ATTENTION-DEFICIT/HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER SYMPTOMS
“I can’t focus, I’m so ADD!” “That kid has so much energy and doesn’t follow rules, he must have ADHD.” It seems individuals are pretty open to diagnosing themselves and others as having ADD/ADHD. On one hand this is a testament to public education on ADHD being effective so people are very aware of the condition. However, when the media puts a lot of focus on a mental health diagnosis, it’s at risk for people using the terms incorrectly. Here are the facts about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and an explanation of ADD/ADHD symptoms:
The official name of the disorder is called Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). “ADD” is an old term no longer used by the DSM-5 (the official reference book for diagnosing mental health disorders). Also, some people use ADD to refer to symptoms of inattention being most prominent and ADHD to refer to symptoms of hyperactivity being most prominent.
AD/HD is a combination of symptoms that include a pattern of inattention AND/OR hyperactivity-impulsivity, and these symptoms interfere with functioning. Below is the official list of symptoms. But before you try to self-diagnose yourself or someone else, keep in mind that most of us can look at this list of criteria and say that we’ve exhibited one or more of these, but this does not mean we have AD/HD. Remember, a true disorder means there are a certain amount of these symptoms (at least 6 for children, 5 for adults) and they are severe enough that they interfere with the quality of functioning in two or more settings. Settings include school (all ages/grades including college), workplace, extracurricular activities, and/or at home.
Symptoms of inattention:
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities (e.g. overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).
- Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities (e.g. has difficulty remaining focused during lectures, conversations, or lengthy reading).
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g. mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction).
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g. starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily side tracked).
- Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g. difficulty managing sequential tasks; difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order; messy, disorganized work; has poor time management; fails to meet deadlines).
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g. school work or homework; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, reviewing lengthy papers).
- Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
- Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older adolescents and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).
- Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g. doing chores, running errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments).
Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity:
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet or squirms in seat.
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected (e.g. leaves his or her place in the classroom, in the office or other workplace, or in other situations that require remaining in place).
- Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to feeling restless).
- Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly.
- Is often “on the go,” acting as if “driven by a motor” (e.g. unable to be or uncomfortable being still for extended time, as in restaurants, meeting; may be experienced by others as being restless or difficult to keep up with.)
- Often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out an answer before a question has not been completed (e.g. completes peoples sentences; cannot wait for a turn in conversation).
- Often has difficult waiting his or her turn (e.g. while waiting in line).
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g. butts into conversations, games, or activities; may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving permission; for adolescents and adults, may intrude into or take over what others are doing.)
Some individuals show symptoms of either inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity, while others display both types of AD/HD symptoms. Professionals further distinguish the different types with the following labels:
Combined presentation means an individual exhibits symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.
Predominantly inattentive presentation means an individual exhibits mostly symptoms of inattention.
Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive presentation means an individual exhibits mostly symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity.
Then there’s mild, moderate, and severe levels of how these symptoms present themselves.
As you can see, having AD/HD is more than just not being able to focus, or being forgetful, or being hyper. If after reading this you believe you or someone you know may have AD/HD, consult with a mental health professional. Untreated AD/HD can have serious effects on a person’s well-being, but there are multiple effective treatment options available, to include therapy for skill-building of strategies to manage your AD/HD symptoms and/or medication to lessen symptoms. For an accurate diagnosis to be sure the symptoms you are experiencing is AD/HD, testing is needed. Visit our AD/HD Testing & Treatment page to learn more.