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Symptoms of ADHD

The symptoms of ADHD include inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. These are traits that most children display at some point or another. But with ADHD, which stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or what was referred to as ADD - attention deficit disorder - the symptoms are inappropriate for the child's age.

ADHD is common in children and teenagers, but adults can also have ADHD. With ADHD in adults, there may be some variation in symptoms. For instance, an adult may experience restlessness instead of hyperactivity. In addition, adults with ADHD consistently have problems with interpersonal relationships and employment.

Are there different types of ADHD?

There are three different types of ADHD, including:

  •  ADHD combined (the most common type), which involves all of the symptoms
  • ADHD mainly inattentive  (previously known as ADD), which is marked by impaired attention and concentration
  • ADHD mainly hyperactive-impulsive, which is marked by hyperactivity without inattentiveness

For a diagnosis of ADHD, a child must have at least six symptoms of inattentiveness, or at least six symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Symptoms that cause impairment must be present before the age of seven, and be continuously present for at least six months. Also, some impairment from the symptoms must be present in more than one setting. For instance, the person may be impaired at home and school or home and work. Also, there must be clear evidence the symptoms interfere with the person's ability to function at home, in social environments, or in work environments.

What are the main symptoms of ADHD?

There are three different categories of symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity.

Inattention may not become apparent until a child enters the challenging environment of school. In adults, symptoms of inattention may manifest in work or in social situations.

A person with ADHD may have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty paying attention to details and a tendency to make careless mistakes in school or other activities; producing work that is often messy and careless
  • Easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli and frequently interrupting ongoing tasks to attend to trivial noises or events that are usually ignored by others
  • Inability to sustain attention on tasks or activities
  • Difficulty finishing schoolwork or paperwork or performing tasks that require concentration
  • Frequent shifts from one uncompleted activity to another
  • Procrastination
  • Disorganised work habits
  • Forgetfulness in daily activities (for example, missing appointments, forgetting to bring lunch)
  • Failure to complete tasks such as homework or housework
  • Frequent shifts in conversation, not listening to others, not keeping one's mind on conversations, and not following details or rules of activities in social situations

Hyperactivity symptoms may be apparent in very young pre-school infants and are nearly always present before the age of seven. Symptoms include:

  • Fidgeting, squirming when seated
  • Getting up frequently to walk or run around
  • Running or climbing excessively when it's inappropriate (in teens this may appear as restlessness)
  • Having difficulty playing quietly or engaging in quiet leisure activities
  • Always being on the go
  • Often talking excessively
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