How Does a Person with ADHD Act?

Reviewed on 4/29/2022
A child laying his head down on his desk and looking bored
ADHD symptoms can include frequent restlessness, problems playing quietly, disruptive classroom behavior, inability to resist temptation, difficulty getting along with others, unnecessary risk taking, disorganization, being easily distracted, inability to concentrate, lack of attention to detail, forgetfulness, and daydreaming.

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that typically begins in childhood and is characterized by symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. 

Symptoms of ADHD may persist into adulthood. Adults with ADHD are usually diagnosed as children and symptoms continued into adulthood. Sometimes people are diagnosed as adults, though it is believed they likely had ADHD as children and symptoms were minor so the diagnosis was missed. 

A person with ADHD may have symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention, such as: 

  • Hyperactivity
    • Frequent restlessness
    • Excessive fidgeting or squirming
    • Difficulty staying seated 
    • Excessive talking
    • Problems playing quietly
  • Impulsivity
    • Disruptive classroom behavior
    • Difficulty waiting turns
    • Interrupting others' activities
    • Blurting out answers too quickly
    • Inability to resist temptation
    • Difficulty getting along with others which can lead to rejection by classmates
    • Unnecessary risk taking
    • Unintentional injury
  • Inattention
    • Disorganization
    • Being easily distracted
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Lack of attention to detail
    • Poor follow-through with assignments or tasks
    • Forgetfulness
    • Making careless mistakes
    • Underachievement in school
    • Losing or misplacing things
    • Daydreaming

What Causes ADHD?

The cause of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is not known, but genetics are thought to play a role. 

Other possible causes and risk factors for ADHD include:

How Is ADHD Diagnosed?

There is no single test used to diagnose ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and the diagnosis is made by ruling out other possible conditions that may cause similar symptoms. Testing may include a medical exam and hearing and vision tests.

The criteria the American Psychiatric Association uses to diagnose ADHD include symptoms that must:

  • Be present before the age of 12 years
  • Persist for at least six months
  • Be present in more than one setting (e.g., school and home)
  • Impair function in academic, social, or occupational activities
  • Be excessive for the age of the child
  • Other mental disorders that could account for the symptoms must be ruled out

What ADHD Medications and Treatments Can Help?

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is usually treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. 

Behavioral treatments are generally recommended for preschool-aged children before they try medications. School-aged children with ADHD tend to respond well to stimulant medication plus behavioral treatments and counseling if needed. 

Stimulant medications commonly used to treat ADHD include: 

Stimulant medications have a paradoxical effect in children with ADHD, in that they do not cause children to become more stimulated, but they work to improve attention, concentration, and self-control. 

Atomoxetine (Strattera) is an alternative nonstimulant medication that may be used in some cases. 

Reviewed on 4/29/2022
Image Source: iStock Images