Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can cause symptoms beyond a lack of focus. Discover 13 other ADHD symptoms as well as the criteria you must meet to receive a diagnosis as an adult.
Untreated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can present as biological and environmental factors that interfere with many aspects of a person’s daily life. This includes their relationships.
ADHD affects about 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
It’s important to recognize the symptoms of adult ADHD so you can get proper treatment. Keep reading to learn about these symptoms.
Life can seem challenging for everyone sometimes. But someone with ADHD may have more challenging life experiences than someone without ADHD. This can make it difficult for them to keep everything in the right place.
An adult with ADHD may have issues with organizational skills. This can include problems keeping track of tasks and trouble prioritizing them in a logical manner.
Adults with ADHD can often have trouble in relationships, whether they’re professional, romantic, or platonic.
Certain traits associated with ADHD may feel draining on relationships. They include:
As a result, a person with ADHD may come across as:
Lack of focus, the 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
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
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. If emotional concerns are left unaddressed, they may complicate your personal and professional relationships.
People with ADHD are often easily distracted. They may also have something called hyperfocus, according to a
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.
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 its symptoms. Learn more about the effect of ADHD on memory.
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. One
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, 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.
While you might be open to doing everything at once, you also may feel unmotivated.
This concern is 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 with organizational skills, lack of motivation 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.
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:
- sleep problems that can come with ADHD
- the constant effort to focus that ADHD may require of you
- side effects of ADHD medications
Whatever the cause, fatigue can worsen attention difficulties.
ADHD can lead a person to neglect their physical health. ADHD symptoms that may affect your ability to maintain your physical health include:
- emotional concerns
- lack of motivation
Stress and anxiety also have negative effects on your physical health.
Neglecting your physical health can manifest as:
- compulsively eating an imbalanced diet
- not exercising
- forgoing important medication
Substance misuse may not affect every adult with ADHD, but a 2021 consensus statement showed that people with the condition are more likely than others to experience substance misuse. This may involve the use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
The research isn’t clear on what the link is between substance misuse and ADHD. 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 ADHD include:
- changing employers often
- having few personal or work-related achievements
- repeated patterns of relationship issues, including divorce
There’s no one specific test designed to diagnose ADHD in everyone. Multiple screening tools are available.
Testing for adult ADHD typically involves at least two detailed interviews with a mental health professional or primary care physician.
During these interviews, they will:
- assess whether your current symptoms meet the criteria for ADHD
- ask questions to determine if there was evidence of ADHD symptoms in your childhood
- assess whether you may have any comorbid or related mental health conditions that can explain your symptoms
The “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5)” notes three different ADHD presentations:
- predominantly inattentive
- predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
To receive a diagnosis of ADHD, an adult must exhibit at least five of the symptoms associated with a particular type for
In addition, multiple symptoms must have been present before the age of 12 years.
ADHD also has to have a negative impact on multiple areas of your life (such as home and work), not just one.
There are solutions available to help adults with ADHD 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
Practicing certain healthy habits will also help ensure that your body is better equipped to handle challenges. These healthy habits include:
Medication may help as well. To learn more about available treatment options and which ones may work well for you, talk with a healthcare professional.
Online therapy options
Read our review of the best online therapy services to find the right fit for you.