Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Symptoms of ADHD

The symptoms of ADHD include inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. These are traits that most children display at some point or another. But to establish a diagnosis of ADHD, sometimes referred to as ADD, the symptoms should be inappropriate for the child's age.

ADHD is common in children and teens. Adults also can have ADHD. With ADHD in adults, there may be some variation in symptoms. For instance, an adult may experience restlessness instead of hyperactivity. In addition, adults with ADHD consistently have problems with interpersonal relationships and employment.

Types of ADHD

There are three different types of ADHD, including:

  • combined ADHD (the most common type), which involves all of the symptoms
  • inattentive ADHD (previously known as ADD), which is marked by impaired attention and concentration
  • hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, which is marked by hyperactivity without inattentiveness

For a diagnosis of ADHD, some symptoms that cause impairment must be present before age seven. Also, some impairment from the symptoms must be present in more than one setting. For instance, the person may be impaired at home and school or home and work. Also, there must be clear evidence the symptoms interfere with the person's ability to function at home, in social environments, or in work environments.

Symptoms of ADHD

There are three different categories of ADHD symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity.

Inattention may not become apparent until a child enters the challenging environment of school. In adults, symptoms of inattention may manifest in work or in social situations.

A person with ADHD may have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • difficulty paying attention to details and tendency to make careless mistakes in school or other activities; producing work that is often messy and careless
  • easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli and frequently interrupting ongoing tasks to attend to trivial noises or events that are usually ignored by others
  • inability to sustain attention on tasks or activities
  • difficulty finishing schoolwork or paperwork or performing tasks that require concentration
  • frequent shifts from one uncompleted activity to another
  • procrastination
  • disorganized work habits
  • forgetfulness in daily activities (for example, missing appointments, forgetting to bring lunch)
  • failure to complete tasks such as homework or chores
  • frequent shifts in conversation, not listening to others, not keeping one's mind on conversations, and not following details or rules of activities in social situations

Hyperactivity symptoms may be apparent in very young preschoolers and are nearly always present before the age of seven. Symptoms include:

  • fidgeting, squirming when seated
  • getting up frequently to walk or run around
  • running or climbing excessively when it's inappropriate (in teens this may appear as restlessness)
  • having difficulty playing quietly or engaging in quiet leisure activities
  • being always on the go
  • often talking excessively

Hyperactivity may vary with age and developmental stage.

Toddlers and preschoolers with ADHD tend to be constantly in motion, jumping on furniture, and having difficulty participating in sedentary group activities. For instance, they may have trouble listening to a story.

School-age children display similar behavior but with less frequency. They are unable to remain seated, squirm a lot, fidget, or talk excessively.

In adolescents and adults, hyperactivity may manifest itself as feelings of restlessness and difficulty engaging in quiet sedentary activities.