What is ADHD? What are some Symptoms of ADHD?

Understand the common symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, and how they impact daily life for individuals with this condition.

ADHD, short for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a common condition. It affects many kids and can last into their adult years. ADHD means having trouble paying attention, being very active, and acting without thinking.1 The key symptoms of ADHD fall into two groups: not being able to focus well and being very hyper or impulsive. Some people with ADHD find it hard to concentrate but are not overly active. This is known as ADD.1 Boys are more often diagnosed with ADHD than girls. And the signs show up differently depending on gender.1 ADHD really affects daily life, making it tough to do well at school or work, connect with others, and feel emotionally secure.

Key Takeaways

  • ADHD is a chronic condition characterized by persistent problems with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
  • The main symptoms of ADHD can be divided into two categories: inattentiveness and hyperactivity/impulsiveness.
  • ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in boys, but the symptoms can manifest differently in each gender.
  • ADHD can significantly impact an individual’s academic, professional, social, and emotional functioning.
  • Recognizing and understanding the symptoms of ADHD is crucial for ensuring appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Understanding ADHD

ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. It’s a condition that affects how a person focuses and behaves.2 It starts in childhood and often continues as a person grows up. But, the signs may look different as time goes on.2

Definition and Overview

ADHD is not simple. It makes it hard for a person to focus, stay organized, and control themselves. People with ADHD might find it tough to pay attention, handle sudden actions, and control how much they move.

This struggle can make life tough. It can affect how well they do in school, get along with others, and do daily tasks.2

Types of ADHD

There are three main kinds of ADHD. The first type is mostly about not being able to focus. The second type is about lots of energy and not being able to sit still. The third type has both focus and energy issues.2 Knowing these types helps us understand what people with ADHD go through. It also helps in finding the right ways to help them.

Core Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD’s core symptoms fit into three groups: inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.3 Inattentiveness means having trouble focusing, making mistakes easily, losing things, and not organizing well. It also includes being easily distracted.3

Hyperactive symptoms show as fidgeting, restlessness, moving a lot, and not staying still.3 These issues can make sitting still very hard.3

Impulsivity includes talking out of turn, interrupting others, being impatient, and risky behavior.3 These actions can harm friendships, school or work, and put someone in danger.

These symptoms seriously affect how someone functions at school, work, and with friends.3


People with ADHD can find it tricky to stay focused or keep track of things.3 They often make mistakes, lose items, and find organizing hard. Paying attention is also hard because they get distracted easily.3

These issues can lead to poor academic or work results.3 Doing daily tasks that need focus becomes tough.


ADHD’s hyperactive symptoms show through restlessness and the need to move a lot.3 This can make it hard for someone to stay still or focus.3


ADHD’s impulsivity means acting without thinking, like speaking too soon or taking risks.3 This can harm friendships, work or school, and lead to dangerous choices.

ADHD can hurt a person’s daily life and health. Getting the right treatment and support is crucial.3

adhd symptoms

Symptoms in Children and Teenagers

ADHD symptoms in kids and teens are quite clear and usually seen by the age of 6.1 They might show signs of being easily distracted, not sitting still, or quick to act without thinking. Or, they could have mostly one type of these behaviors.

Signs of Inattentiveness in Kids

Kids may show inattention by having trouble paying attention for long, making mistakes, or constantly losing things.1 They might also find it hard to stay organized, listen well, or follow directions.

Signs of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity in Kids

Hyperactive and impulsive behaviors in kids could mean lots of fidgeting or not staying put. They may also shout out answers, cut in when others are talking, and not think about being safe.14 These actions can cause problems like not doing well in school, finding it hard to make friends, or acting out.

