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What are the Signs of Adult ADHD?

written by: jamesj • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 12/21/2010

What are the signs of Adult ADHD? Inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness are the most common signs. A person may or may not have hyperactivity, but anyone with ADHD will have trouble focusing, be disorganized, and will find starting or finishing projects difficult.

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    Basic symptoms

    When someone forgets something, they may jokingly say it is because of their ADHD, but this condition is much more than just forgetting or misplacing items. Forgetfulness is one of the symptoms, but it isn't the only one.

    How do you know if you have ADHD? What are the signs of adult ADHD?

    ADHD is often thought of as a child’s condition, but adults can have it too. Often ADHD continues into adulthood, and people do not realize they have it until they become adults. The basic signs and symptoms are the same - inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity - but they manifest themselves differently in adults.

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    Hyperactivity

    Hyperactivity is the first thing people think of when considering the question: What are the signs of adult ADHD? Hyperactivity is the most obvious symptom of the disorder in children, but not so in adults. It shows up in different ways. Adults may not always be running around, but they can have trouble sitting still. An adult may just make small movements continuously, such as tapping fingers or clicking a pen, without even realizing they are doing it.

    Hyperactivity in adults can also reveal itself as an inability to relax, or perhaps talking constantly. Restlessness and nervous energy are also signs of hyperactivity in adults.

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    Inattentiveness

    Inattentiveness is the major symptom or sign of ADHD in adults, and can appear as:

    • Trouble listening
    • Difficulty staying with a conversation for a long period of time
    • An inability to stay focused on mundane tasks; many projects may have been started but few finished.
    • Difficulty getting started on tasks
    • Disorganization and/or trouble with prioritizing tasks
    • An inability to focus and therefore unable to avoid distractions
    • Forgetfulness, such as forgetting important dates, losing important items, or losing track of time - hours or even days.
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    Impulsivity

    In children impulsive acts may be things like jumping up in the middle of class and running around the room. Adults usually are more controlled, so impulsivity comes out in a different way.

    Adults may interrupt people who are talking without realizing it, or say things at strange times.

    Mood swings are another aspect of being impulsive. Depression can be a result of these mood swings and depression is often a symptom of ADHD as well.

    Self-regulation, or an inability to delay gratification is another sign. People with ADHD are more likely to be substance abusers, and more likely to take risks. They may even be reckless.

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    Is it ADHD?

    Any of these signs may be a symptom of ADHD, or they may not be. Any one of the symptoms by itself does not mean the person has adult ADHD. According to medical experts, a person must have a majority of the symptoms in more than one setting over a long period of time (at least six months). These symptoms must also significantly affect the person’s life for it to be considered ADHD.

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    Resources

    Help Guide: ADHD Symptoms

    Wrong Diagnosis: Adult ADHD