Symptoms of ADD: Spotlight on ADD Symptoms

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Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) Symptoms

Symptoms of ADD must reflect inattention and occur for six months or more. ADD symptoms of inattention must also exist to a degree that is greater than that of others, or is considered to be irregular for the age or developmental level the person is at. These symptoms hinder the person’s ability to function and interfere with the successful completion of tasks. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), created by the American Psychiatric Association (2000), requires at least six of the following symptoms in order for an ADD diagnosis:

  1. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
  2. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play
  3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  4. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instruction)
  5. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  6. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (including homework, schoolwork)
  7. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities
  8. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  9. Is often forgetful in daily activities

Number four highlights an extremely important point that could be associated with other symptoms listed as well. It is critical to assess whether the person is struggling with comprehension before assuming that effort or attention are not occurring. If a person does not understand what is being asked of them, they cannot complete the task successfully. If the requested task is understood and the person still struggles, symptoms of inattentiveness may be interfering.

Another issue presented by the fourth symptom listed above is that of oppositional behavior. Unfortunately, people who are experiencing ADD symptoms may be viewed as intentionally disobedient due to the difficulty that following rules and instruction often poses. What is motivating the behavior should be considered before an assumption of the worst leads to the application of consequences that will not assist a person with ADD.


Due to these symptoms, a person with ADD may also appear to be daydreaming very often. The National Institute of Mental Health (2008) said that a person with ADD may seem to become easily confused, move slowly and have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others. Distractibility is an ADD symptom that will interfere with comprehension and the application of information. The work completed by a person with ADD may also seem to be careless and messy (Turner, 1989). Work completion, timeliness, organization and attention to detail are compromised by ADD. In totality, the work of a person with ADD experiencing these symptoms may be wrongly misconstrued and as a result fail to reflect their abilities and effort.


American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th edition, (DSM-IV-TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

National Institute of Mental Health (2008). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. (

Turner, F. J. (1989). Child Psychopathology: A social work perspective. New York: The Free Press.