Symptoms of ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a problem of not being able to focus, being overactive, not being able control behavior, or a combination of these.

Source: MentalHealth.gov (DHHS)1

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Back to: « ADHD

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Symptoms of ADHD fall into three groups:

  • Not being able to focus (inattentiveness)
  • Being extremely active (hyperactivity)
  • Not being able to control behavior (impulsivity)

Some people with ADHD have mainly inattentive symptoms. Some have mainly hyperactive and impulsive symptoms. Others have a combination of different symptom types. Those with mostly inattentive symptoms are sometimes said to have attention deficit disorder (ADD). They tend to be less disruptive and are more likely not to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Inattentive Symptoms

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork
  • Has difficulty keeping attention during tasks or play
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork or chores and tasks
  • Has problems organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork)
  • Often loses toys, assignments, pencils, books, or tools needed for tasks or activities
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities

Hyperactivity Symptoms

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Leaves seat when remaining seated is expected
  • Runs about or climbs in inappropriate situations
  • Has problems playing or working quietly
  • Is often "on the go," acts as if "driven by a motor"
  • Talks excessively

Impulsivity Symptoms

  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Has difficulty awaiting turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others (butts into conversations or games)

Source: MentalHealth.gov (DHHS)2

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The three overarching features of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Inattentive children may have trouble paying close attention to details, make careless mistakes in schoolwork, are easily distracted, have difficulty following through on tasks, such as homework assignments, or quickly become bored with a task. Hyperactivity may be defined by fidgeting or squirming, excessive talking, running about, or difficulty sitting still. Finally, impulsive children may be impatient, may blurt out answers to questions prematurely, have trouble waiting their turn, may frequently interrupt conversations, or intrude on others’ activities.

Source: SAMHSA (DHHS)3

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Does your child have trouble paying attention? Does he or she talk nonstop or have trouble staying still? Does your child have a hard time controlling his or her behavior?

For some children, these may be symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

Source: NIMH (NIH)4

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What are the symptoms of ADHD?

ADHD has many symptoms. Some symptoms at first may look like normal behaviors for a child, but ADHD makes them much worse and occur more often. Children with ADHD have at least six symptoms that start in the first 12 years of their lives.

Children with ADHD may:

Get distracted easily and forget things often

  • Switch too quickly from one activity to the next
  • Have trouble with directions
  • Daydream too much
  • Have trouble finishing tasks like homework or chores
  • Lose toys, books, and school supplies often
  • Fidget and squirm a lot
  • Talk nonstop and interrupt people
  • Run around a lot
  • Touch and play with everything they see
  • Be very impatient
  • Blurt out inappropriate comments
  • Have trouble controlling their emotions.

Source: NIMH (NIH)5

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What are the symptoms of ADHD?

A person with inattention often:

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes at work or during other activities
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks, such as during lectures or lengthy reading
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish chores or duties in the workplace
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities—for example, is messy and has poor time management
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort
  • Loses things necessary for tasks or activities, such as keys, wallets, and mobile phones
  • Is easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
  • Is forgetful in daily activities, such as paying bills, keeping appointments, or returning calls

A person with hyperactivity-impulsivity often:

  • Fidgets with or taps hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
  • Feels restless or is unable to be still for extended periods of time
  • Is unable to engage in leisure activities quietly
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out an answer before a question has been completed
  • Has difficulty waiting his or her turn, such as when waiting in line
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others

Some people with ADHD primarily have symptoms of inattention, while others have primarily symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity. Some people have symptoms in both categories.

Source: NIMH (NIH)6

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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.

  • Inattention means a person wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized; and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
  • Hyperactivity means a person seems to move about constantly, including situations in which it is not appropriate when it is not appropriate, excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, it may be extreme restlessness or wearing others out with their activity.
  • Impulsivity means a person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.

