What Are the Most Common Signs of ADHD? (2023)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect your ability to function in many different aspects of your life, such as at school, at work, and even at home.

Although ADHD can cause visible challenges in everyday life, the symptoms in children and adults vary and are sometimes difficult to recognize.

ADHD is generally diagnosed in children by the time they’re teenagers, with the average age for moderate ADHD diagnosis being 7 years old. Adults with ADHD may have exhibited elaborate symptoms early in life that were overlooked, leading to a late diagnosis later in life.

Below, we’ll discuss some of the common signs and symptoms of ADHD in children and adults, as well as tips for living with ADHD and where to find support.

ADHD primarily causes symptoms related to inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity, or a combination of both.

With ADHD, someone may experience difficulties paying attention and staying organized, excess fidgeting or restlessness, and trouble with self-control or impulsive behaviors.

In children or toddlers with ADHD, this can lead to symptoms at home, in day care, or at school, such as:

  • trouble focusing on activities and becoming easily distracted
  • low attention span while playing or doing schoolwork
  • fidgeting, squirming, or otherwise having trouble sitting still
  • constantly needing movement or frequently running around
  • engaging in activities loudly or disruptively
  • excess talking and interrupting other people

Symptoms of ADHD in teenagers

As children with ADHD get older, the symptoms they experience may change. In some cases, certain symptoms seen in childhood may become less problematic in adolescence, while new symptoms can arise amidst the changing responsibilities that accompany growing older.

In adolescents and teenagers with ADHD, other symptoms that may appear can include:

(Video) The Most Common Symptom of ADHD

  • difficulty focusing on schoolwork or other work
  • frequently making mistakes while doing work
  • trouble finishing tasks, especially schoolwork or chores
  • trouble with task organization and time management
  • frequently forgetting things or losing personal items
  • frequently avoiding mentally taxing tasks
  • experiencing increased frustration and emotional sensitivity
  • trouble navigating social and familial relationships
  • increased conflict with parents due to ADHD symptoms affecting the home life

It’s important to understand that while these symptoms of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity can sometimes cause adolescents and teenagers with this condition to appear “immature,” they are simply a part of ADHD and have nothing to do with a child’s maturity level.

Although most people with ADHD receive a diagnosis during childhood, sometimes the signs and symptoms of this condition are overlooked or misinterpreted.

But as long as the symptoms of ADHD have been present for that individual before 12 years of age, they can still receive a diagnosis in adulthood.

In adults, the symptoms of ADHD can appear different than those in adolescence or childhood due to the different responsibilities someone may have in adulthood. According to the literature, adults tend to experience:

  • difficulties at college or work
  • trouble passing classes or completing work
  • issues with self-esteem and overall mental well-being
  • substance misuse issues, especially with alcohol
  • relationship challenges with partners, family, or co-workers
  • frequent accidents or injuries

While ADHD affects people of all ages and genders, research suggests that ADHD is roughly four times as prevalent in males as it is in females.

The differences in ADHD between sex and genders are not just refined to the prevalence. In fact, ADHD can present differently in women than in men, which can further contribute to the reduced rate of diagnosis in women and girls.

(Video) ADHD diagnoses on the rise in adults, here are the symptoms

A recent article published in BMC Psychiatry reviewed the research on different symptoms, co-occurring conditions, and the level of functioning in females who have ADHD.

According to the research, females often experience a mix of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, many of which are less severe than their male counterparts, especially in the hyperactive-impulsive category.

Other notable differences in ADHD presentation in women and girls are:

  • more severe difficulties with mood changes and emotional regulation
  • a higher likelihood of severe social problems, especially with bullying
  • an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy due to an increased number of sexual partners
  • more severe challenges in the areas of academics and self-esteem
  • increased behaviors used to compensate for difficulties at home, school, or work

In addition, ADHD symptoms seem to become more severe with age and during periods of transition, such as puberty and adulthood.

Hormonal changes, such as those that occur with menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, can also cause an increase or worsening of ADHD symptoms.

