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What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?

What Are the Symptoms of ADHD?


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ADHD is often diagnosed in childhood, but usually lasts far past that. While it’s still ADHD, symptoms can look different in kids versus adults.

Whether you or your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it can affect many aspects of daily life in childhood and adulthood.

Many symptoms involve attention and focus, but the effects of ADHD often go deeper and are more complex than that.

And ADHD doesn’t always look the same from person to person. For instance, you might appear absentminded, while someone else has challenges with organization.

Your symptoms can change as you age, too.

ADHD symptoms typically show up at an early age, though they can become more noticeable when a child starts school.

The average age of an ADHD diagnosis is 7 years old. You may also be diagnosed earlier or later than that, depending on your symptoms and their severity.

Most adults who are diagnosed with ADHD likely had symptoms from childhood that went unnoticed or misdiagnosed.

ADHD involves a range of symptoms that are often categorized into three main types:

  • inattentive
  • hyperactive-impulsive
  • combined: a combo of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms

Symptoms can change with age as children learn coping skills. Some people may also have fewer or less severe symptoms as they get older, even without formal treatment.

Inattention symptoms

Many people with ADHD have ongoing symptoms related to inattention.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), while males are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD in general, females are more likely to have inattention type.

To be diagnosed with inattention type ADHD, you must experience 6 or more of the following symptoms for 6 months or longer:

  • You have a hard time paying close attention to details.
  • You find it difficult to stick with or finish a task.
  • It’s hard to listen or pay attention (it may seem like your “head is in the clouds”).
  • You have trouble following instructions.
  • It’s challenging to stay organized or manage your time.
  • You often avoid tasks that require a lot of focus or mental effort.
  • You lose things frequently.
  • You’re easily distracted by your surroundings or thoughts.
  • You’re forgetful.

In children, inattention may look like having a hard time focusing on schoolwork and listening to lessons or instructions, or forgetting to do homework.

In adults, inattention can look like trouble finishing work tasks on time, keeping up with bills, or getting organized.

Impulsivity-hyperactivity symptoms

Some people with ADHD have symptoms that center around hyperactivity and impulsivity.

As with inattention symptoms, you must experience at least 6 of these symptoms over a 6-month period for hyperactive-impulsive type:

  • You often fidget or have a strong need to keep moving.
  • It’s difficult for you to stay seated or sit still, especially when you’re expected to (like in a classroom or workplace setting).
  • You’re restless.
  • It’s hard to stay quiet in situations where it’s necessary.
  • You talk more frequently than others or speak without thinking.
  • You find it difficult to wait.
  • You have a tendency to interrupt others or find it difficult to take turns in a conversation.

In kids, hyperactivity and impulsivity may look like leaving their seat in the middle of a classroom lecture, or shouting out an answer before being called on.

An adult with these symptoms may find it difficult to sit still during work meetings, interrupt others when they’re speaking, or always appear “on the go” and restless.

ADHD symptoms may be more obvious in children, especially while they’re in school.

Children with ADHD tend to have more problems focusing and may not grow out of this behavior at the same rate as their peers.

Symptoms in kids may look like:

  • more frequent daydreaming than their peers
  • conflict at school or with friends
  • forgetfulness or tendency to lose things
  • taking unnecessary risks, like running into the street without first looking
  • difficulty playing quietly
  • squirming or fidgeting
  • having a hard time taking turns or being patient
  • running around or climbing in situations that aren’t safe or appropriate

Kids with ADHD are also more likely to have another mental health condition, such as:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • bipolar disorder
  • learning disorders
  • sleep disorders
  • oppositional defiant disorder
  • conduct disorder

It could also be more common for kids with ADHD to have a second neurodevelopmental disorder.

When children reach their teen years, some hyperactive and impulsive symptoms may lessen.

Inattention symptoms, on the other hand, are more likely to stick around into adulthood. But many adults with ADHD have found ways to manage and reduce these symptoms, too.

ADHD can appear differently in adults. For example, hyperactivity in a child can present as restlessness in an adult.

Some research suggests the adults with ADHD are more likely to report having a lower quality of life. This was seen in people with hyperactivity and impulsivity, along with more severe symptoms.

