8 Adult ADHD Symptoms to Know About
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD, can sometimes present with numerous signs and symptoms. However, as ADHD is a complex neurodivergent condition that can affect people differently, two individuals with the same diagnosis may have different symptoms.
The symptoms of ADHD can occur in various ways and levels, depending on several factors, like how much chemicals the brain produces to function correctly. Some of the chemicals (neurotransmitters) involved are dopamine and norepinephrine.
Note that ADHD affects the brain's executive function, which contributes to mental skills that help in focus, attention, and memory. Some of the symptoms affect the person positively, others can have a negative impact.
What ADHD symptoms should you take note of? How do they affect your activities of daily living and social interactions? We’ll answer these questions in the next sections.
An Overview of Adult ADHD Symptoms
According to DSM-5, or the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental health disorders, it is sufficient to diagnose an adult with ADHD if he has at least five symptoms or traits under hyperactivity-impulsivity or inattention. The symptoms must be present for at least 6 months and should be inappropriate to the person’s developmental level. The symptoms present under hyperactivity and impulsivity must also occur “to an extent that it is disruptive”
Childhood ADHD is most likely to share symptoms with ADHD found in adults. However, the symptom intensity they experience can be more distinguished as children are in the stage of growing and developing. Some ADHD traits can be more elaborate in children, like learning disabilities and poor listening skills. But don’t forget that young adults or fully-matured people can experience them, too.
Knowing your ADHD symptoms can help prevent misdiagnosis. You see, several comorbidities can overlap with ADHD symptoms. This can further complicate the assessment and treatment or cause a negative effect on the person. For instance, mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders or mood disorders, can co-occur in a person and potentially mask their ADHD traits. Adult ADHD treatment can be affected if these things are overlooked and not considered well.
With that being said, what ADHD symptoms should you look further into?
Interrupting People When They Talk
There may be instances where an adult with ADHD will interrupt the conversation (butt in) and share their thoughts. This ADHD symptom is often characterized with inattention, hyperactivity, and lacking focus on the matter at hand.
Interrupting someone as they speak can be a bad ADHD habit that may offend the person you are talking to. Though it may be unintentional for us to cut them off from whatever they are saying, they might feel that we aren't respecting their thoughts and ideas, resulting in misunderstanding and further problems.
As an ADHD person, I have experienced this symptom a couple of times. 😅 Once in a while, I interrupt other people while they are talking and tell them what's inside my head. The hyperactivity of ideas inside my head is sometimes so overwhelming that I have to share them with the person I am talking to. Being forgetful may also play a significant role in this symptom, as I want to express my ideas before I forget them.
How can we manage this ADHD symptom effectively? When talking to someone you are comfortable with, it might be helpful to tell them beforehand that you tend to interrupt conversation because of your ADHD. You can also apologize whenever you feel the urge to interrupt them and ask them to go on if you ever “butt in”. This will help signify that what they have to say is just as important as your thoughts.
Losing or Misplacing Things
Have you experienced spending hours looking for something and eventually finding it someplace strange? I did! One time, I searched for my mobile phone and spent almost the entire day looking for it.
Why? You see, in the process of searching for it, I observed that my plant needs watering, there are plenty of unopened mails in my mailbox, and I apparently have other tasks unrelated to my search. In the end, I found my cellular phone inside the refrigerator, and I cannot remember how it got there. 😱 It took me several hours and a few unaccomplished tasks before finding my smartphone.
Losing or misplacing things can be commonly experienced by someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD individuals tend to lose their phones, keys, wallets, and other daily stuff potentially due to the levels of dopamine.
One of the related principles to the ADHD symptoms of being forgetful and losing things is Object Permanence. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Object Permanence is the cognitive ability to understand that objects continue to exist even when they can't be seen, heard, or felt.
An adult with ADHD may have difficulty understanding that an object still exists even if it's not in their line of sight. This means that they might have trouble retrieving or finding things that are not explicitly visible, thus spending too much time and frustration searching for these items.
Being Easily Distracted
Being easily distracted is something that many people with ADHD struggle with. Anything that our mind deems interesting can act like a magnet: it can pull our attention away from the task at hand. And it doesn't end there. The brain's sensory system is so heightened that it can even hear a noisy sound coming from somewhere or notice things that are not desirable to anyone.
These little things can significantly affect us and distract us from what we are currently doing. In other words, distractions do not go well with ADHD. Distractions may negatively affect our productivity and hinder us from doing things that help us improve ourselves.
To handle this ADHD symptom, I prepare a timetable and schedule of activities that I have to accomplish within the day. But even the act of creating a timetable can be challenging because my mind tends to wander a lot.
Please remember that it isn’t our fault. Getting easily distracted is just a part of our ADHD traits. Our hyperactive brain is somehow hardwired for anything interesting even though it isn't beneficial to us and can cause us to procrastinate even when doing something important.
Having Difficulties Waiting
A person with ADHD can experience impatience while waiting. The feeling of being "stuck" is something we might hate having. We may feel the frustration when we are waiting for a person, a scheduled event, or something we expect to do. Note that having trouble waiting is an official ADHD symptom.
For me, what I feel when I am waiting for someone or something for too long, is annoyance. What’s more, it might take a while for me to recover from whatever sadness or anger I feel due to waiting for too long. Personally, it's okay to wait as long as I receive some update in the process. The anticipation I feel while waiting without updates sometimes causes anxiety, which can make it impossible for me to move on to something else.
I know even neurotypical people may struggle with waiting, and that they, too, can be impatient at times. But for adults with ADHD, it can be compounded by other symptoms, such as trouble focusing, extreme restlessness, and inability to handle emotions. For a neurotypical person, it may seem easy to wait for an extra 15-30 minutes, but with many adults with ADHD, it may seem like forever. 😭
Struggling with Impulsivity
"Oh! Look, there's a piano, and it's on a discount!"
I still remember the overwhelming feeling I had when I saw the next hobby I was going into. When I saw the red piano with an interesting design, I immediately grabbed my purse, went to the counter, and told them that I'd be buying it. I haven't had the chance to plan where I'll put it - I just knew I had to buy it.
The joy I felt was immensely satisfying - but only at first. 🥺
Being impulsive is one ADHD symptom that can be problematic if not handled properly. Impulsivity means not thinking or planning thoroughly before acting or speaking.
Some people with ADHD can feel this need to act immediately even without thinking of consequences because it somehow helps relieve stress and anxiety. Impulsivity might also prevent us from having Analysis Paralysis, wherein we get frozen when presented with choices. Still, while impulsivity might help with analysis paralysis, the results after the decision are not always positive.
There are plenty of ways to control impulsivity brought on by ADHD. For instance, I learned from reading ADHD-related articles that our urge to buy things without second thoughts may be managed if we think it’s not a time-sensitive task. That means I can buy it, but I can also put it off for a few days or weeks.
Before checking out my cart, especially on some of my mobile applications, I hold them off for about three days. By then, my impulsivity might wear off, allowing me to decide properly if I really need to buy this stuff.
Reading reliable papers can help overcome impulsivity. Of course, nothing beats getting in touch with a mental health professional.
Being Sensitive to Sensory Inputs
Sensory overload is another thing that we may experience with ADHD. There are times when we have a heightened sense. It may be taste, touch, sight, hearing, or smell that can be accentuated to the point that it brings us discomfort and frustrations. Some people with ADHD may get a little bit too sensitive when a particular smell wafts in, there is a repetitive sound, or they feel a particular texture.
Besides being distracting, sensory overload can also lead to sleep troubles. Of course, several factors might contribute to sleep problems. However, being more sensitive to environmental factors can cause sleep disorders. Being sensitive to light, easily irritated by background noise, or having difficulty adapting to the room's temperature, are some sensory overload symptoms that might affect sleep.
Many people with ADHD are susceptible to sensory stimuli. Sometimes, sensory overload comes in when these stimuli become too much for us to handle. It is hard to control this ADHD symptom, and sometimes, the only way to overcome it is to eliminate the overwhelming stimuli.