ADHD in the transgender community

Most of the sources used in this article do not delineate between (and sometimes conflate) sex and gender and can be assumed to have primarily cisgender participants.

While research on ADHD within the transgender community is new, recent surveys state that transgender individuals are “significantly more likely” to report an ADHD diagnosis.

One study in Australia reports that ADHD is four times more common among transgender people than the cisgender population.

(Video) 6 Signs and Symptoms Of ADHD

At the time of publication, no research could be found that discussed the breakdown of symptoms between trans men, trans women, and gender nonconforming people. Intersex people were also not represented.

When we look at the presentation of ADHD symptoms, age seems to be the biggest factor for differences in symptoms between individuals. However, ethnic and cultural differences can also play a significant role in the diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

According to research, differences in beliefs, values, and even medical approaches can impact the way that certain behaviors — many of which are the direct result of ADHD — are viewed.

In fact, various studies have shown that children who belong to marginalized ethnic groups are less likely to receive the correct diagnosis and treatment they need for their ADHD.

Other cultural factors that can influence the perception, diagnosis, and treatment of ADHD include:

  • lack of knowledge about the condition
  • fear of the stigma surrounding the condition
  • lack of trust in the medical system
  • reduced ability to recognize when symptoms are problematic
  • differences in the way certain behaviors are viewed between genders
  • language barriers for non-native English speakers
  • no access or limited access to insurance or healthcare services
  • lack of healthcare professionals who are culturally competent

All of these factors can play a role in the way that ADHD symptoms are viewed and can lead to barriers in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in historically marginalized communities.

Living with ADHD

(Video) Most Common Signs that your Teenager has ADHD

Without treatment, ADHD can make it difficult to function at your best in your home life, at work or school, or even within your relationships.

If you believe that you, your child, or someone close to you is displaying signs of ADHD, reach out to a doctor or psychologist to ask about a potential diagnosis and start on the path to treatment.

If you’ve received an ADHD diagnosis, you might find the following treatment options can reduce symptoms and help you function better in your everyday life:

  • Therapy. Behavioral therapy is one of the most beneficial types of therapy for ADHD, especially for children and adolescents, because it helps identify the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are having the most impact.
    • In younger children with ADHD, behavioral therapies that focus on parent training, classroom management, and peer interventions are most effective.
    • In adolescents and adults, a type of behavioral therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can also be helpful.
  • Medication. Medications can be used alone or in conjunction with behavioral therapy to reduce the symptoms of ADHD in both children and adults.
    • According to research, psychostimulants — which are medications that increase the activity of the central nervous system — are the first-line medication for ADHD.
    • Other nonstimulant medication options for ADHD can include certain high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers.
  • Lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes for ADHD involve strategies that can help you work through the inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that the condition causes. Here are some helpful ways to create structure for yourself if you have ADHD:
    • Fine tune your study skills.
    • Create organizational techniques.
    • Implement time management strategies.

Getting support

It can feel overwhelming to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, but the most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. If you’re looking for more support after your diagnosis, here are a few resources to get you started:

  • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). CHADD is an organization that focuses on providing information about ADHD, as well as resources related to support and advocacy for people with ADHD.
  • ADHD Foundation. The ADHD Foundation is a U.K.-based organization that provides education and resources for people living with ADHD, while also providing information for caretakers and professionals who care for individuals with ADHD.
  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA). The ADDA is another organization that provides resources for people with ADHD, including a list of virtual support programs for different groups, such as People of Color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and more.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that causes a person to experience inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity, or a mixture of both.

(Video) Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD) - causes, symptoms & pathology

In children, ADHD symptoms can sometimes be misunderstood by parents and caretakers, while untreated ADHD in adults can cause symptoms that significantly interfere with daily functioning.

With the right diagnosis and treatment, you can learn to manage the symptoms of ADHD and improve your overall quality of life.


What are the 3 main symptoms of ADHD? ›

The 3 categories of symptoms of ADHD include the following:
  • Inattention: Short attention span for age (difficulty sustaining attention) Difficulty listening to others. ...
  • Impulsivity: Often interrupts others. ...
  • Hyperactivity: Seems to be in constant motion; runs or climbs, at times with no apparent goal except motion.