ADHD symptoms in adults may look like:

  • restlessness
  • acting impulsively
  • difficulty focusing on work
  • trouble staying organized at home or work
  • problems following through
  • difficulty prioritizing tasks, planning, and managing time
  • anger, irritability, or shifts in mood
  • trouble multitasking
  • difficulty managing stress

While most people are diagnosed as kids, some people with ADHD aren’t diagnosed until adulthood.

Still, ADHD doesn’t start in adulthood. While they may not have been recognized or diagnosed, you’ll have had symptoms as a kid.

Like children, adults with ADHD are also more likely to experience certain mental health conditions. For adults these include:

  • personality disorders
  • substance use disorders
  • anxiety disorders
  • intermittent explosive disorder
  • learning disorders
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Adults with ADHD may also be more likely to have another neurodevelopmental condition, like autism spectrum disorder.

ADHD symptoms in adults can look like or be mistaken for other mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. Your doctor will likely ask you to think about symptoms you might have had as a child in order to figure out if it’s ADHD or something else.

Adults living with ADHD may experience unemployment or financial issues that impact other areas of their life. But many treatments can make it easier to manage symptoms and reduce obstacles.

And while some people experience more challenges, other people view their ADHD as a strength. Some adults with ADHD find it makes them more creative or energetic in ways that benefit them throughout their life.

If you recognize ADHD symptoms in either your child or yourself, you can start by reaching out to a doctor or mental health professional for a screening.

If you’re not sure where to start, you can also take our quiz. Just keep in mind that only a licensed healthcare professional can give you a diagnosis, so you’ll still want to reach out.

To receive an ADHD diagnosis as an adult, you must experience symptoms:

  • before age 12
  • that show up in at least two settings: home, work, school, or other activities
  • that aren’t due to other mental health conditions like anxiety disorders or depression
  • that can’t be better explained by an underlying health condition such as a thyroid condition

You might talk with one of the following healthcare professionals to get an ADHD diagnosis:

  • pediatricians (if your child is getting a diagnosis)
  • psychologists or neuropsychologists
  • psychiatrists
  • primary care doctors

In some cases, your doctor may start with a blood test to rule out any physical health conditions that may have overlapping symptoms.

Once a diagnosis is made, you can discuss treatment options and coping tools that fit your needs.

One option to consider is medication. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stimulant medications lessen symptoms in 70–80% of children with ADHD. Nonstimulant meds, while slower-acting, may also help some people.

Behavior therapy can also help some kids learn skills and thrive. Therapy might focus on:

  • tools for managing stress
  • social skills
  • organizational skills
  • support for school-related needs
  • help with focusing and concentration

You and a healthcare professional can discuss what treatment approaches will be most helpful for you or your child.

If you or your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, many support groups and resources are available to make life a little easier:

  • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA)
  • Impact Parents: Helping Parents Help Kids
  • ADDitude: Inside the ADHD mind

No matter how old you are when you’re diagnosed, or what symptoms you have, the right resources and treatments can help you manage your symptoms and thrive every day.


ADHD Symptoms

The principal characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms appear early in a child’s life. Because many normal children may have these symptoms, but at a low level, or the symptoms may be caused by another disorder, it is important that the child receive a thorough examination and appropriate diagnosis by a well-qualified professional.

Symptoms of ADHD will appear over the course of many months, often with the symptoms of impulsiveness and hyperactivity preceding those of inattention, which may not emerge for a year or more. Different symptoms may appear in different settings, depending on the demands the situation may pose for the child’s self-control. A child who “can’t sit still” or is otherwise disruptive will be noticeable in school, but the inattentive daydreamer may be overlooked. The impulsive child who acts before thinking may be considered just a “discipline problem,” while the child who is passive or sluggish may be viewed as merely unmotivated. Yet both may have different types of ADHD. All children are sometimes restless, sometimes act without thinking, sometimes daydream the time away. When the child’s hyperactivity, distractibility, poor concentration, or impulsivity begin to affect performance in school, social relationships with other children, or behavior at home, ADHD may be suspected. But because the symptoms vary so much across settings, ADHD is not easy to diagnose. This is especially true when inattentiveness is the primary symptom.

