What are the Symptoms of ADHD?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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ADHD is an acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition characterized by poor attention span and a predisposition toward hyperactivity. However, while ADHD is classified as being a condition that is neurological in origin, it’s important to recognize that it is not a form of mental illness or genetic defect. In fact, the term is intended to merely describe a certain set of behaviors, not a progressive or degenerative neurological disease. In addition, ADHD, formerly known simply as ADD, may or may not actually involve hyperactivity in conjunction with limited attention span.

Unfortunately, there is no blood test or imaging scan that can determine an accurate diagnosis of ADHD. So, physicians and educators are left to make an evaluation based on the demonstration of certain symptoms of ADHD. These generally include difficulty staying on task, being easily distracted, displaying forgetfulness, and exhibiting compulsive behavior. The first symptoms of ADHD typically appear in children before the age of seven. However, since so many cases go undetected due to a lack of professional observation, a diagnosis may not be made until the child has reached grade school.

In order to reach a confirmed diagnosis, the patient must display six or more symptoms of ADHD associated with the three subcategories of ADHD as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), which are:


  • Predominantly inattentive
  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
  • Combined inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive

In addition, these symptoms must remain consistent for at least six months and significantly impact performance at both home and school.

The following are some common symptoms of ADHD in both children and adults pursuant to the DSM-IV-TR:

Inattentive Type ADHD in Children:

  • Overall poor concentration
  • Forgetfulness
  • Trouble paying attention to details, often resulting in careless mistakes while completing homework
  • Loses objects with frequency
  • Difficulty taking verbal direction
  • Lacks organization skills
  • Easily distracted
  • Avoidance of any project requiring fixed concentration for long periods

      Hyperactive-impulsive Type ADHD in Children:

      • Incessant talking, including interrupting others
      • Difficulty sitting still or participating in a quiet activity
      • Interferes with others’ conversations or activities
      • Shows a high level of restlessness (i.e., fidgeting with hands or feet, pencil tapping, etc.)
      • Frequently leaves their seat during class
      • Difficulty waiting their turn or standing in line

      ADHD in Adults:

    • History of ADHD symptoms in childhood
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Hyperactivity
    • Impulsiveness
    • Short-tempered
    • Mood swings
    • Difficulty completing tasks
    • Difficulty coping with stress

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