ADHD Symptoms in Adults

ADHD symptoms in adults are often hard to spot. This is because ADHD begins in childhood and some signs may tone down with age.3 Though, issues like lack of focus and acting without thinking often stick around.3

Symptoms might show as not paying attention to details, struggling to concentrate, or being disorganized. They might also involve losing things often, feeling restless, being impatient, and acting on impulse.3 All these signs can make work tough, strain relationships, and cause emotional problems. It’s vital to spot ADHD in adults as it can come along with depression or anxiety.3

Manifestations of Inattentiveness

ADHD in adults can show as carelessness, finding it hard to focus, and lacking good organization.3 Being unable to focus or pay attention to detail can really hurt their work and life in general.3

Hyperactivity vs. Restlessness

In adults, the high energy of ADHD often becomes a feeling of restlessness, making it hard to sit still.3 This restlessness can cause trouble in many situations, like meetings or during long projects.3

Impulsive Behavior in Adults

Adults might still act on impulse, which can mean interrupting, making quick, un-thought-out decisions, or doing risky things.3 These actions can harm relationships or lead to bad outcomes in life.3

Dealing with ADHD in adults is complex, needing careful evaluation for a true diagnosis and suitable treatment.3 It’s key to understand and tackle the specific trials that adults with ADHD face. This helps them navigate life better and reach their full potential.3

Distinguishing ADHD from Typical Behavior

It’s key to tell ADHD symptoms apart from usual behaviors in kids or adults.5 Many people have moments of not paying attention, being very active, or acting quickly. But for an ADHD diagnosis, these issues must be serious and lasting. They must cause big problems in many parts of the person’s life.6 Just because someone occasionally struggles to focus or is really energetic does not mean they have ADHD. The main difference is that ADHD signs stick around and really impact how someone can do things in school, work, or with friends.5 Figuring out if an adult has ADHD can be even harder. This is because the signs may not be as obvious. They might look like signs of anxiety or mood problems.

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While adhd vs normal behavior and adhd vs typical behavior can seem blurred, knowing the true difference is crucial. This understanding is vital for getting the right diagnosis and the best treatment. For ADHD to be diagnosed, the symptoms must be very hard, lasting troubles. They shouldn’t just be the normal ups and downs of attention, energy, and self-control.

adhd vs normal behavior

Getting the difference between ADHD and regular behaviors just right is important. This helps healthcare workers better spot and judge the seriousness of ADHD. This ultimately improves the outcomes for those living with this complex brain condition.

ADHD Symptoms and Age Groups

ADHD symptoms often start showing in kids as early as age 3. These symptoms might not go away and can continue into adulthood. At a young age, issues like being easily distracted, very active, and acting without much thought are clear. They show up at home, school, and in other places.7

Childhood Onset

ADHD signs usually appear before kids turn 12, with some showing them as early as age 3.7 Boys tend to get diagnosed more often than girls.7 These children might find it hard to do well in their studies and make friends.7 They might get into more accidents and have more reasons to visit the doctor than other kids. They are also more likely to drink or use drugs and sometimes behave badly.7 Kids with ADHD often have other problems along with it, like disobeying, having a hard time learning, using drugs, feeling anxious or sad, or being in the autism spectrum, among others.7

Adolescent Presentation

When kids with ADHD get older, they might not seem as restless as before. But they can still have trouble paying attention or acting too quickly without thinking.8 In the teenage years, they might not be as jumpy, but new challenges, like staying motivated and getting organized, can come up.8

Adult ADHD Symptoms

As adults, people with ADHD can face different struggles. They might not look as active, but they could have a hard time keeping things in order, managing time well, and controlling their feelings.8 They might find it difficult to stay organized, focus, or stop themselves from doing things on a whim. They could also struggle with using drugs or alcohol or have a tough time with their loved ones.8

Understanding these changes in ADHD over time is very important. It helps make sure people get the right diagnosis and help they need. Treating ADHD effectively means taking these changes into account. That way, people can live their best lives.

Related Conditions and Comorbidities

In Children and Teens

Kids and teens with ADHD often also deal with other mental conditions at the same time. These could include things like anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, and depression. They may also have autism or learning issues.9 If they have more than one of these, treating ADHD might be harder.

In Adults

Adults with ADHD might face similar challenges. They could also have mood or anxiety issues, and even personality disorders.9 Understanding and treating all these issues together is key for their care.

adhd comorbidities

Comorbid Conditions in ADHDChildren and TeensAdults
Anxiety DisordersCommon9Common9
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)Significant9N/A
Conduct DisorderCommon9N/A
DepressionAt least 50%9Common9
Learning DisabilitiesConsiderable percentage9Common9
Autism Spectrum DisorderCommon9N/A
Tic Disorders (e.g., Tourette’s)Common9Common9
Emotion Regulation IssuesFrequently observed9Common9
Cortical Wiring ProblemsPrevalent9Common9
Mood Disorders (e.g., Bipolar)N/ACommon9
Personality DisordersN/ACommon9
Substance Use DisordersN/ACommon9

ADHD Symptoms Checklist

A detailed1 symptoms checklist is helpful for spotting ADHD symptoms. It highlights issues like trouble focusing, forgetfulness, and disorganization. It also notes signs of being very active and acting without thinking. This includes not being able to stay still, always moving, talking too much, and making quick decisions.1

This list shows how these1 problems can show up in different parts of life. ADHD affects many parts of daily life, so it’s important to look at symptoms in various situations. This way, doctors and healthcare pros can check for ADHD and plan the best care.

