ADHD Signs and Symptoms

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ADHD signs and symptoms vary from person to person, and they may appear differently in children, teenagers, and adults.

ADHD Signs and Symptoms

An individual with undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may exhibit behaviors such as a shortened attention span, difficulty sitting still, and acting on impulses. Often, individuals are mislabeled as problem children or poorly disciplined adults when they are unknowingly dealing with an unmanaged case of ADHD. With the diagnosis of ADHD becoming more common among adults and children, it is important to recognize several signs and symptoms that can aid in diagnosis. Once properly diagnosed, various tools are available to help those with ADHD manage it and thrive in their education and careers.

What is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD or attention deficit disorder, is a condition that causes difficulty with attention span, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors in both adults and children. According to the CDC, ADHD affects over 6.4 million children in the United States aged 4–17 years. The condition often presents in childhood and can persist into adulthood. Without proper understanding and accommodation, ADHD can exacerbate issues such as low self-esteem, difficulties in school or work, trouble maintaining relationships, and other side effects.

Most Common Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD signs can vary among individuals and may present differently in children, teenagers, and adults. The three most common symptoms are inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. It is important to note that some symptoms may be more pronounced in some individuals than in others. Not all symptoms need to be present for a diagnosis or for seeking interventions and accommodations. Below are some common symptoms for different age groups:

Symptoms of ADHD in Children and Teenagers

Symptoms of hyperactivity in adolescents and teenagers are typically evident before age 6 and present in more than one setting, such as at school and at home. Children may exhibit signs of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsiveness, or a combination of these. Some common signs of inattentiveness include:

  • Difficulty concentrating and focusing
  • Having a short attention span
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Making careless mistakes in schoolwork or chores
  • Forgetting or losing items
  • Difficulty completing repetitive or time-consuming tasks
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Trouble listening or following conversations
  • Struggling with organization or task prioritization
  • Constantly changing tasks or activities

Common signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness include:

  • Difficulty sitting still, especially in quiet environments
  • Excessive fidgeting, restlessness, or physical movement
  • Trouble concentrating on given tasks
  • Talking excessively and interrupting conversations
  • Inability to wait for their turn
  • Acting on impulse
  • Lack of sense of danger or consequence
  • Finding it hard to pay attention in school

Without a proper diagnosis, these symptoms can lead to significant issues in a child’s or teenager’s mental health, such as learning disabilities, lower grades, difficulty maintaining friendships, and excessive discipline for actions beyond their control.

Symptoms of Adult ADHD

According to the American Psychiatric Association, 2.5% of adults have ADHD. For adults who have gone undiagnosed, symptoms can be harder to recognize. While inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness are still key identifiers, they manifest differently in adults. Symptoms may include:

  • Lack of attention to detail in work or home tasks
  • Starting new projects or tasks before completing previous ones
  • Appearing unorganized
  • Struggling with prioritization
  • Losing or misplacing everyday items
  • Forgetfulness or trouble remembering events
  • Feeling restless or edgy
  • Struggling with mood swings or irritability
  • Being seen as temperamental, touchy, or impatient
  • Impulsive behaviors, like interrupting conversations
  • Poor ability to handle stress
  • Engaging in risky behaviors with little regard for safety

These symptoms, although subtler than in children, can still cause significant challenges in adult life, such as difficulties in careers and maintaining relationships.

How is ADHD Diagnosed?

A formal ADHD diagnosis can be made by a healthcare provider using the DSM-5 criteria. This can include psychologists, psychiatrists, primary care providers, mental health professionals, or pediatricians. The NIH suggests considering both current symptoms and past childhood behaviors. Diagnosing ADHD isn’t straightforward; it involves a full physical assessment, including vision and hearing exams, to rule out other conditions like anxiety disorders, autism, oppositional defiant disorder, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders. This process may involve multiple interviews with the patient or their parents.

The FDA has also approved the Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment (NEBA) System, a non-invasive procedure that measures brain waves to aid in the diagnosis. The age at which ADHD is diagnosed varies, with more severe cases being identified around age 4 and the median age of diagnosis being around age 7.

Tools to Help Manage ADHD

Once ADHD is diagnosed, managing it daily is the next step. There are various tools available that can help, including:

  • Daily Planner or Agenda: Helps remember tasks and events, breaking down larger tasks into manageable pieces.
  • Bullet Journal: Allows a freestyle approach to planning, with options for doodling and recording daily happenings.
  • Calendar: Provides a visual representation of the day to aid time management.
  • Text-to-Speech Apps: Like Synthy, these apps read materials aloud, making it easier to absorb information while multitasking.
  • Command Center: A designated area for organization, including a catch-all for keys, phones, and other frequently used items.
  • Charging Station: Ensures all electronic devices are charged and stored in one place.
  • Filing System: Helps maintain organization of mail, documents, bills, and schoolwork.
  • Timers and Daily Alarms: Assist with time management and serve as reminders for daily tasks or medication.

How Synthy Can Help

Synthy is a text-to-speech reader that can read any material aloud, including PDFs, emails, textbooks, and ebooks. It is especially useful for individuals with ADHD, who often struggle with reading focus and attention span. Synthy allows users to read along while listening or perform other tasks simultaneously. Compatible with Chrome, iOS, and Android, Synthy offers flexibility for home and on-the-go use. It can increase retention by catering to both visual and auditory learning modes and helps manage excessive energy by allowing multitasking. The app’s human-like voices provide a natural listening experience, making reading more manageable and efficient.

With Synthy, reading becomes a more accessible and enjoyable task for those with ADHD, helping them overcome challenges and improve their retention of materials.