ADHD Signs & Symptoms

ADHD can be hard to spot. Learn about the warning signs & symptoms to watch for.

Understanding ADHD

Learn about ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a mental health condition that brings about many challenges for those who are afflicted by it. More commonly known simply as ADHD, this disorder has been defined by the American Psychiatric Association as the presence of a persistent pattern of hyperactivity and/or inattention that interferes with a person’s development and/or with his or her ability to function appropriately. Depending on the specific symptoms that a person with ADHD presents with, a diagnosis will typically be broken down into one of two types, hyperactivity-impulsivity or inattention. Some individuals will experience one type more prominently and more consistently than the other, while some will experience both types simultaneously. Although the presence of the condition can elicit much upheaval in the home, academic, occupational, and social lives of sufferers, there are fortunately options for treatment available that can help individuals overcome the distressing symptoms of ADHD.


ADHD statistics

Studies on the prevalence of ADHD have indicated that between 3% and 5% of adults and approximately 5% of children struggle with the symptoms of ADHD. Research has also concluded that males are more susceptible to developing symptoms of this illness and tend to present with symptoms that are more hyperactive in nature. Conversely, females with ADHD are said to present with more inattentive-type symptoms.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for ADHD

The development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is believed by researchers and professionals in the field of mental health to be the result of a combination of factors. Consider the following:

Genetic: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, like other mental health conditions, is known to run in families, suggesting that the genetic link to its onset is a prominent one. Therefore, when people have first-degree relatives, such as parents or siblings, who suffer from ADHD, they are especially vulnerable to developing symptoms of this condition as well.

Environmental: Many professionals in the field agree that certain environmental circumstances, when present or when experienced, can impact a person’s susceptibility to developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. For example, various studies have indicated that prenatal exposure to drugs, alcohol, certain infections, or dangerous toxins can potentially make a child more vulnerable to developing symptoms of ADHD later in his or her life. Other studies have shown that being the victim of abuse or neglect, experiencing traumas, or being exposed to chronically stressful or tumultuous environments can place individuals at risk for developing symptoms of ADHD. In order for environmental factors to come into play, however, there must exist a genetic predisposition for this or other types of mental illness.

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Family history of ADHD or other mental health conditions
  • Personal history of preexisting mental illness
  • Personal or family history of substance abuse
  • Chronic exposure to violence or crime
  • Being subjected to abuse and/or neglect

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ADHD

The signs and symptoms that indicate that a person is struggling with the symptoms of ADHD will vary from person to person but may include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Rapid, excessive speech
  • Restlessness
  • Sudden, unprovoked, angry outbursts
  • Inability to sit for prolonged periods of time
  • Frequently loses important items (e.g. wallet, keys, cell phone, work documents, homework, etc.)
  • Frequent tardiness
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors
  • Abusing drugs and/or alcohol
  • Decreased ability to complete tasks

Physical symptoms:

  • Chronic headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Impatience
  • Racing thoughts
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Pervasive, problematic inattentiveness
  • Ritualistic thinking patterns
  • Absentmindedness
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Persistent procrastination
  • Repetitive thought patterns
  • Memory disturbances
  • Paranoia

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Sudden changes in mood
  • Excessive levels of depression
  • Excessive levels of anxiety
  • Decreased feelings of self-worth
  • Feelings of insecurity
  • Heightened levels of irritability
  • Heightened levels of agitation


Effects of ADHD

There are many treatment options available that can assist in alleviating the distressing symptoms of ADHD. Such treatment options will also prevent future negative occurrences. Examples of various negative effects that can occur when an individual is suffering from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and does receive treatment can include, but are not limited to:

  • Decline in academic or occupational performance
  • Job loss
  • Academic failure
  • Familial conflict
  • Relationship disturbances
  • Social isolation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Onset of self-harming behaviors
  • Onset of symptoms of other mental health conditions

Co-Occurring Disorders

ADHD and co-occurring disorders

The presence of symptoms synonymous with other mental health conditions are frequently known to occur alongside those of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Examples of such disorders can include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Substance use disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder

My ADHD was getting out of hand and after attending the treatment and support groups at Harbor Oaks, it got a lot better.

– Former Patient
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