According to the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there are three patterns of behavior that indicate ADHD. People with ADHD may show several signs of being consistently inattentive. They may have a pattern of being hyperactive and impulsive far more than others of their age. Or they may show all three types of behavior. This means that there are three subtypes of ADHD recognized by professionals. These are the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type (that does not show significant inattention) the predominantly inattentive type (that does not show significant hyperactive-impulsive behavior) sometimes called ADD—an outdated term for this entire disorder and the combined type (that displays both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms).

Hyperactivity-Impulsivity

Hyperactive children always seem to be “on the go” or constantly in motion. They dash around touching or playing with whatever is in sight, or talk incessantly. Sitting still at dinner or during a school lesson or story can be a difficult task. They squirm and fidget in their seats or roam around the room. Or they may wiggle their feet, touch everything, or noisily tap their pencil. Hyperactive teenagers or adults may feel internally restless. They often report needing to stay busy and may try to do several things at once.

Impulsive children seem unable to curb their immediate reactions or think before they act. They will often blurt out inappropriate comments, display their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for the later consequences of
their conduct. Their impulsivity may make it hard for them to wait for things they want or to take their turn in games. They may grab a toy from another child or hit when they’re upset. Even as teenagers or adults, they may impulsively choose to do things that have an immediate but small payoff rather than engage in activities that may take more effort yet provide much greater but delayed rewards.

The DSM-5 gives these signs of hyperactivity-impulsivity are:

  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
  • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
  • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
  • Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

Inattention

Children who are inattentive have a hard time keeping their minds on any one thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes. If they are doing something they really enjoy, they have no trouble paying attention. But focusing deliberate, conscious attention to organizing and completing a task or learning something new is difficult.

Homework is particularly hard for these children. They will forget to write down an assignment, or leave it at school. They will forget to bring a book home, or bring the wrong one. The homework, if finally finished, is full of errors and erasures. Homework is often accompanied by frustration for both parent and child.

The DSM-5 gives these signs of inattention:

  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
  • 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.
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
  • Is often easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Children diagnosed with the Predominantly Inattentive Type of ADHD are seldom impulsive or hyperactive, yet they have significant problems paying attention. They appear to be daydreaming, “spacey,” easily confused, slow moving, and lethargic. They may have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as other children. When the teacher gives oral or even written instructions, this child has a hard time understanding what he or she is supposed to do and makes frequent mistakes. Yet the child may sit quietly, unobtrusively, and even appear to be working but not fully attending to or understanding the task and the instructions.

These children don’t show significant problems with impulsivity and over-activity in the classroom, on the school ground, or at home. They may get along better with other children than the more impulsive and hyperactive types of ADHD, and they may not have the same sorts of social problems so common with the combined type of ADHD. So often their problems with inattention are overlooked. But they need help just as much as children with other types of ADHD, who cause more obvious problems in the classroom.

Is It Really ADHD?

Not everyone who is overly hyperactive, inattentive, or impulsive has ADHD. Since most people sometimes blurt out things they didn’t mean to say, or jump from one task to another, or become disorganized and forgetful, how can specialists tell if the problem is ADHD?

Because everyone shows some of these behaviors at times, the diagnosis requires that such behavior be demonstrated to a degree that is inappropriate for the person’s age. The diagnostic guidelines also contain specific requirements for determining when the symptoms indicate ADHD. The behaviors must appear early in life, before age 7, and continue for at least 6 months. Above all, the behaviors must create a real handicap in at least two areas of a person’s life such as in the schoolroom, on the playground, at home, in the community, or in social settings. So someone who shows some symptoms but whose schoolwork or friendships
are not impaired by these behaviors would not be diagnosed with ADHD. Nor would a child who seems overly active on the playground but functions well elsewhere receive an ADHD diagnosis.

To assess whether a child has ADHD, specialists consider several critical questions: Are these behaviors excessive, long-term, and pervasive? That is, do they occur more often than in other children the same age? Are they a continuous problem, not just a response to a temporary situation? Do the behaviors occur in several settings or only in one specific place like the playground or in the schoolroom? The person’s pattern of behavior is compared against a set of criteria and characteristics of the disorder as listed in the DSM-V.

