ADHD Signs & Symptoms

Not everyone experiences ADHD the same way. Understanding the signs, symptoms and effects of ADHD is an important step toward recovery for your child.

Understanding ADHD

Learn about ADHD

Commonly referred to as ADHD, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a mental illness that is frequently diagnosed among young people. Sufferers of this condition are known to have difficulty in academic settings, abuse substances, and engage in risky behaviors when treatment is not implemented to help these individuals learn to manage symptoms. Those who meet diagnostic criteria for ADHD are typically ascribed as having a specific type of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, as some people are known to battle different symptoms of this condition more than others.

The dominant presentations of ADHD that an individual can suffer from include inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity. Some individuals will experience symptoms that are more congruent with one presentation than the other, while others may suffer from a combination of both. Those who possess more inattentive symptoms often have a hard time sustaining attention, as well as beginning and completing tasks that are assigned to them. Individuals with more hyperactive/impulsive symptoms may be met with obstacles when in situations whereupon it is necessary for them to sit still, resist urges to give in to impulsive behaviors, or when it is time to refrain from making noise. People who battle a combination of both presentations will display symptoms synonymous with each. What is important to know is that the presence of ADHD symptoms are not context dependent. Those who meet diagnostic criteria for this disorder are known to experience symptoms in several settings.

By seeking care for this disorder, sufferers of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are able to avoid detrimental effects and consequences that could be lasting when this condition is a factor in an individual’s life. Whether you suspect that a family member or other loved one is battling this disorder, mental health treatment should be considered and received so that the symptoms of this illness are prevented from wreaking havoc on a person’s life


ADHD statistics

Extensive research on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder has produced several findings about this mental health condition. ADHD is believed to affect an estimated five percent of young people under the age of 18. Furthermore, studies have concluded that this illness is seen more often in males than in females. Lastly, it has been realized that boys exhibit more hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, whereas girls present with more inattentive symptoms.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for ADHD

Professionals in the field of mental health agree that there are certain contributing factors that can cause the onset of ADHD symptoms. In addition to certain risk factors that can increase an individual’s vulnerability to developing this illness, genetics and environmental influences are the two most commonly cited causes for how and why this illness manifests in a person. Consider the following:

Genetic: Having a first-degree relative with a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a strong determinant that could explain why some individuals develop this condition while others do not. Because of this, researchers and experts in the field of mental health agree that genetics play a prominent role in the development of ADHD.

Environmental: Influences from a person’s environment are known to trigger the onset of, or exacerbate symptoms of, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Should an individual be exposed to certain infections or toxins while in utero, there is a high probability that that person will develop symptoms of ADHD. Additionally, those who have a history of being a victim of abuse or neglect, experiencing trauma, or have ongoing exposure to violence or chaos have an increased risk for displaying symptoms of ADHD.

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Family history of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or other mental illness
  • Presence of preexisting mental health disorder
  • Personal or family history of chemical dependency issues
  • Being exposed to certain infections or toxins before birth
  • Exposure to violence or chaos
  • Inadequate support network
  • Lack of parental involvement
  • History of trauma, abuse, and/or neglect

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ADHD

Since the obviousness of ADHD symptoms are dependent upon which presentation of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder a person is predominantly struggling with, careful attention must be paid to certain behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms that infer an individual is grappling with this mental health condition. In the event that mental health treatment is sought, it is imperative to report the presence of any of the following symptoms that are synonymous with an ADHD diagnosis:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Poor impulse control
  • