Symptoms

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER

Information provided on this website is intended for your general knowledge and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice and treatment. You should never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking an assessment or medical treatment because of something you may have read on this site. You should also not use the information on this web site or the information on links from this site to diagnose or treat ADHD and/or co-morbidities, in yourself or others, without consulting a qualified adult ADHD specialist.

Description by NHS Choices:

In adults, the symptoms of ADHD are more difficult to define than those in children and adolescents, which is largely due to a lack of research into the adult form of the condition. It is still uncertain whether or not ADHD can occur in adults without it first appearing during childhood, although it is known that symptoms of ADHD often persist from childhood into adolescence and adulthood. Any additional problems, or conditions, experienced by children with ADHD, such as depression, sleep problems and dyslexia, are also likely to carry on into adulthood.

By the age of 25, an estimated 15% of people diagnosed with childhood ADHD still have a full range of symptoms, and an estimated 65% still have symptoms which affect their daily lives.

There is no definitive list of adult ADHD symptoms, and experts agree that simply applying the childhood symptoms to adults would not work. This is because the way in which inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness affect adults, is very different ways from the way they affect children. For example, hyperactivity tends to decrease in adults, while inattentiveness tends to get worse as the pressure of adult life increases. Also, adult symptoms of ADHD tend to be far more subtle than childhood symptoms.

Below is a list of symptoms which may be used to recognise adult ADHD.

  • carelessness and lack of attention to detail.
  • continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones.
  • poor organisational skills.
  • inability to focus, or prioritise.
  • continually losing, or misplacing, things.
  • forgetfulness.
  • restlessness and edginess.
  • difficulty keeping quiet, and speaking out of turn.
  • blurting responses, and poor social timing when talking to others.
  • often interrupting others.
  • mood swings.
  • irritability and a quick temper.
  • inability to deal with stress.
  • extreme impatience.
  • taking risks in activities, often with little, or no, regard for personal safety, or the safety of others.

As with ADHD in children and adolescents, ADHD in adults can appear alongside many related problems, or conditions. One of the most common conditions is depression. Any problems you may have had as a child are likely to persist into adulthood, which can make life extremely difficult. For example, you may have problems finding and keeping employment, as well as relationship, and social interaction problems. Some adults with ADHD may even become involved in drugs, or crime.

The above was taken from the NHS choices website.

We have put a list of these symptoms into a leaflet which you can download here: Symptoms of ADHD in Adults

Description by The Royal College of Psychiatrists:

Adult behaviours linked to ADHD are associated with the childhood symptoms of motor hyperactivity, attention deficit, unfocused thinking, mood changes, disorganisation and impulsiveness.

They include – at the severe end of the spectrum – feelings of restlessness, difficulty in relaxing, feeling depressed when inactive, lack of concentration on detail, depression or excitability, poor time management, difficulties sustaining relationships and a tendency to make rapid and facile decisions without full analysis of the situation.

Psychiatrists diagnosing ADHD in adults need to be aware of the fact that people with this disorder often show decreased symptoms in a novel situation like a psychiatric evaluation. It is therefore important to base mental state evaluations on a typical week and a variety of normal situations.

Mood instability is very common in adult ADHD, and can lead to diagnoses of depression or personality disorder. Many adults with ADHD also have other problems, such as antisocial personality, alcohol and drug misuse, anxiety disorders and learning difficulties. ADHD in childhood may also lead to the development of antisocial behaviour.

Some symptoms of adult ADHD are similar to those of bipolar disorder, but ADHD tends to show a persisting trait of irritability and volatility, very different from the grandiose and euphoric symptoms of mania and the depression found in bipolar disorder.

The above was taken from The Royal College of Psychiatrists

Description by UK Adult ADHD Network (UKAAN)

ADHD can affect people in many different ways. Some of the most common complaints in adults are difficulties with organising daily activities and forgetfulness. People with ADHD often experience physical and mental over activity, so they may feel constantly restless, on the go all the time and complain of ceaseless unfocused mental activity; these symptoms may keep people with ADHD awake at night. Sustaining attention for any length of time can cause considerable difficulties and may lead to people with ADHD feeling exhausted or worn out by the effort. Mood instability and feelings of frustration are commonly reported, especially in situations where someone has to wait such as queuing at supermarkets.

While these types of symptoms are found in many people some of the time, they are severe, persistent over time and lead to impairments in people with ADHD. Impairment from ADHD can impact on an individual in several ways including: low self-esteem, distress from the symptoms of ADHD, impaired social interactions and relationships, behavioural problems, and the development of comorbid psychiatric symptoms, syndromes and disorders.

In addition to the symptoms of ADHD comorbidities are common. These may be other neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders and dyslexia, behavioural problems such as drug and alcohol abuse disorders, addiction and antisocial behaviour; and other common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

The above was taken from UK Adult ADHD Network (UKAAN)

Description by Net Doctor:

The signs of ADHD show up in childhood, but in an adult they are less easy to spot. This is because some of the most obvious signs of ADHD may not be quite so marked because of your maturity.

If you are an adult with ADHD, you may have learned to keep some of your behaviour under control some of the time.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Are you told you fidget a lot of the time?
  • Are you generally restless and unable to sit still for as long as others?
  • Are you impulsive?
  • Do you find it hard to stop and think before doing or saying anything?
  • Are you sometimes in difficult situations because you have reacted angrily or even violently?
  • Are you known to have a hot temper and mood swings?
  • Do people say ‘I never know where I am with you’?
  • Is it hard for you to concentrate?
  • Do you start projects and then abandon them?
  • Are you disorganised at work and at home?
  • Have you lost jobs because of poor time-keeping or because it’s hard for you to stick to a task?

Not all people with ADHD have all these symptoms. But if a lot of this sounds familiar, and you can recall these symptoms in childhood, it might help to speak to your family doctor about them.

The above was taken from netdoctor.

Adult ADHD Rating Scales

Rating scales are used to help evaluate mental health, social and  behavioural problems, including ADHD, anxiety, self-esteem, depression, and conduct problems.  Many scales describe symptoms only and not their developmental appropriateness or the level of impairment.  The diagnosis of ADHD should only be made after a full clinical and psychosocial evaluation, and never on the basis of rating scales alone.

Interpreting the results of scales can be a difficult task for non-experts so please do not use the following scales to diagnose yourself or others.  We have included the rating scales that are in the public domain them on this website for informational purposes only.  Also, their inclusion does not mean that we are recommending them.

1.  Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-v1.1) Screener (WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview © World Health Organization); available here.

2. Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-v1.1) Symptom Checklist (this was developed in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Workgroup on Adult ADHD which included  Lenard Adler MD, Ronald C. Kessler PhD, & Thomas Spencer MD); available here.

3.  Wender Utah Rating Scale for ADHD in Adults (may be used by adults as an aid for describing their own childhood behaviour); available here.

Free electronic copies of the following articles can be accessed by clicking on their titles:

1.  Ward MF, Wender PH, Reimherr FW: The Wender Utah Rating Scale: an aid in the retrospective diagnosis of childhood attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Am J Psychiatry 1993; 150:885–890.

2. McCann Barbara S, Scheele Leonard, Ward Nicolas, Roy-Byrne Peter.
Discriminant validity of the Wender Utah Rating Scale for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in adults. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2000 Spring;12(2):240-5.

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