Problems Associated with ADHD Children

The list below contains symptoms, behavior and conditions often found in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Not all of these are considered to be diagnostic of ADHD. These are presented to help parents and teachers recognize that problems they are observing in a child may be the related to this disorder. If a child has been diagnosed by a health professional with this disorder, it may help to explain why the child is displaying the symptoms or behavior. On the other hand, if a child is exhibiting a number of symptoms on this list, an evaluation by a health care professional (family doctor, pediatrician, child psychiatrist or child psychologist) may be of value.

  • Short attention span
  • Distractibility
  • Restlessness
  • Poor impulse control
  • Destructiveness/nosiness
  • Poor peer relations
  • Noncompliance to commands
  • Aggression/lying/stealing
  • Belligerent and disrespectful language
  • Poor self control/high risk taking
  • Poor social problem solving skills
  • Immature self speech (integral language)
  • Inattention/distractibility
  • Poor perspective on future consequences of behavior
  • Underachievement for intelligence
  • Specific learning disabilities
  • Low grades
  • Poor work habits
  • Missing assignments
  • Depression
  • Excitability
  • Immature emotional control
  • Excessive frustration
  • Unpredictable/variable moods
  • Immature physical size
  • Immature bone growth
  • Enuresis/encorpresis
  • Increased upper respiratory infections
  • Increased frequency of otitis media
  • Increased frequency of allergies
  • Greater number of minor physical anomalies
  • Underactive central nervous system
  • Short sleep cycles
  • High pain tolerance
  • Poor motor coordination

(These are not diagnostic symptoms. These are physical conditions that are found to occur more frequently in ADHD kids than the general population. Having any of these conditions does not mean your child may have ADHD.)

Diagnostic Criteria for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

The following is the diagnostic criteria contained in the publication of the American Psychiatric Association known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition (DSM-5).

People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development:
  1. Inattention: Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:
    • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
    • 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.
    • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
    • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
    • Is often easily distracted
    • Is often forgetful in daily activities.
  2. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:
    • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
    • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
    • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
    • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
    • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
    • Often talks excessively.
    • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
    • Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.
    • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
In addition, the following conditions must be met:
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.
  • Several symptoms are present in two or more setting, (e.g., at home, school or work with friends or relatives in other activities).
  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.
  • The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder. The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).
Based on the types of symptoms, three kinds (presentations) of ADHD can occur:

Combined Presentation: if enough symptoms of both criteria inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity were present for the past 6 months

Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: if enough symptoms of inattention, but not hyperactivity-impulsivity, were present for the past six months

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: if enough symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity but not inattention were present for the past six months.

Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well.


What Are the Symptoms of ADHD? - Psychology

ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioral condition that makes focusing on everyday requests and routines challenging.

People with ADHD typically have trouble getting organized, staying focused, making realistic plans and thinking before acting. They may be fidgety, noisy and unable to adapt to changing situations.

Children with ADHD can be defiant, socially inept or aggressive.

Families considering treatment options should consult a qualified mental health professional for a complete review of their child's behavioral issues and a treatment plan.


Common Signs of ADHD in Women

Here are some ways that ADHD might show up in your life:

