ADHD in Adults (cont.)
ADHD in Adults Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents are predominantly external and easy to observe, such as physical hyperactivity.
An exception is predominantly inattentive ADHD, formerly referred to as ADD,
which is more common in girls. With age, a decrease in observable symptoms of ADHD seems to occur. Adults with ADHD have a longer delay before refocusing when their attention is misdirected, and they have difficulty switching tasks. The hyperactivity and impulsivity of adult ADHD are often more subtle than those symptoms types in children. For example, while hyperactivity may result in children being fidgety and frequently getting up from sitting, this symptom in adults may involve the adult getting bored easily and being unhappy about having to sit still rather than having to frequently change their position. On neuropsychological tests, these individuals often have trouble with sustained effort, planning, organization, visual tracking, and listening attentively.
ADHD is characterized by a long-term history of inattention, impulsiveness, and variable amounts of hyperactivity. Remember that all of these symptoms are normal human characteristics, so ADHD is not diagnosed solely based on the presence of these normal human behaviors. ADHD is determined by the degree of these behaviors and their interference with important areas of life. People with ADHD have these normal human characteristics to an excessive degree, with a poor ability to easily control them.
The Evolution of ADHD Characteristics From Childhood to Adulthood
||Cannot sit still
Always on the go
Inability to relax
Unhappy/discontent when inactive
Touching or exploring
Can't stay in line
Temper tantrums or outbursts
Snap decisions, recklessness
Switching tasks rapidly
Feeling "down" when bored or "up" when excited/stimulated
Cannot finish work
Does not appear to hear
Poor time management
Misses parts of conversations
Although some adults with ADHD may not meet the full criteria used to
diagnose ADHD in children, they may still experience significant
impairment in certain aspects of life. Depending on their professional
or domestic situation, these adults may need to deal with more complex
abstract issues that can be difficult depending on their degree of ADHD
severity. Consequently, a given individual's perception of his or her
own degree of impairment may vary.
Some characteristics of
adult ADHD include the following (remember these are normal human
behaviors; ADHD is diagnosed based on the presence and severity of more
than one of these characteristics):
- Persistent motor hyperactivity: A person may feel restless, be unable
to relax or settle down, or be discontent unless active.
- Attention difficulties: Someone may have trouble keeping his or
on a conversation. He may be constantly aware of other things going
on around him even when he tries to filter them out. She may have
difficulty reading, finishing a task, or with focus or she may experience
- Affective lability: This means that
someone shifts from a normal
mood to depression or excitement, and these shifts can be either
reactive or spontaneous.
- Disorganization or inability to complete tasks: She may be
disorganized at work, home, or school. He frequently does not
complete tasks or switches from one task to another.
- Short temper with short-lived explosive outbursts: A person may lose
control for short times or be easily provoked to anger or constantly
irritable, and these problems may interfere with personal
- Impulsivity: Impulsiveness may be minor (for example, talking
before thinking, interrupting conversation, impatience) or major.
Abruptly starting or stopping relationships (for example, multiple
marriages, separations), antisocial behavior (for example,
shoplifting), and excessive involvement in pleasurable activities
without recognizing possible consequences (for example, buying
spree) are examples of major impulsivity. The bottom line is that
waiting to do something induces discomfort.
- Emotional overreaction: Someone may react excessively or inappropriately
with depression, confusion, uncertainty, anxiety, or anger to
ordinary stresses. These emotional responses interfere with problem-solving
Other conditions, such as a substance-abuse disorder, major affective disorder (like major depression or bipolar disorder), schizoaffective disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and schizophrenia must be ruled out.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/23/2013
Must Read Articles Related to ADHD in Adults
SSRIs and Depression
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants that affect serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter. Side ef...learn more >>
Understanding Antidepressant Medications
There are many types of depression such as clinical depression, major depression, seasonal affective depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder. There are a va...learn more >>
Patient Comments & Reviews
The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about ADHD in Adults: