Symptoms of ADHD in adults
In adults, attention deficit disorder often looks quite different than it does in children—and its symptoms are unique for each individual. The following categories highlight common symptoms of adult ADHD.
Dr Behzad Basit is an experienced Psychiatrist who helps patients with Adult ADHD. With his medical career starting in 1988, Dr Basit been described by patients and colleagues as very approachable and can help patients experiencing problems with mood changes. His background in general practice, psychiatry and psychotherapy enables him to take a holistic approach in the assessment and management of patients.
Trouble concentrating and staying focused
“Attention deficit” can be a misleading label. Adults with ADHD are able to focus on tasks they find stimulating or engaging but have difficulty staying focused on and attending to mundane tasks. You may become easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds, bounce from one activity to another, or become bored quickly. Symptoms in this category are sometimes overlooked because they are less outwardly disruptive than the ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity:
- Becoming easily distracted by low-priority activities or external events that others tend to ignore.
- Having so many simultaneous thoughts that it’s difficult to follow just one.
- Difficulty paying attention or focusing, such as when reading or listening to others.
- Frequently daydreaming or “zoning out” without realizing it, even in the middle of a conversation.
- Struggling to complete tasks, even ones that seem simple.
- A tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work.
- Poor listening skills; for example, having a hard time remembering conversations and following directions.
- Getting quickly bored and seeking out new stimulating experiences.
Disorganization and forgetfulness
When you have adult ADHD, life often seems chaotic and out of control. Staying organized and on top of things can be extremely challenging—as is sorting out what information is relevant for the task at hand, prioritising your to-do list, keeping track of tasks and responsibilities, and managing your time. Common symptoms of disorganisation and forgetfulness include:
- Poor organizational skills (home, office, desk, or car is extremely messy and cluttered)
- Tendency to procrastinate
- Trouble starting and finishing projects
- Chronic lateness
- Frequently forgetting appointments, commitments, deadlines
- Constantly losing or misplacing things (keys, wallet, phone, documents, bills).
- Underestimating the time it will take to complete tasks.
If you suffer from symptoms in this category, you may have trouble inhibiting your behaviours, comments, and responses. You might act before thinking, or react without considering consequences. You may find yourself interrupting others, blurting out comments, and rushing through tasks without reading instructions. If you have impulse problems, staying patient is extremely difficult. For better or for worse, you may dive headlong into situations and find yourself in potentially risky circumstances. Symptoms include:
- Frequently interrupting others or talking over them
- Poor self-control, addictive tendencies
- Blurting out thoughts that are rude or inappropriate without thinking
- Acting recklessly or spontaneously without regard for consequences
- Trouble behaving in socially appropriate ways (such as sitting still during a long meeting)
Many adults with ADHD have a hard time managing their feelings, especially when it comes to emotions like anger or frustration. Common emotional symptoms of adult ADHD include:
- Being easily flustered and stressed out
- Irritability or short, often explosive, temper
- Low self-esteem and sense of insecurity or underachievement
- Trouble staying motivated
- Hypersensitivity to criticism
Hyperactivity or restlessness
Hyperactivity in adults with ADHD may appear the same as it does in children. You may be highly energetic and perpetually “on the go” as if driven by a motor. For many people with ADHD, however, the symptoms of hyperactivity become more subtle and internal as they grow older. Common symptoms of hyperactivity in adults include:
- Feelings of inner restlessness, agitation, racing thoughts
- Getting bored easily, craving excitement, tendency to take risks
- Talking excessively, doing a million things at once
- Trouble sitting still, constant fidgeting
We invite you to learn more about Adult ADHD here.
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Dr Behzad Basit Professional Qualifications
- Medical Doctoral (MD), Tehran University of Medical Sciences
- Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK (MRCPsych)
- Honorary Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, Imperial College London
- Honorary Visiting Associate, The Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London
- Postgraduate Diploma in Mental Health Studies (University of Kent)
- Postgraduate Diploma in Healthcare Management (Manchester Business School) Trained in Cognitive Analytic Therapy