  • Your desk at work is piled high with papers. Even when you make a big effort to tidy it, it only stays clear for a day or two.
  • Being at the office feels difficult. The noise and people make it hard to get work done.
  • You often stay late at the office, as the only time you can work well is when everyone else has left and it's quiet.
  • You spend a lot of time and effort to look "normal," and hope no one notices the real you.
  • You feel like you're drowning in paper. At work, home, in your car, and even in your purse. You have an uneasy feeling that unpaid bills and forgotten projects are hiding under the paper.
  • You dislike going to parties and other social gatherings because they make you feel overwhelmed and shy.
  • Your mind drifts during conversations unless you're the one talking or it's a topic you find very interesting.
  • Friendships can be difficult to navigate because social rules seem complicated.
  • You talk more than anyone else you know.
  • Growing up, you were always described as a tomboy because you had so much energy and liked to be busy.
  • You don't feel organized with money and are usually behind with bills.
  • You often overspend to compensate for other problems. For example, you don't have a clean outfit to wear for an office party so you buy a new one. Or you forgot someone's birthday, so you buy an expensive present to make up for it.
  • Shopping trips make you feel better in the moment, but you feel regret later when the credit card bill arrives.
  • You spend a lot of time, money, and research on products to help you be more organized, but then you don't use them.
  • You feel very embarrassed to have guests visit your home because it's so cluttered and disorganized.
  • You wish you were able to be a better friend, partner, or mom, and that you would do the things that other people do. For example, you wish you could remember birthdays, bake cookies, and arrive on time for a date.
  • Because you're not able to do the things that society expects women to do, people may think you don't care.
  • Grocery stores overwhelm you, and you find it hard to make decisions about what to buy.
  • You often forget a key ingredient for a meal even though you take longer in the store than most people do.
  • It feels like each day is spent responding to requests and limiting disasters rather than moving forward with your goals.
  • You feel frustrated that people you went to school with pass you by with their achievements, even though you know you're just as smart.
  • You feel crushing sadness and frustration that you haven't met your potential.
  • Little things can push you over the top and you become emotional.
  • You find it hard to relax.

Many women are relieved to learn that behaviors they have been struggling with for so long are because of ADHD.


Diagnosis

If you suspect your child has ADHD, you will need to take them to a qualified pediatrician or mental health expert to get a diagnosis. They’ll typically ask for a detailed history of your child’s symptoms and put your child through a series of tests to observe their behaviors.

Medical experts use the DSM-5 criteria to make a conclusive diagnosis of ADHD. The manual details nine behaviors and symptoms for hyperactivity/impulsivity as well as nine behaviors and symptoms for inattention.

A child is diagnosed with ADHD when they display at least six of the behaviors and symptoms listed for either type. While an adult or teenager is required to exhibit at least five of these symptoms, the symptoms must also be so severe as to disrupt a person’s regular functioning.

Symptoms of ADHD can start to show between the ages of 3 and 6 and are often mistaken for bad behavior. If left undiagnosed and untreated, the condition may cause poor academic performance, difficulty maintaining healthy relationships, and anti-social behaviors.


Long-Term Outlook

Overall, hyperactivity tends to diminish with age. But inattention tends to last into adulthood.

Treatment can help. And a great many children with ADHD ultimately adjust. Some -- about 20% to 30% -- have learning problems that ADHD treatment may not help, though.

As they grow older, some teens who've had the disorder since childhood may have periods of anxiety or depression. When there are more demands at school or home, symptoms of ADHD may get worse.

A child with hyperactive behavior may get symptoms of other disruptive disorders, like oppositional-defiant disorder.

These children are especially at risk to be more likely to drop out of school. If you’re concerned, talk to your or your child’s doctor about your treatment options. Medications, behavioral therapy, and other tactics can help.

Sources

American Psychiatric Association.

Searight, H.R. Am Fam Physician, November 2000.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Ed. (DSM-V).


ADHD Symptoms

The principal characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms appear early in a child’s life. Because many normal children may have these symptoms, but at a low level, or the symptoms may be caused by another disorder, it is important that the child receive a thorough examination and appropriate diagnosis by a well-qualified professional.

Symptoms of ADHD will appear over the course of many months, often with the symptoms of impulsiveness and hyperactivity preceding those of inattention, which may not emerge for a year or more. Different symptoms may appear in different settings, depending on the demands the situation may pose for the child’s self-control. A child who “can’t sit still” or is otherwise disruptive will be noticeable in school, but the inattentive daydreamer may be overlooked. The impulsive child who acts before thinking may be considered just a “discipline problem,” while the child who is passive or sluggish may be viewed as merely unmotivated. Yet both may have different types of ADHD. All children are sometimes restless, sometimes act without thinking, sometimes daydream the time away. When the child’s hyperactivity, distractibility, poor concentration, or impulsivity begin to affect performance in school, social relationships with other children, or behavior at home, ADHD may be suspected. But because the symptoms vary so much across settings, ADHD is not easy to diagnose. This is especially true when inattentiveness is the primary symptom.

According to the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders2 (DSM-IV-TR), there are three patterns of behavior that indicate ADHD. People with ADHD may show several signs of being consistently inattentive. They may have a pattern of being hyperactive and impulsive far more than others of their age. Or they may show all three types of behavior. This means that there are three subtypes of ADHD recognized by professionals. These are the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type (that does not show significant inattention) the predominantly inattentive type (that does not show significant hyperactive-impulsive behavior) sometimes called ADD—an outdated term for this entire disorder and the combined type (that displays both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms).

Hyperactivity-Impulsivity

Hyperactive children always seem to be “on the go” or constantly in motion. They dash around touching or playing with whatever is in sight, or talk incessantly. Sitting still at dinner or during a school lesson or story can be a difficult task. They squirm and fidget in their seats or roam around the room. Or they may wiggle their feet, touch everything, or noisily tap their pencil. Hyperactive teenagers or adults may feel internally restless. They often report needing to stay busy and may try to do several things at once.

Impulsive children seem unable to curb their immediate reactions or think before they act. They will often blurt out inappropriate comments, display their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for the later consequences of
their conduct. Their impulsivity may make it hard for them to wait for things they want or to take their turn in games. They may grab a toy from another child or hit when they’re upset. Even as teenagers or adults, they may impulsively choose to do things that have an immediate but small payoff rather than engage in activities that may take more effort yet provide much greater but delayed rewards.

Some signs of hyperactivity-impulsivity are:

  • Feeling restless, often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming while seated
  • Running, climbing, or leaving a seat in situations where sitting or quiet behavior is expected
  • Blurting out answers before hearing the whole question
  • Having difficulty waiting in line or taking turns.

Inattention

Children who are inattentive have a hard time keeping their minds on any one thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes. If they are doing something they really enjoy, they have no trouble paying attention. But focusing deliberate, conscious attention to organizing and completing a task or learning something new is difficult.

Homework is particularly hard for these children. They will forget to write down an assignment, or leave it at school. They will forget to bring a book home, or bring the wrong one. The homework, if finally finished, is full of errors and erasures. Homework is often accompanied by frustration for both parent and child.

The DSM-IV-TR gives these signs of inattention:

  • Often becoming easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds
  • Often failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes
  • Rarely following instructions carefully and completely losing or forgetting things like toys, or pencils, books, and tools needed for a task
  • Often skipping from one uncompleted activity to another.

Children diagnosed with the Predominantly Inattentive Type of ADHD are seldom impulsive or hyperactive, yet they have significant problems paying attention. They appear to be daydreaming, “spacey,” easily confused, slow moving, and lethargic. They may have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as other children. When the teacher gives oral or even written instructions, this child has a hard time understanding what he or she is supposed to do and makes frequent mistakes. Yet the child may sit quietly, unobtrusively, and even appear to be working but not fully attending to or understanding the task and the instructions.

These children don’t show significant problems with impulsivity and over-activity in the classroom, on the school ground, or at home. They may get along better with other children than the more impulsive and hyperactive types of ADHD, and they may not have the same sorts of social problems so common with the combined type of ADHD. So often their problems with inattention are overlooked. But they need help just as much as children with other types of ADHD, who cause more obvious problems in the classroom.

Is It Really ADHD?

Not everyone who is overly hyperactive, inattentive, or impulsive has ADHD. Since most people sometimes blurt out things they didn’t mean to say, or jump from one task to another, or become disorganized and forgetful, how can specialists tell if the problem is ADHD?

Because everyone shows some of these behaviors at times, the diagnosis requires that such behavior be demonstrated to a degree that is inappropriate for the person’s age. The diagnostic guidelines also contain specific requirements for determining when the symptoms indicate ADHD. The behaviors must appear early in life, before age 7, and continue for at least 6 months. Above all, the behaviors must create a real handicap in at least two areas of a person’s life such as in the schoolroom, on the playground, at home, in the community, or in social settings. So someone who shows some symptoms but whose schoolwork or friendships
are not impaired by these behaviors would not be diagnosed with ADHD. Nor would a child who seems overly active on the playground but functions well elsewhere receive an ADHD diagnosis.

