Signs & Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD, is a mental health condition that can hinder a person’s ability to function appropriately in a number of settings. Performance at work, home, or in the community can be adversely affected and treatment to reduce disruptions in functioning is frequently required. Depending on the type of ADHD present, the degree to which a person’s life is interrupted by symptoms can vary. The three type of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are:

Inattentive type of ADHD impairs a person’s ability to retain attention and focus on tasks. This type can impede on work performance and result in poor task completion.

Hyperactive type can cause sufferers to be distracting to others. These individuals have a tendency to talk excessively, be constantly on the move, or struggle to sit still.

Impulsive type may trigger individuals to engage in behaviors or say things without thinking about consequences. Additionally, this type may cause a person to defy rules and authority and act hastily on impulses.

Regardless of the type of ADHD that a person is experiencing, there are treatment options available that help reduce the presence of symptoms and lessen the impact of symptoms on functioning. Additionally, because untreated ADHD can lead to a number of harmful effects, seeking treatment can decrease the likelihood of a person abusing substances, having interactions with the legal system, experiencing elevated levels of conflict with others, and other possible outcomes if the symptoms of this disorder are prevented from wreaking havoc on a person’s life and well-being.

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Research estimates that four to five percent of adults meet criteria for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Furthermore, this disorder is believed to affect more males than females. Additional research still needs to be conducted as ADHD is a disorder that is commonly diagnosed in childhood and reports of prevalence rates among adults with symptoms that carried over from childhood, or began once in adulthood, are under reported.

Causes and Risk Factors for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

To understand the reasons why a person develops attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, special attention needs to be paid to a person’s genetic history, physiological processes, and environmental influences and experiences. Furthermore, experts agree that there are additional risk factors that increase the likelihood for an eventual ADHD diagnosis. Consider the following explanations:

Genetic: As with other mental illnesses, ADHD is believed to run in families. Especially in those with a first-degree relative who meets criteria for this disorder, there is a greater possibility that an individual will display signs and symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder at some point in life. Therefore, because of this connection, it can be deduced that the development of ADHD can be traced back to a person’s genetic make-up.

Physical: When symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are present, brain chemistry and the way in which neurochemicals transmit information are affected. Chemicals that are responsible for regulating mood and controlling impulses are altered and lead to hindered functioning. When this occurs, the symptoms of ADHD manifest.

Environmental: A person’s surroundings are strongly believed to influence the onset of ADHD and could have the potential to exacerbate symptoms. Exposure to chronic stress, chaotic environments, and violence are known to increase a person’s vulnerability to the development of this disorder. Furthermore, exposure to poor nutrition, toxins, infections, and drugs while an individual is in utero are also know to play a role in the eventual manifestation of ADHD symptoms.

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Family history of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or other mental health condition
  • Preexisting mental health condition or conditions
  • Personal history of substance use
  • Ongoing exposure to stress, chaos, or violence
  • Exposure to poor nutrition, toxins, infections, and/or drugs while in utero

Signs and Symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

The signs that infer an adult or senior is grappling with ADHD can vary. Depending on the individual’s age and the setting in which these signs are observed, the symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can be behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial. If you feel that you or a friend or loved one is suffering from this disorder, note the presence of the following symptoms:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Excessive talking
  • Agitation
  • Inability to complete tasks
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Frequent lateness

Physical symptoms:

  • Disrupted sleep
  • Tense muscles
  • Migraines or headaches
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Altered eating habits
  • Stomachaches

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusing thoughts or speech
  • Lack of attention
  • Poor focus
  • Easily preoccupied
  • Frequent boredom
  • Tendency to procrastinate
  • Low threshold for patience
  • Rapid thought processes

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of being inept
  • Insecurity
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

The symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can be extremely disruptive to a person’s life if treatment is not sought. When this disruption occurs, a number of effects could result. Below are some examples of how untreated ADHD can adversely affect a person’s life:

  • Involvement in criminal activity
  • Increased interaction with law enforcement
  • Incarceration
  • Problems with finances
  • Greater likelihood for conflict with others
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Hindered functioning in occupational settings
  • Inability to maintain employment
  • Substance use or abuse, potentially leading to addiction or dependence

Co-Occurring Disorders

Adults and seniors who are diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can also suffer from another mental illness. Emotional disturbances and behavioral problems can exacerbate symptoms of another disorder or trigger the onset of a different mental health condition. Examples of such disorders are:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Tic disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
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