The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) is the guide doctors use when diagnosing ADHD.
But some of the wording included in this reference points to how symptoms manifest in children. Although the diagnostic manual does provide some information for diagnosing adults, it can be confusing to understand how the symptoms of inattention, impulsiveness and hyperactivity appear in adults.
Keeping in mind that ADHD is unique in each individual, it can be even more difficult to determine symptoms of ADHD in adults.
However, the list below will provide a guideline for how symptoms manifest themselves in adults with ADHD.
(Please note that this should not be used for diagnostic purposes, if you feel that you may have ADHD, please discuss your concerns with your physician or a medical professional that is qualified to make a diagnosis.)
Inattention can appear in many different ways:
May lose or misplace items such as keys, important papers, phone numbers and other things used on a daily basis.
This often occurs on a regular basis
Often forgetful - may consistently forget to take out the trash, forget to pick up the children from activities, or forget to complete tasks, even after instructions have been given
Beginning, but not completing tasks
Often distracted, for example, could begin a task such as mowing the grass, hear the phone ring, go inside, get a drink, stop to watch television, talk with your children and completely forget about the lawn until hours later
Difficulty following conversations.
May be easily distracted and miss important details of conversations
Lack of self motivation, even if the project sounds like something you would like to complete
Often lose track of time or misjudge how much time has passed.
It can be difficult to follow a timed schedule
Your mind wanders easily, even if someone is speaking to you or you should be completing a task or project
Hyperactivity in children can be easy to spot. Children can't sit still for even a few moments or they are constantly in motion.
They may act as if driven by a motor and often jump or bounce around the room. Although it was once thought that hyperactivity disappeared as a person matured (which led to the false belief that ADHD was a childhood condition), it is now known that adults can continue to show signs of hyperactivity, just in different ways.
Needs constant motion, may tap feet, play with a pencil, doodle or fidget
Easily bored. May move from job to job because you become bored once you have learned the job, may not complete projects because you become bored after a short time. You need be intensely interested in something for it to hold your interest
Although you can sit still, you feel restless after just a few minutes of inactivity.
You feel the need to get up, walk around the room or do something
Active, risky or fast paced activities are more interesting and more apt to hold your interest
Impulsiveness is reacting without thinking first. Children who are impulsive might yell an answer out at school without raising their hand or waiting for their turn.
Children may jump from a play set before thinking of the consequences. Adults with ADHD can also be impulsive:
Blurts out comments or thoughts without thinking first causing hurt feelings
Enters into risky or undesirable behavior on the spur of the moment
Difficulty conforming to a budget because of impulsive spending habits
Although the following are not specific symptoms of ADHD, the following characteristics are often found in adults with ADHD:
Easily angered or low tolerance for frustration
Needs instant success to keep interest level up
Low self-esteem, even though you can appear confident to others
Avoids new situations and meeting new people
For more information on ADHD in adults:
Diagnosing ADHD in Adults
in Adults: Tips for Managing Impulsiveness in Conversations
ADHD at Work
Why Do Some People Continue to Have ADHD as Adults and Others Do Not?
Denial of ADHD in Adults