What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect a person’s attention, impulsivity, memory, and other cognitive functions. While it is often diagnosed in childhood, ADHD can affect people well into adulthood.

Many people think of ADHD as something that primarily affects kids, but it affects adults as well. Some children live with ADHD into adulthood, while others do not get a diagnosis until they’re adults.

ADHD Statistics

  • It is estimated that 11% of children and 4.4% of adults have ADHD in the US
  • ADHD affects more than 8 million adults but many of them don’t know it
  • Less than 20% of adults with ADHD are even aware that they have it
  • Most of the adults who have it remain undiagnosed and untreated
  • Only a fourth of those who know they have ADHD are getting treatment

Types of ADHD

There are three main types of ADHD:

  • Primarily Inattentive and Distractable ADHD
  • Primarily Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD
  • Combination ADHD
  1. Primarily Inattentive and Distractable ADHD (formerly known as ADD): What was once called ADD is now known as Primarily Inattentive and Distractab ADHD. This type is characterized by symptoms of inattention, such as difficulty paying attention, forgetfulness, and disorganization. People with this type of ADHD may struggle with completing tasks, following instructions, and maintaining focus. The distinguishing characteristic here is that someone is inattentive and distracted, but is not hyperactive.
  2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD: This type is characterized by symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, such as fidgeting, talking excessively, interrupting others, and engaging in risky behavior. People with this type of ADHD may have difficulty sitting still, waiting their turn, and controlling their impulses. People who were previously diagnosed with ADHD in the past are now diagnosed with Primarily Hyperactivity/Impulsivity ADHD because they are hyperactive and impulsive, but not inattentive or distracted.
  3. Combined Type ADHD: This type is a combination of the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types. It is the most common type of ADHD and is characterized by symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. And people who exhibit some symptoms from both now receive a Combination ADHD diagnosis.
A red long haired curly woman wearing a black turtle neck looking at the camera.
A red long haired curly woman wearing a black turtle neck as she smiles for the camera.
A red long haired curly woman wearing a black turtle neck as she smiles for the camera.

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

The symptoms of ADHD vary depending on the person’s age, gender identity and type of ADHD.

ADHD Symptoms in Adults

ADHD symptoms vary from one person to the next and also depend on their age. The following are some of the symptoms that can present with the three types of ADHD in adults.

ADHD Symptoms of Inattention and Distraction (Formerly Known as ADD Symptoms)

  • Inability to focus on detail at work
  • Brief attention span, even with preferred tasks or hobbies
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor executive function
  • Forgetting normal daily activities
  • Disliking anything that requires concentration

 ADHD Symptoms of Hyperactivity/Impulsivity

  • Fidgeting continuously
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to relax
  • Excessive talking

People with Combination ADHD will have a mix of these symptoms. Any diagnosis of ADHD requires that symptoms interfere with the person’s ability to conduct a regular life. An adult needs to exhibit at least five symptoms, and they must be evident for at least six months. Occasionally showing any of the above does not necessarily mean someone qualifies for an ADHD diagnosis.

ADHD Symptoms in Women

Diagnosing ADHD in women is further complicated by gender role expectations, including the need to manage yourself, your family and your home simultaneously, which is why ADHD is often overlooked and misunderstood for women.

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in Women:

  • Having trouble getting organized
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Being forgetful about things
  • Not being able to pay attention
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Having trouble focusing
  • Not following through
  • Not finishing what you start
  • Internalizing your feelings

ADHD Symptoms in Children

Diagnosing ADHD in children can be more complex. This is because children are very different in terms of development from adults and may not share certain symptoms. Parents and teachers should look for the following behaviors if they suspect ADHD in a child.

Inattentive ADHD symptoms in children include:

  • Making mistakes they shouldn’t make in schoolwork
  • Never staying with one toy for very long
  • Detached from interaction with adults
  • Avoidance of tasks that take focus and concentration
  • An inability to keep track of things

Hyperactivity-Impulsivity ADHD symptoms in children include:

  • Not staying still in class even when told to
  • Constant fidgeting and tapping
  • Inappropriate running or climbing
  • Boundless levels of energy
  • Endless talking
  • Interrupting

Children should exhibit six of these symptoms for at least six months to qualify for a diagnosis. Children who have symptoms of both types of ADHD may be living with Combination ADHD

How Are People Diagnosed and Tested for ADHD?

Testing for ADHD is not a simple matter of taking a quiz—as some websites might have you believe. The only person who can deliver an ADHD diagnosis is a trained mental health professional.

Diagnosing an adult involves interviewing the person and discussing things like patterns of behavior and thinking. An adult may also fill out surveys during the process.

Diagnosing a child typically involves interviews with both the child and parent or parents. A mental health professional may also go through some play and tasks with the child. Parents and teachers may also have to respond to surveys that the mental health professional will use as a reference.

Do I Have ADHD?

If you have symptoms that make you believe that you may have ADHD it is best to seek out a trained medical professional for a true ADHD testing and evaluation assessment. Guessing, self-diagnosing or taking an online quiz will not give you the answer you need; only a professional can do that.

What Causes ADHD?

Genetics play the most significant role in determining if a child will develop ADHD. Other risk factors for ADHD include:

  • Brain injuries
  • Low birth weight
  • Lead exposure at a young age
  • Premature delivery
  • Exposure to lead, alcohol, or tobacco in utero

Many people mistakenly believe that ADHD is caused by sugar consumption, excessive television watching, or bad parenting choices. The evidence simply does not support these ideas.

There has been a significant uptick in the diagnosis of ADHD. Parents understandably worry about the increasing rate of these diagnoses. The mental health community has not completely ruled out all environmental factors as potential causes. However, all the current research suggests that the rise in ADHD diagnoses is the result of increased awareness among professionals and society at large.

It’s important for parents to keep in mind that their children with ADHD will exhibit these symptoms whether they receive a formal diagnosis or not. Therefore, it’s better for children with the disorder to get a diagnosis and professional help. Therapists can give children coping mechanisms and tools that will help them throughout their lives.

How is ADHD Treated?

Find ADHD Treatment at LifeStance Health

LifeStance Health offers comprehensive treatment plans for people with ADHD. Depending on the patient’s needs, this may include medication management as well as a variety of therapy types. LifeStance also offers telehealth appointments (remote visits) as an option for patients who cannot leave home. Being unable to come into the office should not prohibit anyone from receiving treatment for their ADHD. LifeStance telehealth treatment for ADHD is just as rigorous and compassionate as our in-office treatments.

ADHD FAQs

Although ADHD is not a learning disorder, it is estimated that 30 to 50% of children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability, and that the two conditions can make learning challenging.