About ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders. It is a chronic lifelong condition, and it often runs in families. The symptoms are present in childhood, so it is typically diagnosed in childhood. However, it can also be diagnosed in adolescence or adulthood if the diagnosis was missed during childhood. The symptoms of ADHD in children, adolescents and adults are listed below. It is important to note that every person with ADHD will have a different set of symptoms. Having all of the symptoms of ADHD is not required for the diagnosis.
Symptoms of ADHD in Children
Symptoms of ADHD in children can include some of the following.
- Inattention – A child with ADHD can have difficulty maintaining attention and focus on tasks.
- Hyperactivity and Impulsivity- Children with ADHD can have excess movement that is inappropriate for the setting they are in. They can also display impulsivity with hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought.
- Self-focused behavior- A common sign of ADHD is what looks like an inability to recognize other people’s needs and desires. This can manifest as interrupting & trouble waiting their turn.
- Interrupting- Self-focused behavior may cause a child with ADHD to interrupt others while they’re talking or butt into conversations or games that they are not a part of.
- Trouble waiting their turn- Children with ADHD may have trouble waiting their turn during classroom activities or when playing games with other children.
- Emotional turmoil – A child with ADHD may have trouble keeping their emotions in check. They may have outbursts of anger at inappropriate times. Younger children may have a lot of temper tantrums.
- Fidgeting and Problems playing quietly – Children with ADHD often cannot sit still. They may try to get up and run around, fidget, or squirm in their chair when forced to sit. This can make it difficult for them to play quietly or engage calmly in leisure activities.
- Unfinished tasks- A child with ADHD may show interest in lots of different things, but they may have problems finishing them. They may start projects, chores, or homework, but move on to the next thing that catches their interest before finishing.
- Lack of focus- A child with ADHD may have trouble paying attention even when someone is speaking directly to them. They may say they heard you, but they won’t be able to repeat back what you just said.
- Avoidance of tasks needing extended mental effort- This same lack of focus can cause a child to avoid activities that require a sustained mental effort, such as paying attention in class or doing homework.
- Mistakes- Children with ADHD may have trouble following instructions that require planning or executing a plan. This can then lead to careless mistakes, but it does not indicate laziness or a lack of intelligence.
- Daydreaming- Another sign of ADHD that can be seen in some children is being quieter and less involved than other kids. A child with ADHD may stare into space, daydream, and ignore what’s going on around them. Not all children with ADHD are hyperactive and loud.
- Difficulty getting organized- A child with ADHD may have trouble keeping track of tasks and activities. This can cause problems at school, as they can find it hard to prioritize homework, school projects, and assignments.
- Forgetfulness- Children with ADHD may be forgetful in daily activities. They may forget to do chores or their homework. They may also lose things often, such as toys, books and school supplied.
- Symptoms in multiple settings- A child with ADHD will show symptoms of the condition in more than one setting such as at school and at home. If the symptoms occur only in one setting, it may not be ADHD.
Symptoms of ADHD in Adolescents
As children with ADHD grow up, the hormonal changes of the teenage years and the increasing demands of school and extracurricular activities can lead to worsening of symptoms during adolescence. This can make adolescents with ADHD seem immature compared to their peers as they will often not have as much self-control as other children their own age. This worsening during adolescence can also lead to diagnoses during adolescence where the symptoms were previously missed during their childhood.
In addition to the symptoms of ADHD seen in children, adolescents with ADHD may have some of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty maintaining personal hygiene
- Difficulty reading social cues
- Difficulty with time management
- Difficulty performing assigned chores
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulties compromising with others
- Problems with academic performance
- Rejection sensitive dysphoria – This is extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. It may also be triggered by a sense of falling short by failing to meet their own high standards or others’ expectations
Symptoms of ADHD in Adults
ADHD is a lifelong condition. People who are not diagnosed until they are well past childhood have had ADHD all along; it was just not recognized by the adults in their lives when they were young. Some of the symptoms of ADHD that are seen in adults include the following:
- Trouble staying organized- For people with ADHD, the responsibilities of adulthood such as bills, jobs, children etc. can make problems with organization more obvious and more problematic than in childhood.
- Easy Distractibility- ADHD is a problem with attention, so adult ADHD can make it difficult to succeed in today’s fast-paced, hustle-bustle world. Many people find that distractibility can lead to a history of career under-performance, especially in noisy or busy offices. Adults with ADHD may find that phone calls or emails derail their attention, making it hard to finish tasks.
- Poor Listening Skills- Adults with ADHD can have problems paying attention when being spoken to. This can lead to not fully registering what is being said or overlooking details of important information that is being shared with them leading to missed appointments and misunderstandings.
- Restlessness, Anxiety and Trouble Relaxing- While many children with ADHD are hyperactive, adults with ADHD are more likely to be restless or find they cannot easily relax. Adults with ADHD are often described as edgy or tense. An adult with ADHD can feel like their internal motor will not shut off. They yearn to keep moving and doing things which can lead to frustration when they cannot do something immediately. This leads to restlessness, which can lead to frustration and anxiety. Anxiety is a very common symptom of adult ADHD as the mind tends to replay worrisome events repeatedly.
