Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects about 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that the numbers may be higher. Many girls and adults with the condition also go undiagnosed.

Untreated ADHD can present as biological and environmental factors that interfere with many aspects of a person’s daily life, including their relationships.

It’s important to recognize the symptoms of adult ADHD, so you can get proper treatment. Keep reading to learn about these symptoms.

Lack of focus, the most telltale symptom of ADHD, goes beyond simply finding it hard to pay attention. It also means:

  • being easily distracted
  • finding it hard to listen to others in a conversation
  • overlooking details
  • not completing tasks or projects

The flip side to lack of focus is hyperfocus.

According to a small 2020 study, people with ADHD are often easily distracted. They may also have something called hyperfocus.

A person with ADHD can get so engrossed in something that they can become unaware of anything else around them.

This kind of focus makes it easier to lose track of time and ignore those around you. This can lead to relationship misunderstandings.

Life can seem challenging for everyone sometimes. But someone with ADHD may have more challenging life experiences compared to someone who doesn’t have ADHD. This can make it difficult for them to keep everything in the right place.

An adult with ADHD may find it hard to manage their organizational skills. This can include finding it hard to keep track of tasks and prioritize them logically.

This concern is similar to experiencing disorganization. Adults with ADHD often find it hard to effectively manage their time. They may:

  • procrastinate on tasks
  • show up late for events
  • ignore assignments they consider boring

They may have trouble focusing on the future or the past — the “now” is often more top-of-mind for people with ADHD.

It’s human to forget things occasionally, but for someone with ADHD, forgetfulness tends to occur more often. This can include routinely forgetting where you’ve put something or what important dates you need to keep.

Sometimes forgetfulness can be bothersome but not to the point of causing serious disruptions. Other times, it can be serious.

The bottom line is that forgetfulness can affect careers and relationships.

It can easily be confused with carelessness or lack of intelligence by others if they’re not familiar with an ADHD diagnosis and symptoms associated with the condition.

Impulsiveness in someone with ADHD can manifest in several ways, including:

  • interrupting others during conversation
  • being socially inappropriate
  • rushing through tasks
  • acting without much consideration for the consequences

A person’s shopping habits are often a good indication of ADHD. According to a 2015 study, impulse buying, especially on items a person can’t afford, is a common symptom of adult ADHD.

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.

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:

  • school
  • work
  • relationships

Adults with ADHD may view these difficulties as personal failures or underachievement, which can cause them to see themselves in a negative light.

While you might be open to doing everything at once, you also may feel unmotivated.

A 2020 study showed that this is a concern commonly seen in children with ADHD, who often find it hard to focus on schoolwork. It can also happen with adults.

Coupled with procrastination and difficulty managing organizational skills, this concern 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.

As an adult with ADHD, you may feel like your internal motor won’t shut off.

Your yearning to keep moving and doing things can lead to frustration when you can’t 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.

As with children, physical signs of restlessness and anxiety in adults can include fidgeting.

An adult with ADHD may:

  • move around frequently
  • tap their hands or feet
  • shift in their seat
  • find it difficult to sit still

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, including:

Whatever the cause, fatigue can worsen attention difficulties.

ADHD can lead a person to neglect their physical health, according to a 2013 study. ADHD symptoms that may affect your ability to maintain your physical health include:

  • impulsivity
  • lack of motivation
  • emotional concerns
  • disorganization

Neglecting physical health can be seen through:

Stress and anxiety also have negative effects on health.

When health habits aren’t properly managed, the negative effects of ADHD can worsen other symptoms.

Adults with ADHD can often have trouble in relationships, whether they’re:

  • professional
  • romantic
  • platonic

Traits that adults living with ADHD often have may feel draining on relationships. They include:

  • talking over people in conversation
  • inattentiveness
  • being easily bored

As a result, a person with ADHD may come across as:

  • insensitive
  • irresponsible
  • uncaring

Substance misuse may not affect every adult with ADHD, but a 2014 research review showed that adults with the condition are more likely than others to experience substance misuse. This may involve the use of:

The research isn’t clear on what the link is between substance misuse and ADHD. However, one theory is that people with ADHD use substances to self-medicate. They may misuse these substances in hopes of:

  • improving focus
  • improving sleep
  • relieving anxiety
Other common traits

Other common traits among adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) include:

  • changing employers often
  • having few personal or work-related achievements
  • repeated patterns of relationship concerns, including divorce

There are available treatment options to help adults with ADHD find the needed support to overcome the difficulties of their condition.

If your ADHD is mild, you may want to consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or meeting with a professional organizer. They can help you with things like learning how to:

  • get organized
  • stick with plans
  • finish activities that you start

It’s also important to continually work on key practices so that your body is better equipped to handle challenges. These include:

Medication may help as well. To learn more about available treatment options and which may work well for you, talk with your healthcare provider.