ADHD signs and symptoms vary from person to person, and they may appear differently in children, teenagers, and adults.
ADHD Signs and Symptoms
An individual suffering from an undiagnosed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may display behaviors such as a shortened attention span, difficulty sitting still, and acting on impulses.
There are many instances of individuals being labeled as a problem child or poorly disciplined adult when they are unknowingly suffering from an unmanaged case of ADHD.
With the appropriate diagnosis of ADHD on the rise among adults and children, there are several signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for to assist in that diagnosis, and – once properly diagnosed – there are several tools available to help those who suffer from ADHD learn to manage it and thrive in their education and career.
What is ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD or attention deficit disorder is a condition in adults and children that causes difficulty with attention span, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors.
According to the CDC (the centers for disease control and prevention), ADHD affects more than 6.4 million US children aged 4–17 years. The condition often presents in childhood and can continue into adult years. Because of the lack of understanding of non-traditional ways to accommodate those who suffer from ADHD, the condition can exacerbate overall low self-esteem, difficulty in school or work, trouble maintaining relationships, and other side effects.
Most Common Symptoms of ADHD
ADHD signs can vary from person to person and they may look different in pediatrics and teenagers than they might in adults. The three most common symptoms of ADHD are inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity.
It’s important to remember that some aspects of ADHD will be more prevalent in some individuals than they will be in others. Not all symptoms of attention-deficit need to be present to make an appropriate diagnosis or to seek interventions for learning or accommodations in careers.
Symptoms of ADHD in children and teenagers:
Psychiatry symptoms of hyperactivity that present in adolescents and teenagers are very precise and are typically observed prior to age 6. These symptoms will be evident in more than one situation or location, such as both at school and at home.
Children may exhibit symptoms of inattention as well as hyperactivity and impulsiveness, or they may only display symptoms of just one area and not the other. Squirming is a common symptom in younger children.
Some of the more common signs of inattentiveness are:
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Having a short attention span
- Becoming distracted easily
- Careless mistakes in schoolwork or chores
- Forgetting or losing items
- Having a difficult time completing repetitive or time-consuming tasks
- Difficulty following instructions
- Trouble listening or following a conversation
- Struggling with organization or prioritization of tasks
- Constantly changing tasks or activities
- ADHD can also be accompanied with conduct disorder
Some of the more common signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are:
- Difficulty sitting still, particularly in a quiet environment
- Excessive fidgeting, restlessness, or physical movement
- Trouble concentrating on given tasks
- Talking more than others and interrupting the flow of conversations
- Inability to wait for their turn
- Acting on impulse
- Lack of sense of danger or consequence
- Finding it hard to pay attention in school
If left undiagnosed, these symptoms can lead to serious problems in the mental health of a child or teenager, such as learning disabilities in school and lower grades, difficulty maintaining friendships, and excessive discipline for actions beyond their control.
Symptoms of adult ADHD:
According to the American Psychiatric Association, 2.5% of adults have ADHD.
For those adults who have made it throughout their childhood without being diagnosed with ADHD, the symptoms may be more difficult to recognize.
While the three more common symptoms – inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness – are still the main identifiers of adult ADHD, they are displayed in adults very differently from the way they may appear in children.
While there is a lack of mental health research on adult ADHD, some of the symptoms may present as:
- Lack of attention to detail in situations such as work or home chores
- Continually starting new projects or tasks before completing previous ones
- Appearing unorganized
- Struggling with prioritization
- Losing or misplacing everyday items
- Forgetfulness or trouble remembering events of days past
- Feeling restless or edgy
- Struggling with mood swings or irritability
- Seen as temperamental, touchy, or impatient
- Impulsive symptoms, like interrupting conversations
- Poor ability to handle stressful situations
- Engaging in hyperactive-impulsive and risky behaviors with little sense of safety for self or others
Although these medical conditions may be more subdued in adults than they are in children, they do present the same challenges in adult life such as trouble succeeding in a career and the inability to maintain relationships.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
A formal diagnosis for ADHD can be made by a healthcare provider using the DSM-5 (the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) such as a psychologist or psychiatrist or by a primary care provider, mental health professional or pediatrician.
The NIH (National Institute of Mental Health) suggests looking at current symptoms as well as looking back at past childhood behaviors to help your mental health provider make a diagnosis.
