Symptoms of ADHD

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of ADHD?

A person with ADHD generally has three core symptoms

  • Inattentiveness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity

These symptoms are very common, and anyone can display them from time to time as part of normal activities. When any of these symptoms produce repetitive behaviour patterns which are inconsistent with a person’s development stage and get in the way of daily life, ADHD may be the correct diagnosis and can be treated.


The word “inattentive” means having a short attention span and being easily distracted. Children and adolescents with ADHD may make careless mistakes at school and lose things like pencils or books. They may also have difficulty paying attention for long periods of time, making it difficult to focus and do well on their school assignments and in daily tasks.

Adults with inattentiveness may also continually lose or misplace things like their keys. Inattentiveness can also make it difficult to organise tasks, such as grocery shopping, especially if the tasks are mundane. Another sign of inattentiveness is being easily distracted by noises.


In children, hyperactivity can be described as constantly running around and frequently getting up when they are supposed to be sitting. They may have trouble with quiet activities or have a hard time waiting their turn.

Hyperactivity and impulsivity can be less obvious in adolescents and adults. They tend to move around excessively or fidget frequently. They may also talk more often than other people do.


People who are impulsive may act without thinking and have little to no sense of danger. They may frequently interrupt conversations or blurt out an answer before listening to the whole question.

Part of ADHD-related impulsivity is being attracted to dangerous or risky activities. For example, many adults with ADHD may be perceived as aggressive, reckless drivers and can get very angry at other drivers.

Symptoms at Different Ages

ADHD symptoms are different in teenagers and adults. They may be less noticeable but are just as important to identify.

Checklists of symptoms in children and adults can be used as a starting point to help recognise the potential symptoms of ADHD, but they do not replace a consultation with a qualified health care professional. An accurate diagnosis can only be made after a thorough clinical evaluation.

Examples of ADHD symptoms by age
Children (6-12 Years) Adolescents (13-17 Years) Adult
  • Easily distracted
  • Homework poorly organised, contains careless errors, often not completed
  • Blurts out answers in class before the question is completed
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others
  • Fails to complete chores at home
  • Has difficulty awaiting turn in games
  • Often out of seat
  • Displays inner restlessness
  • Schoolwork disorganised, shows poor follow-through
  • Hyperactivity may become less visible
  • Difficulty with establishing relationships with others and integrating in groups
  • Highly sensitive to changes and difficulties managing frustration and anger
  • Inattention / concentration problems
  • Disorganised and fails to plan ahead
  • Difficulty initiating and completing projects
  • Shifts activities prematurely
  • Misjudges available time
  • Forgetful; often loses things
  • Makes impulsive decisions

Having some of these symptoms does not mean that you or your loved one has ADHD. Only a qualified healthcare professional can accurately diagnose ADHD.