What Is High Functioning ADHD? Symptoms & Coping Tips

High functioning ADHD involves struggles with inattention, disorganization & restlessness, but the ability to mask symptoms & function reasonably well.

Do you know what “high functioning ADHD” means? It’s when a person’s ADHD symptoms don’t greatly affect their daily life.1 Even though it’s not an official diagnosis, it’s a term used for those with mild ADHD symptoms. Or for those who have learned how to deal with their symptoms well.1

Adults with this type of ADHD may have common ADHD symptoms. These include inattention, distractibility, disorganization, time management issues, restlessness, and impulsivity.1 But, many of them have found ways to manage these symptoms. So, they can reach high levels of personal and professional success.2

Even with their achievements, managing ADHD can be tough work. The strategies they use can sometimes tire them out and make them feel anxious.2

Key Takeaways

  • High functioning ADHD refers to individuals whose ADHD symptoms do not significantly impact their daily lives.
  • Adults with high functioning ADHD may exhibit symptoms such as inattention, distractibility, disorganization, and impulsivity.
  • Many with high functioning ADHD develop effective coping mechanisms to manage their symptoms and achieve success.
  • Handling high functioning ADHD can sometimes lead to burnout, exhaustion, and anxiety.
  • Getting professional support and using the right treatments can help those with high functioning ADHD do well.

Introduction to High Functioning ADHD

“High functioning ADHD” means that someone has ADHD but it doesn’t cause big problems in their daily life.3 It’s not a formal diagnosis but describes those with milder symptoms. These people might have found ways to deal with their condition well.4

Understanding the Concept

Many successful adults have ADHD but are not diagnosed. This is because ADHD looks different in adults. They might have more trouble with focus, staying organized, and managing time, rather than being hyperactive.3

Prevalence of ADHD in Adults

ADHD is usually noticed in childhood. But, it can last into adulthood. Lots of adults don’t realize they have ADHD because their symptoms might not be as clear or disruptive as they were when they were young. About 5.4% of adult men and 3.2% of adult women have ADHD/ADD.4

Symptoms of High Functioning ADHD in Adults

Research shows that adults with high functioning ADHD may struggle with2 inattention. They might miss meetings, forget important dates, and find it tough to focus on tasks. Another study mentions that even those with high-functioning ADHD might find it hard to concentrate, follow instructions, and recall information.

Disorganization and Time Management Issues

Adults with high functioning ADHD might face problems with2 disorganization and time management. This could include always putting off tasks, finding it hard to manage their time well, and leaving jobs incomplete. Studies point out that such adults could find it difficult to sense time, figure out their priorities, and manage multiple tasks at once.

Restlessness and Impulsivity

High functioning ADHD in adults could show itself through2 restlessness and impulsiveness. This might look like fidgeting or changing positions often, finding it hard to follow a book for long, or talking over others in chats. Authors highlighted that although adults’ symptoms might differ from those in kids, they still may feel restless and act impulsively now and then.

adhd symptoms in adults

ADHD Symptoms in Children vs. Adults

ADHD symptoms look different in kids and adults. Children with ADHD may find it hard to sit still, talk a lot, and can be impatient. They might also interrupt others. Studies back this up, saying kids with ADHD show more hyperactivity and trouble controlling their impulses.1 But, as people with ADHD grow up, they might get better at controlling these behaviors. They could still face challenges, though.

Hyperactivity and Impulse Control

In children, ADHD can show as a struggle to focus, listen, or follow instructions.1 As they become adults, hyperactivity and impulsivity might decrease. Instead, they might face more issues with inattention. This could look like difficulty maintaining focus while someone is talking or sorting through multiple thoughts.

Inattention and Focus

Kids with ADHD might find it hard to stay still or focused. They could talk a lot, move around in the wrong places, or interrupt others often.1 But, this can change as they get older. Adults with ADHD might not show as much hyperactivity, but staying focused on tasks could still be a big issue for them.

