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8 Signs of ADHD You May Have and How to Manage It

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts 5% to 9% of people. How do you know if you have it?

Taylor Leamey Senior Writer
Taylor Leamey writes about all things wellness, specializing in mental health, sleep and nutrition coverage. She has invested hundreds of hours into studying and researching sleep and holds a Certified Sleep Science Coach certification from the Spencer Institute. Not to mention the years she spent studying mental health fundamentals while earning her bachelor's degrees in both Psychology and Sociology. She is also a Certified Stress Management Coach.
Expertise Bachelor of Science, Psychology and Sociology Credentials
  • Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach
Taylor Leamey
5 min read
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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a common mental health disorder prevalent in children that can last into adulthood. It's marked by a persistent pattern of inattention and impulsivity that inhibits someone's ability to function. ADHD can lead to poor school or work performance, low self-esteem or unstable relationships. 

When ADHD comes to mind, most people imagine a fidgety kid who talks nonstop and has a lot of energy. While that's not entirely wrong, it doesn't paint the full picture. For adults, symptoms of ADHD can be more subtle -- so subtle that many people go undiagnosed. In honor of ADHD awareness month, here are eight common ADHD symptoms and self-help strategies to minimize effects. 

Impulsive behaviors

Impulsivity is a core feature of ADHD, according to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If you have ADHD, you may be impulsive and act without considering the outcome. Financially, you may not make the best decisions. Sometimes you may impulsively buy things or make irresponsible financial decisions, like spending your retirement savings or taking on debt.

ADHD impulsivity doesn't just stop at finances. You can be impulsive in your communication with others, for instance talking too much or blurting out anything that comes to mind. You may also be impulsive in your life -- quitting your job or going on a spending spree. 

Trouble prioritizing and organizing things

Staying organized can be difficult for anyone, but those with ADHD will have a more challenging time keeping track of things and logically completing them. That's because ADHD is associated with weakened function of the prefrontal cortex, or the part of the brain that controls behavior, emotion, attention and organization. 

Someone with ADHD may jump from task to task because they're excited about those things, not because it's a logical order. It's not just a personality quirk; a 2018 study found that children living with ADHD had deficits in their working memory. We use our short-term memory to retain information. If it's compromised, it can be difficult to make a plan and follow through on it.

Read more: 8 To-Do List Apps to Help You Get Organized

Difficulty managing time 

Another extremely common symptom of ADHD is difficulty managing time. You may often be late for things or have difficulty sticking to your schedule. Remember that time management will vary by person. It's not always being late or not showing up, but it can be more subtle, like procrastinating tasks and working on tight deadlines. You also may be regularly forgetful to the point that it causes disruptions in workflow or damages relationships.

Read more: Working From Home With ADD: Try These Apps to Stay on Task

Trouble concentrating

Trouble concentrating is one of the best-known ADHD symptoms, thanks to the reduced function of the prefrontal cortex. According to the DSM-5, a diminishing attention span is a core symptom of ADHD. 

Anything can draw your focus from the task at hand -- noises, people talking or daydreaming. Because of this lack of focus, you may overlook important details, lose chunks of conversations and have difficulty completing tasks.

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Hyperfocus on tasks

When it comes to ADHD, people mostly associate characteristics that impair functioning. However, there are adaptive traits of ADHD that are strengths. Some people experience hyperfocus with ADHD. Hyperfocus doesn't happen on just any tasks. It typically happens when the person is excited about their work. Think about it as the difference between writing a paper and playing video games. 

Researchers suggest that hyperfocus is born from the difficulty of switching between tasks. 

Feeling restless

Being restless and fidgety is what most people associate with ADHD. For a good reason, it's one of the most common ways parents identify ADHD in their children. Restlessness is more apparent in children, who constantly move or talk, but it still happens with adults; it just looks different. Adults with ADHD symptoms will present more subtly than children -- fidgeting hands or feet or frequently getting up from their chairs to do something else.  

Read more: 6 Best Fidget Toys for Anxiety

Difficulty controlling your emotions

Emotional sensitivity and trouble controlling emotions are more signs of ADHD. Rejection sensitive dysphoria is common in adults with ADHD. RSD is extreme emotional sensitivity that occurs when someone fears they are being criticized or rejected by someone else. 

Another aspect of emotional control and ADHD can be a quick temper. Someone with ADHD may get extremely irritated but move on from it quickly. ADHD can co-occur with mood disorders like depression, bipolar and anxiety.

Complicated relationships

The prevalent ADHD symptoms -- emotional sensitivity, restlessness, and trouble staying focused -- can strain relationships in professional, personal and romantic settings. Emotional partners and friends of someone with ADHD may feel like they aren't getting enough attention, especially if there are instances of forgetting anniversaries or birthdays. Common symptoms like talking over people and getting bored or restless can make long-term relationships more difficult.

It's important that your partner understands what it's like living with ADHD and that you work together to find solutions. Open communication can help prepare you for bumps in the road and make finding a solution or compromise easier.

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Self-help tips to manage ADHD symptoms

If any ADHD symptoms sound familiar, it may be worth taking an ADHD test to confirm. ADHD tests are quick and often completed online. Once you take the test, you should speak with a doctor to determine your next step. 

There are treatment options available for ADHD -- cognitive behavioral therapy and medication are the most popular. Medication for ADHD can't stand on its own. It must be used with counseling to ensure children and adults develop necessary skills to manage their ADHD. 

You can use these tips to cope with your ADHD symptoms daily: 

  • Use technology to stay organized: Keep a list of tasks and mark them off as you move through them. Having it on your phone makes it easy to access. Using these tricks on your phone to stay organized can help ease the stress of running late or missing important things. 
  • Set alarms on your phone: Remembering various appointments and due dates can be tough with ADHD. Using technology to stay organized can make it easier. Alarms and calendar reminders can significantly affect your ability to stay on task and meet deadlines. 
  • Make small changes: Making significant changes all at once can be overwhelming. If you're having difficulty taking on larger projects or completing tasks, breaking them down into smaller chunks can make them more manageable and help you feel accomplished.
  • Take care of yourself: Focusing on yourself and your needs can help make sure that you're ready to take on challenges. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat well and take steps to manage stress when you can. 

For more mental health tips, find the perfect color to paint your bedroom and what foods to eat to be happy

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.