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ADD & ADHD Center

Signs & Symptoms of ADD in Adults

author image A.M. Tacon
A.M. Tacon is an associate professor of health at Texas Tech University. Her research interests include psychosocial factors in cancer, complementary therapies and stress reduction in individuals with cancer. Dr. Tacon runs mindfulness-based stress reduction programs for women with breast cancer, which is based on various forms of mindfulness meditation.
Signs & Symptoms of ADD in Adults
Frequent forgetfulness as well as loss of important information can be a part of ADD. Photo Credit Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images


Attention deficit disorder (ADD) today is recognized as a mental health disorder that affects not only children and adolescents, but also, adults. Indeed, researchers Birnbaum and colleagues indicate that somewhere between 30 to 70 percent of children with ADD continue on into their adult years with the disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 4.1 percent of American adults annually, between the ages of 18 and 44, are affected by ADD; moreover, some may suffer with ADD symptoms and frustrations for years before finally being diagnosed as an adult.

Inattention Symptoms

Individuals with ADD experience difficulty with concentration and organization in daily life. Tasks that require focus are problematic because ADD adults get distracted easily. Consequently, those afflicted may experience the following: inability to pay attention to details (or instructions) which results in unnecessary errors; frequently leaving duties or activities incomplete, such as finishing chores or obligations or completing duties at work. Another sign is that of not listening (pay attention) when being spoken to by someone because of the effort needed in following the conversation. Daily organization, also, is a problem with symptoms that may include: difficulty in organizational tasks (clutter as opposed to neatness) or in organizing tasks or actions as part the day; avoidance of tasks that necessitate sustained concentration (homework or assignments); and, frequent forgetfulness as well as loss of important items or information.

Hyperactivity Symptoms

Adults with ADD do not always experience obvious hyperactivity. Instead, these individuals may have a history of being accident-prone or disorganized in movement. Hyperactivity can manifest as restlessness with problems in relaxing, sleeping, or participating in leisure activities, fidgety behavior such as constant hand or feet movements, or the inability to remain seated (without squirming) in certain contexts where it is expected. Also, in addition to frequently appearing busy or on the go, there also is the sign of hyper active or excessive speech; not only in quantity, but also, in quality with a patter of talking that not only is rapid, but simply too fast (see "Checklist" in References for comprehensive signs).

Mood & Impulsivity

Adults with ADD have difficulty with self-regulation or self-control that is displayed in impulsive, intrusive, and thoughtless patterns of behavior in daily life. Impulsivity can lead to major social problems for an ADD adult in a variety of situations, for example, intruding or interrupting when another is speaking, or hastily taking action without first considering consequences. Such scenarios occur because of turn-taking inability (waiting one’s turn) that is needed in social interactions as well as impatience with others. Lastly, signs of mood instability may manifest as depression or anxiety, and also, problems with controlling anger. Thus, both word and deed can result in additional life difficulties for adults with ADD.

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