Source: NIMH (NIH)7

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Signs and Symptoms

Inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. Some people with ADHD only have problems with one of the behaviors, while others have both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.Most children have the combined type of ADHD.

In preschool, the most common ADHD symptom is hyperactivity.

It is normal to have some inattention, unfocused motor activity and impulsivity, but for people with ADHD, these behaviors:

  • are more severe
  • occur more often
  • interfere with or reduce the quality of how they functions socially, at school, or in a job

Inattention

People with symptoms of inattention may often:

  • Overlook or miss details, make careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities
  • Have problems sustaining attention in tasks or play, including conversations, lectures, or lengthy reading
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Not follow through on instructions and fail to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace or start tasks but quickly lose focus and get easily sidetracked
  • Have problems organizing tasks and activities, such as what to do in sequence, keeping materials and belongings in order, having messy work and poor time management, and failing to meet deadlines
  • Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork or homework, or for teens and older adults, preparing reports, completing forms or reviewing lengthy papers
  • Lose things necessary for tasks or activities, such as school supplies, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, and cell phones
  • Be easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
  • Be forgetful in daily activities, such as chores, errands, returning calls, and keeping appointments

Hyperactivity-Impulsivity

People with symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity may often:

  • Fidget and squirm in their seats
  • Leave their seats in situations when staying seated is expected, such as in the classroom or in the office
  • Run or dash around or climb in situations where it is inappropriate or, in teens and adults, often feel restless
  • Be unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly
  • Be constantly in motion or “on the go,” or act as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talk nonstop
  • Blurt out an answer before a question has been completed, finish other people’s sentences, or speak without waiting for a turn in conversation
  • Have trouble waiting his or her turn
  • Interrupt or intrude on others, for example in conversations, games, or activities

Source: NIMH (NIH)8

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ADHD symptoms can change over time as a person ages. In young children with ADHD, hyperactivity-impulsivity is the most predominant symptom. As a child reaches elementary school, the symptom of inattention may become more prominent and cause the child to struggle academically. In adolescence, hyperactivity seems to lessen and may show more often as feelings of restlessness or fidgeting, but inattention and impulsivity may remain. Many adolescents with ADHD also struggle with relationships and antisocial behaviors. Inattention, restlessness, and impulsivity tend to persist into adulthood.

Source: NIMH (NIH)9

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ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Many children have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, a child may have ADHD when symptoms like having trouble paying attention, acting without thinking about what the result will be, or being overly active, continue over time and cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.

Source: CDC Features10

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Symptoms In Children

Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive sometimes, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often.

To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms for six or more months and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

Children who have symptoms of inattention may:

  • Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
  • Have difficulty focusing on one thing
  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
  • Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
  • Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
  • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
  • Struggle to follow instructions

Children who have symptoms of hyperactivity [Editor: changed from: inattention] may:

  • Fidget and squirm in their seats
  • Talk nonstop
  • Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
  • Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
  • Be constantly in motion
  • Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities

Children who have symptoms of impulsivity may:

  • Be very impatient
  • Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
  • Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
  • Often interrupt conversations or others' activities

Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH)11

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References

  1. Source: MentalHealth.gov (DHHS): mentalhealth.gov/ what-to-look-for/ behavioral-disorders/ adhd.html
  2. ibid.
  3. Source: SAMHSA (DHHS): samhsa.gov/ disorders/ mental
  4. Source: NIMH (NIH): nimh.nih.gov/ health/ publications/ attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-basics/ index.shtml
  5. ibid.
  6. Source: NIMH (NIH): nimh.nih.gov/ health/ publications/ could-i-have-adhd-qf-16-3572/ index.shtml
  7. Source: NIMH (NIH): nimh.nih.gov/ health/ topics/ attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/ index.shtml
  8. ibid.
  9. ibid.
  10. Source: CDC Features: cdc.gov/ features/ adhdawarenessweek/ index.html
  11. Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH): medlineplus.gov/ magazine/ issues/ spring14/ articles/ spring14pg17.html

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.