- Trouble Starting a Task– Just as children with ADHD often put off doing homework, adults with ADHD often drag their feet when starting tasks that require a lot of attention. This procrastination often adds to existing problems including marital disagreements, workplace issues, and problems with friends.
- Lateness- There are many reasons for this. First, adults with ADHD can be distracted on the way to an event by something else that came up and before they know it, they have lost track of time. People with adult ADHD also tend to underestimate how much time it takes to finish a task whether it is a major assignment at work or a simple home repair.
- Angry Outbursts- ADHD often leads to problems with controlling emotions. Many people with adult ADHD are quick to explode over minor problems. Often, they feel as if they have no control over their emotions. Many times, their anger fades as quickly as it flared, long before the people who dealt with the outburst have gotten over the incident.
- Difficulty Prioritizing Issues- People with adult ADHD often mis-prioritize, failing to meet big obligations, like a deadline at work, while spending countless hours on something insignificant.
- Difficulties with Time management- Just like children with ADHD, adults with ADHD can have difficulties managing their time effectively
- Difficulty Focusing- Adults with ADHD can have difficulty focusing on specific tasks they are trying to work on.
- Hyperfocus- While people with ADHD are often easily distracted, they may also have something called hyperfocus. This is when they get so engrossed in something they are doing that they can become unaware of anything else around them. This kind of focus makes it easy for them to lose track of time and ignore those around them. This can lead to relationship misunderstandings.
- Forgetfulness- While it is normal to forget things occasionally, for someone with ADHD, forgetfulness tends to occur more often. This can include routinely forgetting where they put something or what important dates they need to keep. Sometimes, the forgetfulness can be bothersome but not to the point of causing serious disruptions. Other times, it can be serious. Unfortunately, the forgetfulness can easily be confused with irresponsibility, carelessness, or lack of intelligence by others if they are not familiar with ADHD and the symptoms associated with the condition.
- Lack of motivation- While people with ADHD might be feel like doing everything at once, they may also feel unmotivated. Coupled with procrastination and difficulty managing organizational skills, this can make it hard for an adult with ADHD to finish a project. They may find it hard to focus for long periods of time.
- Emotional Concerns- Life with ADHD can seem challenging, as though your emotions are constantly in flux. You can easily become bored and have the tendency to seek excitement on a whim. Small frustrations can seem intolerable or bring on depression and shifts in mood. Untreated emotional concerns may complicate personal and professional relationships.
- Reckless Driving and Traffic Accidents- ADHD can make it difficult to keep attention on a task, so driving can be difficult for some people with ADHD. The symptoms of ADHD can also make some people more likely to speed and have traffic accidents.
- Impulsivity- Impulsiveness in someone with ADHD can manifest in several ways such as interrupting others during conversation, being socially inappropriate or rushing through tasks acting without much consideration for the consequences. A person’s shopping habits can also be a good indication of ADHD. Impulse buying, especially items a person cannot afford can be seen in adults with ADHD.
- Marital Problems- Many people without ADHD have marital problems, so having marital problems is not an automatic red flag for adult ADHD. However, there are some marriage problems that are more likely to affect the relationships of those with ADHD. Often, the partners of people with undiagnosed ADHD take poor listening skills and an inability to honor commitments as a sign that their partner doesn’t care. One the other hand, the person with ADHD may not understand why their partner is upset and may feel like they are being nagged or blamed for something that is not their fault.
- Difficulty managing finances- Difficulty managing money is commonly seen in adults with ADHD. This includes difficulty with budgeting, saving and paying bills all of which requires organization, patience, attention to detail, planning and consistency which are all problem areas for adults with ADHD. People with ADHD are more likely to go into debt, impulsively spend and argue about money with their partner or spouse. ADHD is often accompanied by a lack of long-term planning. Saving can be extremely hard for people with ADHD because they expect big results right away. They may start a savings account, only to empty it out the following week.
In addition, adults with ADHD are far more likely to engage in risky financial behavior than others. This often means impulsively taking out expensive loans without thinking through the long-term consequences of that decision.
- Fatigue- Although this may sound surprising given that restlessness is also a symptom, fatigue is a concern for many adults with ADHD. There could be several reasons for this such as the hyperactivity and sleep concerns that can come with ADHD, the constant effort to focus required by adults with ADHD, or side effects caused by ADHD medications. Whatever the cause, fatigue can worsen attention difficulties.
- Negative self-image- Adults with ADHD are often hypercritical of themselves, which can lead to a negative self-image. This is due in part to difficulties concentrating, as well as other symptoms that may affect their work and relationships. Adults with ADHD may view these difficulties as personal failures or underachievement, which can cause them to see themselves in a negative light.
- Physical health concerns- ADHD can lead a person to neglect their physical health because the symptoms can affect their ability to maintain their physical health. This can be seen through eating an imbalanced diet, neglecting exercise, forgoing important medication, and neglecting to take time for self-care in general. Stress and anxiety also have negative effects on health. When health habits are not properly managed, the negative effects of ADHD can worsen other symptoms.
- Substance misuse- Substance misuse may not affect every adult with ADHD, but adults with ADHD are more likely than others to experience substance misuse. This may involve use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. One theory is that people with ADHD use substances to self-medicate. They may misuse these substances in hopes of improving focus, improving sleep, and relieving anxiety.
Treatment of ADHD
Treatments for ADHD include medications, Behavior therapy and Coaching