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Adult ADHD: Signs and Symptoms

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental illness that affects your ability to focus and often the way you behave.

Contrary to popular belief, not all children with ADHD will outgrow it. It is easier to diagnose in children, adult ADHD can go unnoticed or dismissed as a symptom of something else. Not to mention, clinicians often have much less experience diagnosing adult ADHD and many of these adults have found coping mechanisms to disguise their symptoms. 

If your child has been recently diagnosed and you’ve found yourself wondering if the attention problems, the disorganization, the fidgeting might be describing you instead, you may well have adult ADHD. According to experts, for any child with ADHD, there’s a 50% chance that one of the parents has it.

Symptoms of ADHD in adults look different than those in children. Even if diagnosis took place during childhood (before the age of 7), chances are, your symptoms have evolved as you got older.  According to the director of Adult ADHD program at the New York University School of Medicine, Lenard Adler MD, two out of three children with ADHD will continue to have ADHD as adults. Whatsmore, many adults with ADHD have gone undiagnosed since childhood their symptoms were missed. Teachers and parents are more likely to focus on the noisy, disruptive kids in the class than those inattentive ones.

HelpCentral’s Eileen Bailey  does a great job at breaking down the different ways ADHD symptoms may present themselves in children and adults. We’ve put her comments down into the tables below for easier readability:


Children Adults
  • Run and climb excessively, even when inappropriate for the situation
  • Constantly fidget or squirm, needs to have something in hand to play with
  • In the classroom will get up from seat during times when the class is supposed to remain seated, will drop pencils, cause a distraction by moving around
  • Can’t sit still, has a hard time playing games that require sitting for extended periods of time, doesn’t like participating in quiet activities
  • Talking excessively
  • Needs constant motion, may tap feet, play with a pencil, doodle or fidget
  • Easily bored, moving from job to job after becoming bored once you have learned the job, leaves projects uncompleted because you became bored half-way through the project. Can complete jobs and projects if it is something you have an intense interest in.
  • Restlessness. Still have trouble sitting still for extended periods. May feel the need to get up, walk around after sitting still for a few minutes. Like activities and jobs that require movement.
  • Active, risky or fast paced activities are more apt to hold your interest

Lack of attention

Children Adults
  • Makes careless mistakes in schoolwork
  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Has short attention span as compared to other children of the same age, avoids activities that require sustained attention and mental effort (such as homework or schoolwork)
  • Seems to not listen when spoken to
  • Doesn’t complete homework, projects or chores, becomes distracted, moves from activity to activity
  • Difficulty with organizational skills
  • Loses things
  • Forgetful
  • Lose and misplace items needed on an everyday basis, such as keys, phone numbers, important papers.
  • Forgetful, even in tasks that need to be done on a regular basis, such as taking out trash, picking up children
  • Leaving tasks uncompleted
  • Distracted easily, can begin one task, become distracted and start on something else, forgetting original task
  • Difficulty following conversations.
  • Problems with self-motivation
  • Loses track of time


Children Adults
  • Blurting out answers or comments during conversations, yelling out answers in school without raising hand
  • Having problems waiting their turn, may butt in line to get a drink or use the slide on the playground, doesn’t like to wait for their turn while playing games
  • Interrupts others, will jump into conversations or games other children are playing
  • Acts without thinking about the risk, may jump from top of slide or run into the street without looking
  • May spend money impulsively, wreaking havoc on household budgets
  • Participates in risky behaviors, such as driving fast, gambling, risky sex
  • Interrupts others during conversations or answers questions before the question has been
  • Blurts out comments or thoughts without thinking even when comments are offensive or can hurt the other person’s feelings

Other symptoms of Adult ADHD include may also include trouble multitasking, trouble coping with stress, low frustration tolerance (irritability), poor planning, a hot temper, and frequent mood swings. Some of these symptoms can be mistaken for signs of different mental disorders so it’s important to book an assessment with a mental health professional who will be able to better understand your symptoms.

Do you think you may have adult ADHD? Terrace Wellness Centre has a team of qualified professionals ready to help. Book a complimentary intake appointment today to gain the clarity you need to improve your mental wellness. Call us at (613) 831.1105 or email admin@terraceyouth.ca.

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