ADHD Symptoms

Attention deficit disorder (with or without hyperactivity) is known by a cluster of co-occurring behavioral symptoms. Check to see if any of these symptoms sound familiar to you.

ADHD or ADD is characterized by a majority of the following symptoms being present in either category (inattention or hyperactivity). These symptoms need to manifest themselves in a manner and degree that is inconsistent with the child's current developmental level. That is, the child's behavior is significantly more inattentive or hyperactive than that of his or her peers of a similar age.

Symptoms of Inattention:

  • often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
  • often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
  • often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
  • often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
  • is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • is often forgetful in daily activities

Symptoms of Hyperactivity:

  • often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
  • often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
  • often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor"
  • often talks excessively

Symptoms of Impulsivity:

  • often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • often has difficulty awaiting turn
  • often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

Symptoms must have persisted for at least 6 months. Some of these symptoms need to have been present as a child, at 7 years old or younger. The symptoms also must exist in at least two separate settings (for example, at school and at home). The symptoms should be creating significant impairment in social, academic or occupational functioning or relationships.

There are three variations in which this disorder is diagnosed.

  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Type: when both criteria for A1 and A2 are met for the past 6 months.
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Type: when criterion A1 is met but Criterion A2 is not met for the past 6 months.
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: when criterion A2 is met but criterion A1 is not met for the past 6 months.

Criteria summarized from: American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

  • susan

    it seems that there isn't enough info on adult adhd, without changing into childhood adhd.Those days are over -I need help now.Thank you- this problem is awful. I am 60 yrs. old. Specific info would be appreciated.

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    Hi Susan,

    Actually I have written several articles about Adult ADHD and I invite you to look for them under my name, Dr. Schwartz, right here on this site. Please look them up and then send me an E. Mail question under "Reader Comments" on our main page and I will be happy to answer.

    Dr. Schwartz

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD


    Just to clarify my previous comment, please ask any questions on this topic under "Reader Questions."

    Dr. Schwartz

  • Jen

    My son is 5 years old (he'll be 6 in 3 months) and is in Kindergarten. When his teacher began having problems with him at school she immediately suggested that I have him medicated for ADD (she says he's not really hyperactive). He is far behind the class in activities such as reading and math skills. I don't want to medicate my child- I enjoy his personality and he really isn't that much of a handful. I went see the pediatrician and he thought the idea that my child had ADD was absurd. I have noticed that the days the children don't have any recess or P.E. my son seems to behave the worst. I honestly think there is too much pressure on children today in Kindergarten. I mean, 10 minutes for recess?! That is ridiculous! Nonetheless, she still complains every day that I should get a second opinion. I looked into getting a second opinion. No doctors in the town in which I live will prescribe medication for ADD/ADHD and my insurance does not have any child psychologists/psychiatrists listed in covered providers. I feel like I have run out of resources and do not know what to do next. Should a 5 year old child be medicated??