Diagnosing an ADHD mental health condition isn’t as straightforward as diagnosing a physical illness. There isn’t one simple test that can be performed to confirm or deny the presence of ADHD, but your healthcare provider can make an accurate diagnosis after a full physical assessment, including vision and hearing exams. The physical exam may help rule out other possible causes of the demonstrated symptoms, such as anxiety disorders, autism, asd, oppositional defiant disorder, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders. This process may extend over several interviews with the patient or parent of the child.
In addition to the physical exam, the FDA has approved a Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment (NEBA) System, a non-invasive procedure that measures brain waves.
The age at which ADHD is diagnosed varies from patient to patient. More severe cases of ADHD are diagnosed closer to age 4 while the median age of diagnosis is around age 7.
Tools to Help With Most Types of ADHD
Once an appropriate diagnosis has been made by healthcare professionals, the next steps involve learning to manage ADHD on a daily basis. While there is no simple roadmap to managing ADHD signs and symptoms, there are many tools available that may help individuals who struggle in different areas that want to avoid stimulant medications.
Some tools that may help in managing the day-to-day symptoms of ADHD, in a nonstimulant manner, include:
- A Daily Planner or Agenda
- This tool offers the obvious benefit of helping the individual remember what they need to do that day or any important events that may be coming up.
- A typical symptom of ADHD is becoming overwhelmed by large or time-consuming tasks. A planner allows larger tasks to be broken down into more manageable pieces.
- Bullet Journal
- A bullet journal can assist in planning or breaking down tasks like a planner, but it allows a more freestyle approach that can encompass recording the day’s happenings in an artsy approach such as doodling which provides an outlet for fidgeting or restlessness.
- A journal can also help as cognitive behavioral therapy which helps pinpoint distorted thoughts and replace them with more realistic thinking.
- A visual representation of the day allows for the tasks or items to appear more ‘real’ which helps the individual with time management or remember important events.
- For those who suffer from ADHD, the focus and attention span that are demanded when reading are difficult to maintain. A text-to-speech app, such as Speechify, allows the individual to read along while hearing the words out loud or it can allow them to perform other tasks while listening to reading materials.
- Command Center
- A command center is a designated area of the home or workplace that assists in organization. It is a catch-all area for the most commonly used items such as keys, phones, backpacks, and mail.
- The use of a whiteboard and sticky notes are also helpful in a command center to help keep track of tasks, events, or chores that need to be done.
- Charging Station
- The charging station can be part of the command center or a separate station entirely. Designate an area where all chargers for laptops, phones, and tablets are kept. This ensures that these items end up in the same place at the end of each day.
- Filing System
- People with ADHD struggle with maintaining organization. A filing system for mail, documents, bills, schoolwork and paperwork can assist in being more organized.
- Timers and Daily Alarms
- Setting timers for tasks help those who struggle with ADHD and time management keep a more tangible sense of the time it takes to perform a specific task.
- For daily tasks or activities that are easily forgotten by those who struggle with ADHD, such as taking medication, daily alarms are a useful reminder.
How Speechify Can Help
Those who struggle with ADHD often struggle to find the time to read important documents or study textbooks. With Speechify, these tasks become manageable by simply listening to the pages as the words are read out loud. The app also allows individuals suffering from ADHD to take photos of pages that they need to read so that they can listen to them at their convenience.
Speechify highlights the word on the page as it goes, allowing the individual to read along while they listen. It is also compatible with Chrome, iOS, and Android, integrating with any desktop or mobile device to allow for listening at home and on the go.
For those struggling with the forgetfulness that ADHD can sometimes bring along, Speechify is a useful tool for reading because the material can be consumed by reading in tandem with hearing the words out loud, serving both visual and auditory learning modes and increasing the retention of materials consumed.
The ability to multitask is something that is useful for individuals with ADHD as it allows them to focus on multiple small tasks at once and is an efficient outlet for excessive energy. Speechify is a useful tool in this regard as it allows the person to listen to a document, article, or email while running errands, exercising, or simply going out for a walk.
Speechify maximizes the time it can take to read by allowing its consumers to adjust the speed at which they choose to listen to their materials. It also helps them to absorb more reading materials faster than if they were to actually read them.
The voices used by Speechify are more human-like and fluid than some AI voices used in other applications. This provides a more natural listening experience and allows you to retain the information that was heard or read.
Whatever challenges that reading may present to those with ADHD, Speechify can help!
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