Causes of High Functioning ADHD

The reasons behind high functioning ADHD are still a bit of a mystery. But scientists think it’s a mix of things. Both genes and things around us might help it grow.

Genetic Factors

Your family history could affect how likely you are to have ADHD. This is true even for those with high functioning ADHD.1

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Environmental Influences

Along with genes, the stuff we’re around can also be involved. Things like where we live, our daily activities, and our family life can make a difference.

what is high functioning adhd

High functioning ADHD is a term used when ADHD symptoms don’t greatly disrupt life. It’s not an official medical diagnosis.1 This term is often used for those with mild symptoms or good coping strategies.5 Many adults with ADHD succeed at high levels despite their condition. This success can make it hard to diagnose.4

Symptoms of high functioning ADHD can differ in how severe they are. Some people can manage their challenges well. They do this through strategies or by making changes in their life.1 This managing can make spotting ADHD, especially in adults, very hard.5 But, the core issues of ADHD might still affect the person, even if not obviously.4

Diagnosing High Functioning ADHD

There isn’t a single test to confirm someone has ADHD.1 A psychologist or mental health professional does a detailed review instead. They ask about symptoms and daily life impact. Sometimes, they also talk to the person’s family. This helps them understand the person’s behavior better. The third source also agrees. It says getting information on symptoms and their impact in different places is key to diagnosing ADHD.

Criteria for Diagnosis

Symptoms of ADHD should appear before age 12 and in different places for diagnosis.1 The third source adds that a healthcare provider checks if the symptoms fit the ADHD manual. This manual is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Treatment Options for High Functioning ADHD


High functioning ADHD is often managed with a mix of medication and therapy. Psychostimulants like amphetamines and methylphenidate are top choices for symptom treatment.13 Doctors adjust the type and dose of medication to suit each person, notes the third source. This personalized approach is key.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy or coaching can also greatly help. It allows those with ADHD to spot and change bad habits.1 Cognitive behavioral therapy is perfect for this. It helps make ADHD individuals aware of their negative thoughts, making them feel better about themselves.3

ADHD Coaching

ADHD coaching focuses on understanding one’s unique mind and learning to manage ADHD better.1 It’s particularly good for high functioning ADHD. Coaches teach strategies for better time management, organization, and stress handling.3

Coping Strategies for High Functioning ADHD

People with high functioning ADHD often find ways to deal with their symptoms well. They use various strategies to make their lives better.1 These can involve setting many alarm clocks for reminders, taking notes often, and keeping a calendar up to date.1

Time Management Techniques

For adults with ADHD, sticking to a daily schedule is key. They use tools like deadlines and alerts to help them remember important things.3 Splitting big tasks into smaller ones can make them more manageable. This can boost their productivity and help them feel more in control.3

Organization and Planning Methods

Being organized is vital for those with ADHD. Using a detailed calendar and taking notes are big helps.1 Having a quiet work area is also important. It helps them concentrate better and get more done.3

Self-Care and Stress Management

Dealing with ADHD symptoms can be overwhelming. It’s easy to get exhausted if you don’t take care of yourself.2 People with high functioning ADHD need to focus on self-care. This means taking breaks, staying active, and getting help from mental health experts when necessary.3

Putting these strategies into action can help people with high functioning ADHD. They can keep their symptoms under control and live more successfully and happily.

High Functioning ADHD in the Workplace

Working can be hard for those with high functioning ADHD. But, there are ways to make it work well. With the right support, people with1 high functioning ADHD can do great in their jobs.2

Accommodations and Workplace Adjustments

Adults with1 high functioning ADHD need specific work changes. They might need to break tasks into smaller steps. This approach can make work more doable.2

Lessening work distractions and using tools like calendars really helps. Keeping an organized approach is key for them.2

Communicating with Employers and Colleagues

Talking openly with bosses and coworkers is crucial for those with2 high functioning ADHD. They should discuss their condition and any help they need. This sharing boosts support and awareness of their skills and hurdles at work.5

