Impatience and difficulty waiting for turns.

If not managed, hyperactivity in adults can lead to challenges in maintaining stable relationships due to excessive energy or impulsiveness. It may also increase the risk of substance abuse as an attempt to cope with symptoms.

Discover effective ways to manage ADHD
Our guide discloses a range of options for treating ADHD. Learn more about navigating everyday challenges despite ADHD.

A lack of fear in dangerous situations or engaging in risky behaviors are common signs of ADHD. People with these symptoms often have impulsive tendencies and may not fully recognize the risks associated with their actions. The effects of such behavior can result in:

  • Recklessness. Engaging in dangerous activities without recognizing the potential consequences.
  • Rigid reactions. Inflexible responses to changing situations.
  • Workplace issues. Impulsive decisions or interruptions during meetings.
  • Substance abuse. Adults with ADHD might use substances as a coping mechanism for frustrations.
  • Legal troubles. A tendency to act out can lead to problems with law enforcement.

Self-centered behavior in adults with ADHD is marked by a lack of empathy and an overemphasis on personal issues. It can lead to:

  • Isolation. A self-centered person may be inattentive to the basic needs of other people and have difficulty creating strong bonds.
  • Chronic dissatisfaction. Self-centered behaviors may lead to unrealistic expectations of oneself, constant competition, and lower adaptability.
  • Hindered personal development. Focusing solely on oneself can impede growth and result in a narrow worldview.

Note that being self-centered does not necessarily equate to having ADHD. It’s important to take all signs into account.

Fidgeting can signify nervousness and boredom but it can also be one of the typical symptoms of ADHD if experienced frequently. The signs include:

  • Tapping fingers or feet
  • Clicking or snapping with fingers
  • Bouncing leg
  • Playing with hair
  • Playing with objects
  • Walking back and forth
  • Doodling

Controlling fidgeting as an ADHD symptom can be challenging; it is typically repetitive and ongoing. If not managed, it may affect social perception and interpersonal relationships and increase nervousness.

Constant difficulty paying attention to detail may lead to recurring mistakes. Even though the errors may be minor, their repetitive nature may result in trust issues, decreased confidence, and even safety concerns. If frequent errors and other disturbing symptoms are affecting your work or daily life, consider seeing a healthcare provider to address the problems.

Frequent tardiness, such as rescheduling meetings last minute, could be a sign of ADHD in adults. This condition often leads to challenges in accurately perceiving time, resulting in procrastination and missed deadlines. If this symptom is severe, consistent lateness can affect interpersonal relationships. At work, it can lead to decreased productivity and missed opportunities.

In addition to ADHD medication and talk therapy, self-help tips can be helpful. These include to-do lists, reminders, focused work methods like the Pomodoro, and more.

See how ADHD medication can help
Read in-depth insights into how various medications work, their benefits, and what you can expect in terms of improving your daily life.
While disorganization is common to some extent in everyone, it tends to be more pronounced in adults with ADHD. They might struggle with maintaining order in their personal and professional lives, often forgetting important tasks, struggling to maintain a clean living space, or finding it difficult to stick to routines.

Studies show that ADHD may cause problems with working memory [4*] and long-term memory [5*] . This may include difficulty concentrating and recalling minor details. People with ADHD may neglect healthy habits or medical appointments due to procrastination or forgetfulness. However, it’s important to see a healthcare provider in the following cases:

  • You are too young to be forgetting simple stuff.
  • No other illnesses can cause memory loss.
  • You are forgetting daily tasks frequently and abandoning assigned projects.
  • You feel that forgetfulness brings distress.

A healthcare provider can help identify if memory problems are linked to ADHD or have another cause. In addition to treatment, you can consult about self-help tips, such as reminders, calendars, and memory exercises.

When to Seek Professional Help for Adult ADHD

If you suspect you might have ADHD, it is important to reach out for professional assistance. Here are some signs that indicate it is time to seek help:

  1. Daily challenges. You are constantly struggling with focus, organization, or impulsive behaviors in everyday life.
  2. Relationship issues. Your symptoms are causing noticeable problems in your personal relationships.
  3. Work struggles. ADHD symptoms are negatively impacting your performance at work or in educational settings.
  4. Emotional stress. You feel overwhelmed or anxious frequently, and it seems connected to ADHD symptoms.
  5. Self-medicating. You find yourself using substances like alcohol to cope with your symptoms.
Who can treat ADHD?
Learn more about healthcare professionals who can make an ADHD diagnosis, prescribe medication, and offer therapy sessions.

Testing for Adult ADHD

If you suspect that you might have ADHD, the next step is to undergo an assessment for a proper diagnosis. Here’s what typically happens during ADHD testing for adults:
Initial consultation

Discuss your symptoms and medical history.

Fill out forms that ask about adult ADHD symptoms.
Review of childhood behavior
Since ADHD starts in childhood, your healthcare provider will ask about your behavior as a kid.
Excluding other conditions
To ensure your symptoms are not caused by another mental health condition, there might be additional physical or psychological tests.
Further evaluation
In some cases, more in-depth interviews or specialized testing for attention, memory, and problem-solving skills could be necessary.
Based on the results, a healthcare provider can make a diagnosis and choose appropriate treatments like medication, therapy, or lifestyle changes.
Learn more about ADHD diagnosis
Accurate diagnosis is important for effective treatment. We’ve prepared a detailed review of this process.

Understanding your symptoms is the key to a more balanced and fulfilling life. Recognizing issues with focus, organization, impulsivity, or emotional regulation is an important first step.

At MEDvidi, we have healthcare providers specializing in diagnosing and treating adult ADHD. We offer personalized care, guiding you every step of the way. If you are seeking support, we’re here to help.

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Frequently Asked Questions
ADHD in adults is generally not triggered because it is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is present from childhood. However, certain factors can worsen its symptoms in adults, such as stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, and overwhelming demands in their personal or professional lives. Environmental changes and certain medications or substances can also intensify adult ADHD symptoms.

There is some recent evidence [6*] that adults may have ADHD without experiencing its symptoms before adolescence. However, most often, people become diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood because the symptoms become apparent, or they were not diagnosed in childhood.

ADHD can lead to physical symptoms such as restlessness, fidgeting, and increased fatigue. Some individuals might also experience headaches or stomachaches due to stress related to ADHD symptoms or side effects of ADHD medications.

ADHD is commonly mistaken for anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, or behavioral issues due to overlapping symptoms. It’s important to see a healthcare provider to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

Learn more about ADHD


6 sources
  1. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
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  2. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
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  3. Prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults: Umbrella review of evidence generated across the globe
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  4. Adult ADHD and working memory: Neural evidence of impaired encoding
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  5. Long-Term Memory Performance in Adult ADHD: A Meta-Analysis
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  6. Women Often Diagnosed with ADHD Later In Life
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