To assess whether a child has ADHD, specialists consider several critical questions: Are these behaviors excessive, long-term, and pervasive? That is, do they occur more often than in other children the same age? Are they a continuous problem, not just a response to a temporary situation? Do the behaviors occur in several settings or only in one specific place like the playground or in the schoolroom? The person’s pattern of behavior is compared against a set of criteria and characteristics of the disorder as listed in the DSM-IV-TR.

[Above information excerpted from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder a publication of National Institute for Mental Health (2006) NIH Publication No. 3572]

Problems Associated with ADHD Children

The list below contains symptoms, behavior and conditions often found in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Not all of these are considered to be diagnostic of ADHD. These are presented to help parents and teachers recognize that problems they are observing in a child may be the related to this disorder. If a child has been diagnosed by a health professional with this disorder, it may help to explain why the child is displaying the symptoms or behavior. On the other hand, if a child is exhibiting a number of symptoms on this list, an evaluation by a health care professional (family doctor, pediatrician, child psychiatrist or child psychologist) may be of value.

  • Short attention span
  • Distractibility
  • Restlessness
  • Poor impulse control
  • Destructiveness/nosiness
  • Poor peer relations
  • Noncompliance to commands
  • Aggression/lying/stealing
  • Belligerent and disrespectful language
  • Poor self control/high risk taking
  • Poor social problem solving skills
  • Immature self speech (integral language)
  • Inattention/distractibility
  • Poor perspective on future consequences of behavior
  • Underachievement for intelligence
  • Specific learning disabilities
  • Low grades
  • Poor work habits
  • Missing assignments
  • Depression
  • Excitability
  • Immature emotional control
  • Excessive frustration
  • Unpredictable/variable moods
  • Immature physical size
  • Immature bone growth
  • Enuresis/encorpresis
  • Increased upper respiratory infections
  • Increased frequency of otitis media
  • Increased frequency of allergies
  • Greater number of minor physical anomalies
  • Underactive central nervous system
  • Short sleep cycles
  • High pain tolerance
  • Poor motor coordination

(These are not diagnostic symptoms. These are physical conditions that are found to occur more frequently in ADHD kids than the general population. Having any of these conditions does not mean your child may have ADHD.)


Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) among adult eating disorder patients

Background: Very little is known about the prevalence of ADHD symptoms in Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder and even less in other eating disorders. This knowledge gap is of clinical importance since stimulant treatment is proven effective in Binge Eating Disorder and discussed as a treatment possibility for Bulimia Nervosa. The objective of this study was to explore the prevalence and types of self-reported ADHD symptoms in an unselected group of eating disorder patients assessed in a specialized eating disorder clinic.

Methods: In total 1165 adults with an eating disorder were assessed with a battery of standardized instruments, for measuring inter alia ADHD screening, demographic variables, eating disorder symptoms and psychiatric comorbidity. Chi-square tests were used for categorical variables and Kruskal-Wallis tests for continuous variables.

Results: Almost one third (31.3 %) of the patients scored above the screening cut off indicating a possible ADHD. The highest prevalence rates (35-37 %) were found in Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa bingeing/purging subtype, while Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified type 1-4 and Binge Eating Disorder patients reported slightly below average (26-31 %), and Anorexia Nervosa restricting subtype patients even lower (18 %). Presence of binge eating, purging, loss of control over eating and non-anorectic BMI were related to results indicating a possible ADHD. Psychiatric comorbidity correlated to ADHD symptoms without explaining the differences between eating disorder diagnoses.

Conclusions: There is a high frequency of ADHD symptoms in patients with binge eating/purging eating disorders that motivates further studies, particularly concerning the effects of ADHD medication. The finding that the frequency of ADHD symptoms in anorexia nervosa with binge eating/purging is as high as in bulimia nervosa highlights the need also for this group.

Keywords: ADHD Anorexia nervosa Binge eating disorder Bulimia nervosa Comorbidity Eating disorders Prevalence Purging.