What are 5 of the main symptoms of ADHD? ›

  • Impulsiveness.
  • Disorganization and problems prioritizing.
  • Poor time management skills.
  • Problems focusing on a task.
  • Trouble multitasking.
  • Excessive activity or restlessness.
  • Poor planning.
  • Low frustration tolerance.
22 Jun 2019

What are some coping skills for ADHD? ›

10 Coping Mechanisms for Thriving With Adult ADHD
  • Make time for exercise every day. ...
  • Accept yourself and your limitations. ...
  • Find people that accept you. ...
  • Look for time in your day to unwind. ...
  • Create a system for prioritizing your day. ...
  • Use your own internal clock to your benefit. ...
  • Create deadlines for projects.
19 Aug 2018

What are ADHD triggers? ›

Common ADHD triggers include: stress. poor sleep. certain foods and additives. overstimulation.

What is an ADHD person like? ›

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It's caused by brain differences that affect attention and behavior in set ways. For example, people with ADHD are more easily distracted than people who don't have it. ADHD can make it harder to focus, listen well, wait, or take your time.

What does mild ADHD look like in adults? ›

Many adults with ADHD have trouble performing at work and difficulty with day-to-day responsibilities (e.g., completing household chores, paying bills, organizing things). To others, they may come across as insensitive, uncaring or irresponsible, which can damage their relationships.

How do they test for ADHD? ›

There is no single test used to diagnose ADHD. Experts diagnose ADHD when symptoms impact a person's ability to function and they've shown some or all of the symptoms on a regular basis for more than 6 months and in more than one setting.

Can you develop ADHD later in life? ›

ADHD can occur in adulthood and may be a syndrome distinct from childhood-onset ADHD, according to a new study. ADHD can occur in adulthood and may be a syndrome distinct from childhood-onset ADHD, according to a new study.

What does mild ADHD look like? ›

The main signs of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Some kids have trouble in all three of those areas. Some primarily have problems with inattention. And others may primarily have problems with impulsivity/hyperactivity.

What are the three 3 recognized types of ADHD? ›

The three types of ADHD are primarily hyperactive and impulsive, primarily inattentive, and combined. Each presentation is distinguished by a set of behavioral symptoms outlined in the DSM-5 that physicians use to diagnose the condition. Here, learn those criteria, and what symptoms look like — from severe to mild.

What tasks are difficult for people with ADHD? ›

How ADHD Gets in the Way of Completing Tasks. “Three of these areas—organizing, transitioning and focusing—are particularly difficult for people with ADHD,” notes Dr. Hallowell.

What is boredom like for ADHD? ›

ADHD boredom intolerance can cause you to seek stimulation when faced with boring activities. You may find yourself acting out, drifting off in your thoughts, or getting bored much more quickly than your peers. And when you get bored, you may have more trouble stimulating your brain and getting motivated again.

What helps calm an ADHD mind? ›

Exercise and spend time outdoors

Working out is perhaps the most positive and efficient way to reduce hyperactivity and inattention from ADHD. Exercise can relieve stress, boost your mood, and calm your mind, helping work off the excess energy and aggression that can get in the way of relationships and feeling stable.

Are you born with ADHD or do you develop it? ›

ADHD tends to run in families and, in most cases, it's thought the genes you inherit from your parents are a significant factor in developing the condition. Research shows that parents and siblings of someone with ADHD are more likely to have ADHD themselves.

What is the most effective treatment for ADHD? ›

Stimulants are the best-known and most widely used ADHD medications. Between 70-80% of children with ADHD have fewer ADHD symptoms when taking these fast-acting medications.

What is an ADHD episode? ›

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is considered a neurobehavioral condition, which involves regular episodes of impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, or difficulties sustaining attention. In some cases, it is a combination of all the above.