ADHD Symptom Checklist
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Losing things
  • Trouble organizing
  • Being easily distracted
  • Fidgeting
  • Restlessness
  • Excessive physical movement
  • Inability to sit still
  • Blurting out answers
  • Interrupting others
  • Difficulty waiting one’s turn
  • Engaging in risky behaviors without considering consequences

adhd symptoms checklist

When to Seek Professional Help

If someone you care about shows ongoing issues with focus, too much movement, and acting without thinking, it might be time to10 find expert help. Begin by talking to a doctor, like a pediatrician, family doctor, or a mental health expert trained in10 ADHD diagnosis and care. They will look at symptoms, your medical past, and any other health issues to see if ADHD is the cause.11 Getting the right help early is very important. Without treatment, ADHD could make it hard to do well in school or work, affect your relationships, and bring about mental health challenges. This is why it’s key to rely on a professional for the correct identification and management of ADHD.

when to get tested for adhd

ADHD Symptoms

ADHD has three main kinds of symptoms: inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.1 Some people, about 2 to 3 in 10, have problems mostly with focus, without being very active or impulsive.1 Inattentiveness shows up as not being able to focus well, making small mistakes, losing things often, and not managing tasks easily.1 Hyperactivity means always moving, can’t sit still, and feeling restless.1 Impulsivity happens when someone acts quickly without thinking, struggles to wait their turn, interrupts others, and might do risky things.1 These symptoms can make it hard for people to do well in school, work, and with friends.

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Boys are diagnosed with ADHD more than girls, especially when symptoms are about not being able to focus.1 These symptoms are noticed before age 6 and show up in different places.1 Inattentiveness might show as a short attention span, getting easily distracted, and not finishing dull or long tasks.1 Hyperactivity and impulsivity look like not being able to stay seated, always moving, and acting without much thought.1 Kids with ADHD might also have other issues like anxiety, behavior problems, and sadness.

Adults with ADHD tend to be less hyper but can still struggle with focus.1 They might show signs like being careless, not good with organization, forgetting a lot, feeling restless, and having a hard time with stress.1 Depression, personality issues, bipolar disorder, and OCD can also occur with ADHD in adults.

ADHD Symptoms ListADHD Symptoms in AdultsADHD Symptoms in Children
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Losing things
  • Trouble organizing
  • Being easily distracted
  • Fidgeting and restlessness
  • Excessive physical movement
  • Inability to sit still
  • Blurting out answers
  • Interrupting others
  • Difficulty waiting one’s turn
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Carelessness
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Forgetfulness
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty dealing with stress
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Personality disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Short attention span
  • Being easily distracted
  • Unable to stick to tedious tasks
  • Unable to sit still
  • Constant fidgeting
  • Acting without thinking
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Depression

Gender Differences in ADHD Symptom Presentation

ADHD is often diagnosed more in boys than in girls. But, this can happen because symptoms show differently in each gender.12 Boys may act out more with hyperactivity and impulsivity. This makes their ADHD symptoms stand out and easier to see.13 Girls might show quieter signs. They may daydream a lot and find it hard to focus. Because girls’ symptoms are less in-your-face, they might not get diagnosed correctly.

Research shows boys usually have more severe ADHD symptoms than girls.12 A study by Biederman et al. (2002) notes more boys get sent for care for ADHD than girls.12 This difference affects how ADHD is identified and treated for each gender. Health providers should look for subtleties in how ADHD shows in both boys and girls.