What to know about inattentive ADHD

A diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder will include one of three specifiers. These are terms that provide more detail about a person’s experience. The specifier “inattentive” describes challenges concentrating and paying attention to detail.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is among the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. It occurs in around 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults.

A person with inattentive ADHD likely has difficulties concentrating and paying attention to detail, in the classroom, for example.

Another specifier of ADHD is “hyperactive/impulsive.” This describes a person who likely fidgets, has difficulties sitting still, and has very high levels of energy.

If a person experiences some characteristics of both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive ADHD, a doctor may diagnose them with combined ADHD.

A specifier does not represent a different diagnosis, it is an extension added to a diagnosis. Specifiers help psychological practitioners to better describe a person’s symptoms and make treatment decisions.

Inattentive ADHD is not a type of ADHD. It is just a more specific way of describing an individual’s symptoms.

It is important to remember that a child may not have ADHD just because they show some symptoms. Many life events, medical conditions, and psychological disorders can result in challenges and behavior similar to those associated with ADHD.

Share on Pinterest Inattentive ADHD can lead to difficulties with concentration.

Many children display symptoms of inattentive ADHD, such as having a limited attention span and difficulties following instructions.

However, children with inattentive ADHD have more significant challenges focusing and paying attention than the medical community would expect for most children in the age range.

A psychologist or psychiatrist will diagnose ADHD with “inattentive” as a specifier if a child has at least six of the nine symptoms below:

  • seeming unable to pay close attention or regularly making careless mistakes in tasks
  • having difficulties staying focused on tasks or activities
  • appearing not to listen when spoken to
  • seeming unable to complete tasks or duties as instructed
  • having trouble organizing tasks and managing time
  • avoiding or disliking tasks that require extended periods of thinking
  • regularly losing items needed for daily life
  • being easily distracted
  • forgetting to perform daily tasks and go to appointments

A doctor can diagnose a person over 17 years of age if they demonstrate five of the symptoms above.

However, a person has to demonstrate these symptoms frequently over a 6-month period to meet the doctor’s criteria.

There is no blood test or physical examination for inattentive ADHD. The doctor will reach a diagnosis by gathering information from parents and teachers, determining if the child shows the behavior that meets the criteria, and ruling out other issues.

Differences between specifiers

A doctor will diagnose ADHD with “inattentive” as a specifier if distraction is a key characteristic.

In a child, this may involve spending a lot of time looking through a window, rather than focusing on the teacher’s words.

If a person has ADHD with”hyperactive/impulsive” as a specifier, the symptoms are different. They involve high levels of energy.

For a diagnosis of hyperactive/impulsive ADHD, a child or adolescent will display at least of six of the following nine symptoms. Anyone older than 17 years will display at least five:

  • fidgeting with or tapping the hands or feet, or squirming while sitting
  • seeming unable to stay seated
  • running and climbing at inappropriate times and places
  • seeming unable to play or participate in activities quietly
  • being constantly “on the go” or seeming motorized
  • talking an unusual amount
  • blurting out answers
  • finding it difficult to wait in turn
  • interrupting or intruding on others, such as by cutting into or taking over games, activities or conversations

While many children have high levels of energy and may display some of the symptoms above, for a doctor to diagnose hyperactive/impulsive ADHD, the symptoms would have to be on the extreme side and cause problems in everyday life. The symptoms would also have to occur frequently for more than 6 months.

A person may have six or more of the above symptoms, some of which characterize inattentive ADHD and others which characterize hyperactive/impulsive ADHD.

If these symptoms are all present for more than 6 months, a doctor will likely diagnose combined ADHD.

According to research published in 1997 , definitive symptoms of hyperactive/impulsive ADHD are likely to show by the time a child is 7 years old.

The findings suggest that a doctor can usually diagnose combined ADHD by the same age.

The researchers also found that fewer than half of the children later diagnosed with inattentive ADHD showed definitive symptoms in the first 7 years of life.

Overall, more males have ADHD than females, but females are more likely than males to have the inattentive specifier.

Before doctor diagnoses ADHD, they need to rule out other possible causes of symptoms. These can include:



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