Exploring the Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
Up to 17% of people have a neurodevelopmental disorder, including 9.9% with ADHD. That number has been increasing as stigmas have begun to disappear. Many finally feel comfortable seeking a diagnosis for themselves or a loved one with ADHD. Do you suspect that you or your loved one has ADHD? Are you interested in learning about the possible signs and symptoms of ADHD?
What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHA) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. This condition affects a person’s ability to focus, plan, and stay organized. ADHD is commonly diagnosed in children, but some people may not receive a diagnosis until they are adults. ADHD doesn’t typically affect a person’s ability to live, work, and function in society, but it can make some experiences more difficult. For example, people with ADHD may struggle in school or have trouble with specific tasks.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
ADHD symptoms can vary significantly between individuals and may look different in adults and children. While each case is unique, there are some commonalities. The following symptoms are common in nearly all people with ADHD.
Inattentiveness is the most apparent symptom of ADHD and earns it the namesake of an attention deficit disorder. People with ADHD struggle with short attention spans and distracting thoughts. They may often be forgetful or make careless mistakes.
An attention deficit may present as an inability to focus on a single task. People with ADHD may feel overwhelmed when given too many tasks and have difficulty planning and prioritizing each step. A person with ADHD could frequently forget about appointments or accidentally derail conversations.
Hyperactivity and Restlessness
ADHD is different from ADD in that ADHD includes a hyperactivity diagnosis. Hyperactivity is the near-constant need to be doing something. People with ADHD may frequently fidget, pace around the room, or look for small objects to move. Hyperactivity may present itself as an inability to sit still during conversations. A person with ADHD might also seek extra stimuli, like scrolling through their phone while watching a movie.
Disorganization and Poor Planning
Plenty of people who don’t have ADHD also struggle with messiness, but disorganization is a possible sign of ADHD. Someone with ADHD could frequently lose important documents, emails, passwords, and more. The physical environment at work or home is often messy, but people with ADHD may feel that they know where everything is within the mess. Cleaning and organizing can feel stressful or even torturous.
Along with physical disorganization comes mental disorganization. People with ADHD often have poor planning skills. For example, a person with ADHD might forget to buy an anniversary gift. Sometimes people with ADHD feel so overwhelmed by clutter that they effectively “shut down.” They might feel powerless to do anything about the mess, spiraling into low self-esteem.
Impulsive behaviors are another mark of ADHD. Impulsivity frequently ties in with hyperactivity and restlessness. People with ADHD may often interrupt conversations or speak without thinking. This behavior isn’t because they want to seem rude but because they have difficulty controlling their impulses. Excessive speaking, rambling, or arguing can also be a sign of ADHD. Some people with ADHD may engage in risky behaviors, like speeding or overspending, with little to no sense of danger or social rules.
Other Signs of ADHD
People with ADHD may also have issues with low self-esteem and depression. The frustration they cause others when they make mistakes, forget important information, or struggle at school or work may cause people with ADHD to blame themselves. Impulsivity and the need for external stimulation can lead to alcohol and substance abuse problems. People with ADHD may also struggle with personal relationships or reject the authority of others.
ADHD Treatment Options
All of the behaviors and symptoms of ADHD can make it more difficult for people to operate in a structured society. They may struggle to succeed in school, work, relationships, and personal endeavors. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning it is not likely that this condition will ever disappear from a person’s life. However, the negative symptoms and behaviors associated with ADHD are manageable.
Through therapy, people with ADHD can learn how to set themselves up for success and communicate their needs with others. In treatment, they’ll learn to process the complex emotions and impulses that arise with ADHD. Therapeutic treatments may be more effective in younger patients still forming their behavioral skills. Adults can still learn how to manage their ADHD symptoms, but they may benefit more from treating depression associated with ADHD. Medication is often a more effective ADHD treatment for adults.
Medication for ADHD
Some people will need more intense treatment than others to succeed in life with their ADHD. Medications may not benefit everyone, but they can provide extra help when needed. Many people with ADHD choose to take stimulant medications like dexamphetamine or methylphenidate. These medications regulate dopamine to aid in concentration and curb impulsive behaviors. There are short-acting and long-acting forms of ADHD medications, which last between 3 and 12 hours.
As with any medication, side effects can occur. If you take medications, it’s essential to have your dosage checked regularly. Your doctor must ensure you achieve as many benefits as possible without adverse side effects. Medication may not be the right choice for people with a history of substance abuse, so always share your medical history with your treatment team. Medications for ADHD can easily create dependencies and may be unsafe when combined with other substances.
Help is a Click Away
Struggling with the symptoms of ADHD can feel overwhelming, especially when combined with substance abuse or depression. Luckily, plenty of treatment options are available to help anyone with ADHD find confidence. Do you or a loved one need help with ADHD? You don’t have to do it alone. Build the tools you need to thrive and learn more about our mental health programs!
Medically Reviewed: September 1, 2022
Medical Reviewer | CWC Recovery Staff
All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.