In children, the rate of ADHD worldwide is between 3% and 7%. When looking at population data, there are usually 3 boys with ADHD for every 1 girl. This number jumps to 5 to 9 boys for every girl in clinical settings.14 Girls tend to have more trouble with attention than with hyperactivity. This might be one reason why ADHD is often missed or diagnosed late in girls.14

Knowing how ADHD symptoms differ by gender is key to correct diagnosis and treatment for everyone.121413 By truly understanding these gender differences, health providers can find and help everyone with ADHD. This includes those who may not fit the typical gender norms.

Ruling Out Other Causes

Diagnosing ADHD is tricky. Its signs are similar to other health issues or learning problems.15 Doctors have to look at all possible reasons before saying it’s ADHD. Things like trouble focusing, moving a lot, and not being patient might also mean you have anxiety, mood swings, or trouble learning. Even just being a bit more energetic than others might not be ADHD at all.15 So, they look at your history, check your family, and see how you act in different places. This way, they make sure they’re right. It’s key to know if it’s really ADHD or something different.15

ADHD is not the only possible answer. Other conditions like anxiety, mood problems, or just being a lively person can seem like ADHD.15 It takes a deep dive by a medical pro, with help from your folks and teachers. Tests are often needed to get it right. They want to figure out if it’s ADHD or another condition.15

ConditionPotential Overlap with ADHD SymptomsKey Distinguishing Factors
Anxiety DisordersDifficulty focusing, restlessness, impulsivityExcessive worry, physical symptoms of anxiety
Mood DisordersInattentiveness, hyperactivity, impulsivityPersistent changes in mood, energy, and activity levels
Learning DisabilitiesDifficulty with academic tasks, organizational skillsSpecific deficits in academic areas, such as reading or math
Normal Variations in BehaviorOccasional inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivitySymptoms do not significantly interfere with daily life

Eliminating other possible causes is very important. A full check-up means doctors get the diagnosis right.15 This prevents the wrong medicine or help for those who don’t have ADHD. It makes sure each person gets what they really need.15

Impact of Untreated ADHD

ADHD, when not treated, can deeply affect many aspects of life. This includes how well you do in school or work, and how you connect with others. Seeking the right help early on is key to fighting these challenges.

Academic and Professional Challenges

For those with ADHD, keeping up at school or work can be tough. They might find it hard to concentrate, leading to low grades or missing deadlines16. This can limit their success in education and careers.

Social and Interpersonal Difficulties

ADHD that goes untreated can make it hard to socialize. Teens may find it challenging to make and keep friends, while adults might struggle in their relationships16. This can lead to arguments and feeling misunderstood, affecting their social life.

Emotional and Behavioral Issues

Ignoring ADHD can weaken emotional well-being and lead to risky choices. This includes smoking, substance use, and unsafe sex1617. It puts them at a higher risk for health problems and mental health issues17.

The effects of ADHD reach far and wide, affecting not just daily tasks but health and happiness. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for those with ADHD to flourish and avoid future struggles.

Living with ADHD

ADHD can make life tough but it’s possible to deal with its effects and enjoy life.3 You can get better by setting up ways to stay organized and calm, asking for help at work or school, and using tools like planners and alerts.18

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Coping Strategies

It’s important for anyone with ADHD to find what works best for them. They might create routines, chop tasks into smaller bits, and use reminders to keep focused.3 Trying out mindfulness and relaxation, like meditation or deep breathing, can tackle the quick-to-act and restless parts of ADHD.18

In school or at work, getting extra help can be a big plus. This could mean more time for projects, using special tools, or having a quiet spot to work in.18

Support Systems

ADHD is easier to handle with the right people around you.3 Having family and friends who understand, or being part of a support group, brings comfort and solutions to problems.18 Professionals like therapists or coaches who know about ADHD can also provide very good advice.

Using your own ways to cope and leaning on different forms of support can really make a difference.3 This helps those with ADHD find their way and reach their dreams.18


ADHD is a challenging disorder that impacts people of all ages. Its signs usually show up in early life and can last into adulthood.19 The main traits of ADHD include trouble focusing, being very active, and acting without thinking. These can deeply affect how someone does at school, work, and in personal relationships.19

Although ADHD stays with a person for life, getting the right diagnosis and treatment is key. Learning to manage its effects can help these individuals live full, happy lives.201921

Understanding ADHD’s details and getting the right support can make a big difference. This support can help people overcome obstacles and do well in life.21 Around 5% of the world’s population is thought to have ADHD. And, it’s mostly passed down in families.2019 New methods for treating ADHD show that a personal approach is best.20

Learning more about ADHD is important. Early diagnosis, proper care, and finding coping methods that work for each person matter a lot. Taking this full approach can help anyone with ADHD reach their dreams and be a happy, productive part of society.201921


What is ADHD and what are some of its symptoms?

ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. It’s a chronic condition affecting millions, often lasting into adulthood. It comes with persistent issues like attention difficulties, hyperactivity, and impulsive actions.

What are the main types of ADHD?

Three main types of ADHD exist. First, the inattentive type, focused on attention problems. Second is the hyperactive-impulsive type, mostly with hyperactivity and impulse issues. Third is the combined type, showing features of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.

What are the core symptoms of ADHD?

The core symptoms fall into three categories: inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Inattentiveness shows up as a short focus, errors, and misplaced items, among others. Hyperactivity looks like fidgeting and the need to move a lot. Impulsivity means acting or speaking without thinking about the results.

How do ADHD symptoms manifest in children and teenagers?

Symptoms show up around age 6 and are clear in children and teens. They show signs of both inattentiveness and hyperactivity/impulsivity or just one. This can include a short focus, errors, but also fidgeting, and not being able to sit still. Some can act or speak without waiting their turn, too.

How do ADHD symptoms present in adults?

In adults, ADHD may show fewer hyperactive signs but keep inattentiveness and impulsivity. This can mean careless mistakes, trouble focusing, and disorganization. Adults with ADHD might also lose things a lot, not sit still, be impatient, and act impulsively.

How can I distinguish ADHD symptoms from typical behavior?

It’s vital to tell ADHD symptoms from everyday behaviors. While everyone can lose focus or be active, with ADHD, these are severe and lasting. They affect all life areas and don’t get better with time.

How do ADHD symptoms change over the lifespan?

ADHD shows up early, around age 3, and continues through life. Symptoms might change, presenting more subtly in adulthood. While hyperactivity might lessen, problems with attention and impulse control might remain.

What other conditions are commonly associated with ADHD?

ADHD often comes with other mental health issues, like anxiety or depression. In kids, it could mean learning problems or autism. In adults, it might be mood or anxiety disorders.

What does a comprehensive ADHD symptoms checklist look like?

Lists can help spot ADHD symptoms. They include focus and memory problems, fidgeting, restlessness, and acting without thinking. The checklist covers how these issues affect different life areas, showing the condition’s full impact.

When should someone seek professional help for ADHD?

Seeking help is important if ADHD symptoms seriously affect life. Start by talking to a healthcare provider familiar with ADHD. They can do tests to check if ADHD is causing the problems.

What are the key differences in how ADHD presents in boys and girls?

Boys tend to show more overt hyperactivity and impulsivity. Girls often have the quieter, inattentive type. They may seem like they’re not paying attention, drifting off or daydreaming.

How can healthcare providers differentiate ADHD from other conditions?

Diagnosing ADHD means ruling out other issues with similar symptoms. These could be anxiety or mood disorders, learning problems, or usual variations in behavior. A careful evaluation is needed to be sure it’s ADHD.

What are the consequences of leaving ADHD untreated?

Not treating ADHD can lead to struggles in many areas of life. This includes school or work, relationships, and personal wellbeing. It might also raise the risk of developing other mental health issues and risky behaviors.

How can individuals with ADHD manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives?

Even though dealing with ADHD is hard, it can be managed. Strategies like organizing, mindfulness, and seeking support can help. With the right help and personal effort, it is possible to achieve what one wants despite having ADHD.

Source Links

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  5. https://www.eehealth.org/blog/2016/11/adhd-or-normal-kid-behavior/
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  8. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/features/adhd-symptoms-age
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  10. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/adhd-what-you-need-to-know
  11. https://chphealthmt.org/news/6-signs-you-should-seek-help-for-adhd
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7561166/
  13. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/is-adhd-more-common-in-males-or-females
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3827008/
  15. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/adhd-symptoms-not-medical-causes
  16. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/risks-of-untreated-adhd
  17. https://add.org/untreated-adhd-in-adults/
  18. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/adhd-adults
  19. https://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/understanding-adhd/content-section-3
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3460012/
  21. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attention_deficit_hyperactivity_disorder