Understanding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Symptoms

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a common mental health condition that affects approximately 5% of children and 2.5% of adults worldwide. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterised by a persistent pattern of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity that interferes with everyday life. ADHD can impact a person’s academic performance, social relationships, and even their job prospects if it’s left untreated.

ADHD can occur in people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities. Symptoms usually start during early childhood and persist into adulthood. However, according to experts, ADHD can also develop in people in their teenage years or even as late as adulthood.

Types of ADHD

There are three types of ADHD:

  • ADHD Inattentive Type: In this type of ADHD, the person has difficulties paying attention, following instructions, and staying organised. They are easily distracted, forgetful and struggle with finishing tasks that require mental effort or concentration.
  • ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: In this type of ADHD, the person fidgets, squirms, and can’t stay seated or still. They talk excessively and interrupt others. They tend to take action without thinking about the consequences and can be extremely impulsive.
  • ADHD Combined Type: This is the most common type of ADHD, where the person displays symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity type.

ADHD Symptoms

ADHD symptoms often differ among individuals, and not all symptoms would appear in every person. The symptoms are usually classified into two categories: hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention. Here are some of the most common ADHD symptoms based on each type:

Hyperactivity/Impulsivity Symptoms

  • Fidgeting or restless: The person may constantly move their hands or feet, squirm in their seat or fidget with objects around them.
  • Impulsive actions: The person may act without thinking of the consequences; they tend to interrupt others, blurt out answers and have difficulty waiting for their turn.
  • Excessive talking: The person talks excessively and may not be able to stop talking even when they’re urged to do so.
  • Have trouble sitting still: They may move around a lot, even in situations where sitting tight is appropriate, such as in school or work meetings.

Inattention Symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating: The person may have trouble focusing and following instructions, especially those which can be complex. They may make careless mistakes such as forgetting important details or losing things frequently.
  • Poor organisation skills: They may struggle to stay organised, such as forgetting appointments, deadlines or assignments, and difficulty managing time.
  • Difficulty completing tasks: The person may start many tasks, but struggle to finish them as they often get distracted easily.
  • Forgetfulness: They tend to forget where they place things such as wallets or keys.

Combined symptoms:

  • Poor academic achievement: The person may struggle academically due to inattention to detail or difficulty with following instructions.
  • Difficulty with social interaction: They may find it hard to connect with others due to impulsive behaviour or difficulty reading social cues.
  • Mood swings: They tend to experience mood swings, such as irritability, sadness, or anxiety.
  • Disorganisation: They may have an untidy house, which can make it hard to complete tasks effectively.

Treatment Options for ADHD

Luckily, ADHD can be managed effectively with the right treatment plan that includes therapy, medication and lifestyle changes. Here’s a breakdown of each type of treatment in detail:

Therapy

Talk therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can help people with ADHD to develop practical coping strategies to manage their symptoms. CBT includes learning to manage emotions, develop organisational and time management skills, and managing any co-occurring anxiety and depression.

Medication

Stimulant medication is usually the first line of treatment for ADHD. Medication can help reduce symptoms such as impulsivity and hyperactivity while improving the person’s attention span, so they can focus better. The medication is closely monitored to ensure that it is effective and is not causing any unwanted side effects, such as decreased appetite or difficulty sleeping.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise or changes in diet and sleep patterns, can also help manage ADHD. Regular exercise can help reduce impulsive behaviour and improve concentration. A balanced diet can improve attention and keep energy levels stable throughout the day. Developing a consistent sleep routine can also help regulate mood changes and reduce the risk of fatigue.

Final Thoughts

ADHD is a common mental health disorder that can impact one’s life significantly. The symptoms of ADHD can differ in every individual, but with the right treatment plan, such as therapy, medication and lifestyle changes, ADHD can be managed effectively. If you think you or a loved one may have symptoms of ADHD, it’s important to speak to a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Remember, early treatment can make a significant difference in improving one’s quality of life.

FAQs

FAQs about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms

What are the common symptoms of ADHD in adults?

Adults with ADHD may exhibit symptoms such as forgetfulness, disorganization, impulsivity, restlessness, difficulty following instructions, and being easily distracted. They may also struggle with time management, have difficulty completing tasks, and experience chronic lateness.

Can ADHD affect a child’s academic performance?

Yes, ADHD can affect a child’s academic performance as they may struggle with paying attention, staying on task, and completing assignments. They may also have difficulty with time management and organization skills, which can lead to poor grades and difficulty keeping up with their peers.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

A diagnosis of ADHD is typically made by a healthcare professional after a comprehensive evaluation. This may include a review of medical and family history, behavioral assessments, and interviews with parents, teachers or other caregivers. To be diagnosed with ADHD, a person must show persistent symptoms that impact their daily life and behavior in multiple settings.


References

1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596
2. Polanczyk, G. V., Salum, G. A., Sugaya, L. S., Caye, A., & Rohde, L. A. (2015). Annual research review: A meta-analysis of the worldwide prevalence of mental disorders in children and adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(3), 345–365. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.12381
3. Willcutt, E. G. (2012). The prevalence of DSM-IV attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A meta-analytic review. Neurotherapeutics, 9(3), 490–499. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-012-0135-8