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If they stand up for themselves and team up with their boss, they can do better. They will play to their strengths while managing their symptoms well. This positions them for success.1

Successful Individuals with High Functioning ADHD

The stories of high functioning ADHD individuals who made it big show the incredible side of this condition. Some bright examples include Olympic stars Simone Biles and Michael Phelps, the rockstar Adam Levine, and TV celeb Ty Pennington. They all talk about how ADHD has actually helped them with their talents. This shows that ADHD can bring special gifts, like being creative and full of energy.2 Being quick to think and good at doing many things at once are traits that can lead to big achievements, a study has pointed out.2 Basically, if you handle ADHD well, it’s like having superpowers.

2 Adults with high-functioning ADHD often find ways to deal with their symptoms, research shows.6 For example, five successful adults who have ADHD, are well-educated, and manage their own money, have had to tackle various issues. They’ve had trouble focusing, delayed tasks, memory lapses, tiredness during the day, and acting too quickly without thinking.6 But they’ve come up with methods to deal with these challenges. These strategies include staying alert, being able to get the important parts of reading materials, writing notes, and carefully organizing tasks.

Successful Individuals with High Functioning ADHDAchievements and Coping Strategies
Simone BilesOlympic Gymnast with an ADHD diagnosis who isn’t afraid to talk about how she manages it with medicine. She’s won many gold medals at the Olympics, showing her amazing focus and drive.
Michael PhelpsThe world-famous swimmer talked about his ADHD and his challenges as a noisy kid. He is now the top Olympic winner ever, proving that ADHD doesn’t stop greatness.
Adam LevineThe lead singer of Maroon 5 believes his ADHD helps him be creative and do many things. His success in music is partly thanks to how he manages his ADHD.
Ty PenningtonTV and building celeb, known for his fun energy, has shared his story about living with ADHD. He uses his quick thinking and creativity to do well in his job.

2 For many with ADHD, a mix of talking with someone and using medicine works best.6 The happy feedback from those who use methylphenidate includes needing less self-control, starting and sticking to tasks, remembering plans better, being less impatient, and making clearer choices.

“ADHD can be a superpower when managed effectively.”

These examples clearly show that success is possible even with ADHD. With support and good tricks,2 dealing with ADHD can turn life around for the better. So, getting the right help and knowing about ADHD is key.

Challenges of Living with High Functioning ADHD

Living with high functioning ADHD comes with its own set of challenges, despite what may seem like success. These challenges are explored by the second and third sources, showing the hurdles they face.5

Burnout and Exhaustion

High functioning ADHDers put a lot of energy and time into coping with their condition. This can lead to burnout and exhaustion, as outlined by the second source.5 The third source adds that managing ADHD symptoms can be taxing. It discusses the physical and emotional toll, even with outward success.

Social and Emotional Impacts

These individuals might face social and emotional challenges, as detailed in the third source. These can include low self-esteem, anxiety, and difficulties in social settings. Seeking support and treatment is highlighted as crucial in dealing with these issues.

Handling high-functioning ADHD often needs a mix of therapy, medication, and behavioral changes.2 It’s noted that the success these individuals enjoy could hide the difficulties they go through, underlining the need for proper care and diagnosis to prevent burnout.2

Living with high-functioning ADHD still poses challenges, as symptoms can persist in different forms.5 The second outcome may lead to misunderstandings about the condition, due to the methods used to manage symptoms.5

Support Resources for High Functioning ADHD

Living with high functioning ADHD is a challenge. Finding the right support resources is key. It can help manage symptoms and improve daily life.5 Online communities and forums are crucial for support. They allow people with similar experiences to share coping strategies and offer advice. This makes them feel understood.5

Online Communities and Forums

Online forums and support groups are a great way for those with high functioning ADHD to connect. They find others who understand their unique challenges.5 These platforms provide a safe space to share and learn. They can discuss managing symptoms and find advice. This interaction reduces isolation and helps cope with daily needs.5