Are ADHD easily bored? ›

Kids with ADHD may feel like involuntary experts on the topic, but even some adults with ADHD may feel like it's a constant battle to seek new and exciting things to keep boredom at bay. Research shows that people with ADHD (among others) report higher frequencies of boredom.

How do people with ADHD communicate? ›

Blurting out answers, interrupting, talking excessively and speaking too loudly all break common communication standards, for example. People with ADHD also often make tangential comments in conversation, or struggle to organize their thoughts on the fly.

Is it easy to tell if someone has ADHD? ›

Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked). Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.

What can undiagnosed ADHD look like? ›

People with ADHD may have trouble completing thoughts when talking or finishing magazine articles and books. Failing to pay attention to details or constantly making careless mistakes. Often having trouble organizing tasks and activities. Often avoiding tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time.

What is ADHD masking? ›

If you hide your adult ADHD symptoms from other people, that's called masking. Basically, you're trying to seem more “normal” or “regular.” ADHD causes some people to act hyperactive or impulsive. It makes other folks have trouble paying attention. And still other adults have a combination of those symptoms.

How can you tell if someone has ADD? ›

Symptoms of Primarily Inattentive ADHD (Formerly ADD)

Often fails to give close attention to details, or makes careless mistakes. Often has difficulty sustaining attention. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish projects.

What questions do they ask in an ADHD test? ›

The ADHD rating scale will contain questions about typical behaviors including:
  • frequent fidgeting.
  • squirming in the chair.
  • difficulty focusing on one task.
  • trouble with organization.
  • making careless mistakes.
  • difficulty staying still or remaining seated.
  • difficulty paying attention, even when specifically asked to.

Can you diagnose ADHD by yourself? ›

No. Diagnosing ADHD requires extensive knowledge, skills and training and ADHD must be diagnosed by a certified professional like a medical doctor or psychiatrist.

How does ADHD affect the body? ›

ADHD can affect your ZZZs. It raises your chances of snoring, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome (an urge to move your legs when you're at rest). It can also throw off your body's internal clock, called the circadian rhythm. That means your sleeping gets out of sync with the natural rising and setting of the sun.

Can ADHD be caused by trauma? ›

Trauma and traumatic stress, according to a growing body of research, are closely associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). Trauma and adversity can alter the brain's architecture, especially in children, which may partly explain their link to the development of ADHD.

What are the signs of ADHD in female adults? ›

Symptoms and signs of ADHD in adult women can include:
  • Difficulty with time management.
  • Disorganization.
  • Feeling overwhelmed.
  • History of anxiety and depression.
  • Difficulty with money management.
18 Mar 2021

What it's like to have ADHD as a grown woman? ›

Women with ADHD face the same feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted as men with ADHD commonly feel. Psychological distress, feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and chronic stress are common. Often, women with ADHD feel that their lives are out of control or in chaos, and daily tasks may seem impossibly huge.

What is the opposite of ADHD? ›

People with SCT have trouble focusing and paying attention, but they're less likely to be impulsive or hyperactive.

When are ADHD symptoms present time of day? ›

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder with core symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inattention. These symptoms are continuously recognized throughout the daytime from childhood to adulthood [1-4].

What are 3 treatments for ADHD? ›

Based on the best available evidence, effective strategies include treating ADHD with medication, parent-delivered behavior therapy, and teacher-delivered behavior therapy.

What is the best drug for inattentive ADHD? ›

Psychostimulants are the medications of choice in treating ADHD. The two types that are most commonly used are amphetamine and methylphenidate. Mixed amphetamine salts are marketed under the brand name Adderall®. Methylphenidate is sold under the brand names Ritalin®, Concerta®, Metadate® and others.

Is ADHD a disorder or disability? ›

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It's most commonly diagnosed in childhood, but adults can experience the symptoms of the disorder and be diagnosed as well.

Does ADHD cause low motivation? ›

Adults and children with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine, which limits their brains ability to both recognize rewards and seek them out. This results in a lack of motivation. Without recognizing rewards, the body is unmotivated to act in any direction.

