ADHD in Kids Vs. Adults

by The HealthCentral Editorial Team

The main ADHD symptom categories are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness, but they can look different in kids versus adults. Here are some ways these characteristics can be displayed by each.



  • Often in motion (whole body)

  • Run and climb excessively

  • Often fidget or squirm

  • Cause classroom distractions by getting up, dropping pencils, and the like

  • Have difficulty sitting still

  • Talk excessively


  • Frequently in motion (parts of body)—tapping feet, doodling, fidgeting

  • Easily bored

  • Move from job to job

  • Often leave projects uncompleted

  • Restless

  • Have trouble sitting still

  • Like active, risky, fast-paced activities and jobs



  • Often easily distracted

  • May make careless schoolwork mistakes

  • Tend not to pay attention to details

  • May have short attention span for age

  • Often avoid homework/schoolwork

  • Don't seem to listen when spoken to

  • Often don't complete projects/chores

  • May move from activity to activity

  • May be disorganized

  • Often lose things

  • Can be forgetful


  • Often lose or misplace items (keys, phone numbers, important papers)

  • May forget routine tasks

  • Often leave tasks uncompleted

  • Can be easily distracted, moving from task to task

  • Often have difficulty following conversations

  • May lack self-motivation

  • May lose track of time

  • May be disorganized

  • Often have problems prioritizing

  • May lack focus



  • May seem rude or have behavioralproblems

  • May blurt out comments in conversations or in school

  • May have problems waiting their turn

  • Often interrupt others and/or jump into games other kids are playing

  • May act without thinking about risk (e.g., jumping from the top of a slide or running into the street)


  • May have financial problems or spend money impulsively, wreaking havoc on household budget

  • May drive fast, gamble, have risky sex

  • Often interrupt others in conversation

  • May blurt out offensive or hurtful comments without thinking

  • May have low frustration tolerance

  • May have frequent mood swings

  • May have a hot temper

  • Often have trouble coping with stress

  • May have trouble holding a job

  • May get in trouble with the law

  • May misuse alcohol or other substances

The HealthCentral Editorial Team
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The HealthCentral Editorial Team

HealthCentral's team of editors based in New York City and Arlington, VA, collaborates with patient advocates, medical professionals, and health journalists worldwide to bring you medically vetted information and personal stories from people living with chronic conditions to help you navigate the best path forward with your health—no matter your starting point.