As for me, I am sensitive to strong perfumes. I have to adapt to these stimuli for me to function well. I distance myself from people that have a strong scent, and I don't use fragrances that are overwhelming to my senses.
Zoning Out to Conversations
When I have a long conversation with someone, two things can happen. Either I interrupt them and comment on some details in our conversation, or I zone out and imagine things, like I am unwinding by the beach and sipping a good cocktail. If the latter is the case, usually, it’s because I am not interested enough in what we are talking about.
This ADHD symptom can be very problematic because, if not handled properly, it creates problems with the people we communicate with daily. You see, I myself am under the radar for this ADHD symptom, and sometimes I get anxious when I talk to someone because there may be moments when I will zone out. I understand that they might get offended when I only provide occasional nods and interjections.
But this ADHD symptom can be improved by being more aware of our surroundings, practicing mindfulness, and staying away from distractions.
Struggling to Stay Organized
The final ADHD symptom that we will be talking about is the difficulty in staying organized. Even if I have a to-do list for home organization or cleaning, staying organized still isn't easy. Despite the schedule, my mind might wander to the many unfinished tasks like unopened emails and lots of paperwork.
Some say people with disorganized thoughts and things possess a high IQ. But, while others consider being disorganized as a sign of intelligence, it may also be a symptom of ADHD. The hyperactive minds of some people with ADHD often keep them disorganized.
Take me, for instance. There are times when I don't know where to start doing things and how to finish them because I tend to do so many other unrelated tasks in between. Being overwhelmed by the feeling of disorganization is common for some ADHD people.
These are just a few of the ADHD symptoms you may experience; remember that there are other symptoms not listed above. The best thing you can do is seek professional help, have yourself evaluated for ADHD, take the proper medication or treatment, and design a healthy lifestyle that can help you cope with the signs and symptoms.
As for me, I try my best to lessen the impact of these symptoms by maintaining a positive outlook, keeping myself away from too many distractions, and seeking guidance from professionals.
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Now that You Know Your ADHD Symptoms, What Should You Do?
Again, remember that the symptoms of ADHD listed above are not everything there is when it comes to ADHD. According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are more ADHD core symptoms. They are often categorized into two groups from a clinical perspective, the ones that represent inattentiveness and the other, representing hyperactivity-impulsivity.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), previously known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), can be easily diagnosed if you are aware of your ADHD symptoms. Self-help guides are available online to help you assess and understand your symptoms and help you get through the ADHD diagnosis quickly. An ADHD specialist may need to ask you several questions about your experiences and how you are doing.
If you are not yet ready to be diagnosed with ADHD, it is entirely okay. As long as your mental health is not wholly affected and your way of living is not hampered much by the persistent pattern of these ADHD symptoms, then it may be good. You can still manage your ADHD and live a happy, contented life.
However, suppose things go out of hand, and you think that these symptoms of ADHD significantly affect your way of living, and you are at an increased risk of having low-self esteem. In that case, talking to your mental health professional can be a start to help you with your condition. You can start researching mindfulness meditation training, cognitive behavior therapy, and things to improve your executive functioning to know more about how to help yourself with your ADHD.
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8 Adult ADHD Symptoms to Know About FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
I have other friends with ADHD that don't exhibit these ADHD symptoms. Why is that?
ADHD symptoms can vary from person to person. Also, there are three types of ADHD: Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive, Predominantly Inattentive, and Combined ADHD Type. These categories have different symptoms for ADHD adults.
Can other mental health conditions affect the symptoms of ADHD?
Yes, they can. Comorbidities are other mental health conditions that can co-occur with ADHD. For example, ADHD and Anxiety Disorders can happen together and have overlapping symptoms, affecting your symptoms and diagnosis. Misdiagnosis can sometimes happen if these traits are overlooked.
How do you treat ADHD, and is it necessary to have ADHD medications?
There are different approaches to managing the different ADHD traits and symptoms. It can start with a healthy lifestyle and some self-care techniques to help you focus and calm yourself. If necessary, medications for ADHD can be taken under strict guidance from your physician. There are also different types of therapy, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, that can help you understand and change the way you think and act.