What is ADHD time blindness? ›

Time blindness is the difficulty or inability to sense the passing of time or recalling when certain memories took place. It is a common symptom in people diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism; however, anyone can experience it on occasion.

How ADHD can affect relationships? ›

Symptoms of ADHD that can cause relationship problems

If you have ADHD, you may zone out during conversations, which can make your partner feel ignored and devalued. You may also miss important details or mindlessly agree to something you don't remember later, which can be frustrating to your loved one.

How do people with ADHD have fun? ›

Competition and Urgency
  1. Use a timer to play “beat the clock,” or race another person to be the first one done. ...
  2. Use a timer to create a sense of urgency. ...
  3. Create a playlist. ...
  4. Get in costume. ...
  5. Doing tasks in a novel setting also makes organization more fun. ...
  6. Friends make tasks more fun! ...
  7. Take any task and turn it into a party.
5 May 2022

How can I make my ADHD happy? ›

How to Live a Happy Life with ADHD
  1. Don't Feed Your “Demon” The ADHD mind, more so than the neurotypical mind, may be hard-wired to ruminate and stew in negative self-talk. ...
  2. Train Your Cerebellum. ...
  3. Seek Connection. ...
  4. Find Your Right Difficult. ...
  5. Create Stellar Environments. ...
  6. Harness the Power of Movement. ...
  7. Respect Medication.
15 Jun 2022

What are good activities for adults with ADHD? ›

You can do these activities outdoors or indoors, but if you have a choice, go outside. Studies show that being in nature while you move can reduce your ADHD symptoms even more than when you exercise inside.
Other complex exercises.
  • Rock climbing.
  • Dance.
  • Gymnastics.
  • Yoga.
3 Oct 2022

What toys help with ADHD? ›

  • Fidget Spinners. Fidget spinners are small toys that come in a variety of hues and silhouettes. ...
  • Rubik's Cube. With its bright colors and perfectly hand-sized design, the classic Rubik's Cube is an excellent toy for ADHD. ...
  • Tangle Toys. ...
  • Shape-Shifting Boxes. ...
  • Stress Ball. ...
  • Magnet Balls. ...
  • Putty or Play Dough. ...
  • Liquid Motion Sandscape.
4 Jul 2022

Does caffeine help ADHD? ›

How does caffeine affect ADHD? The effects of caffeine consumption on ADHD remain largely anecdotal. The stimulant calms some people, while increasing anxiety in others. However, many parents and adults with ADHD, (and some studies) report light to moderate caffeine use as a way to help boost focus and concentration.

At what age does ADHD appear? ›

Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable when a child's circumstances change, such as when they start school. Most cases are diagnosed when children are under 12 years old, but sometimes it's diagnosed later in childhood.

Are there any physical signs of ADHD? ›

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.

What is the gold standard for diagnosing ADHD? ›

Healthcare providers use the guidelines in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5)1, to help diagnose ADHD. This diagnostic standard helps ensure that people are appropriately diagnosed and treated for ADHD.

What age does ADHD peak? ›

ADHD peaks during childhood. According to Nationwide Children's Hospital, 50% to 80% of people diagnosed with ADHD as children still meet the criteria as adolescents, and 35% to 65% meet the diagnostic criteria in adulthood.

Is ADHD a mental illness or disorder? ›

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children.

Does ADHD make you tired? ›

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms associated with ADHD — and one of the least talked about.

What does ADHD do to mental health? ›

We know that if you have ADHD you're more likely to experience a mental health problem. There's evidence that anxiety, depression, conduct disorder (persistent patterns of antisocial, aggressive or defiant behaviour), substance abuse, and sleep problems are all more common with people who have ADHD.


1. Expert Insights: What are some early signs of ADHD in children?
(University of Arizona Health Sciences)
2. ADHD in Adulthood: The Signs You Need to Know
3. ADHD: Signs, Symptoms, Solutions
4. Recognizing ADHD in Adults | Heather Brannon | TEDxHeritageGreen
(TEDx Talks)
5. What is ADHD?
(Psych Hub)
6. Most People Mistake These for ADHD | MedCircle
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