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Professional Support Groups

1 Professional support is also very helpful. ADHD coaching and support groups offer great benefits.1 An ADHD coach helps spot and manage unhealthy coping methods. They create sustainable strategies to handle symptoms. This helps adapt to their unique brain chemistry.1 Behavioral therapy is useful too. It offers tips on time management, organization, and stress reduction.2

2 ADHD coaching and therapy help with high-functioning ADHD. They support in swapping unhealthy coping for better ones.2 By working with these professionals, individuals can use their strengths to improve. They learn to manage the time and energy often needed for coping strategies.2


In summary, high functioning ADHD means handling ADHD symptoms without major life disruptions.7 Yet, these individuals adopt strategies that can exhaust them.8 Facing these challenges head-on with medicine, therapy, and support can change their lives.8 The right help allows these people to use their strengths and succeed greatly.8

This study shows high functioning ADHD isn’t less severe but varies in symptoms and coping ways.7 They might seem okay but deal with heavy emotional issues, feeling like a fraud, and troubles in relationships.8 Getting professional or personal support and improving time and task management can help them flourish.8

All in all, understanding and customizing support for high functioning ADHD is crucial.7 This way, they can better handle life and achieve their dreams.8 So, with the right approaches, these individuals can unlock their potential and leave a positive mark on society.


What is high functioning ADHD?

High functioning ADHD means ADHD symptoms don’t hugely change daily life. It’s not an official diagnosis, but a way to describe those with mild symptoms. Or they use strategies to handle symptoms. These strategies help lessen daily life impacts.

How prevalent is ADHD in adults?

ADHD is often seen first in childhood but can continue into adulthood. It’s talked about a lot in children, yet many adults have it without knowing. This is because symptoms can look different in adults.

What are the common symptoms of high functioning ADHD in adults?

Adults with high functioning ADHD might find it hard to focus or organize. They can also feel restless and do things without thinking.

How do ADHD symptoms differ between children and adults?

In kids, ADHD may show with lots of energy and trouble not acting on impulses. In adults, it’s more about finding it hard to pay attention. For example, listening when others talk is a challenge.

What causes high functioning ADHD?

The exact causes of ADHD are not clear. But, research suggests that genes and the environment might be involved.

How is high functioning ADHD diagnosed?

Diagnosing high functioning ADHD requires several steps. It’s not just a single test. A doctor talks to the patient about their symptoms. They also consider how those symptoms affect daily life.

What are the treatment options for high functioning ADHD?

Medication and therapy are often part of treating high functioning ADHD. Medications like psychostimulants can help. Behavioral therapy teaches skills to cope effectively.

What are some coping strategies for individuals with high functioning ADHD?

Coping with high functioning ADHD involves several strategies. These include setting alarms, taking notes, keeping a calendar, and working in a quiet, organized space. It’s also helpful to break tasks into smaller, manageable steps.

How can high functioning ADHD impact the workplace?

High functioning ADHD can affect work life but accommodations can help. These might include clear task breakdowns, reducing distractions, and open communication. This ensures that work needs and personal challenges are both met.

What challenges do individuals with high functioning ADHD face?

Although they might seem to handle things well, those with high functioning ADHD face challenges. These can include feeling burnt out, low self-esteem, and struggling in social situations. Managing these symptoms can be hard.

What support resources are available for individuals with high functioning ADHD?

For those with high functioning ADHD, there are support groups and online support platforms. Professional ADHD coaches also offer help. They help develop long-lasting strategies to manage symptoms effectively.

Source Links

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/high-functioning-adhd
  2. https://add.org/high-functioning-adhd/
  3. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/features/high-functioning-adhd-adults
  4. https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/6-unexpected-signs-you-might-have-high-functioning-adhd/
  5. https://psychcentral.com/adhd/high-functioning-adhd
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5619157/
  7. https://www.oxfordcbt.co.uk/high-functioning-adhd-test/
  8. https://medellasprings.com/high-functioning-adhd/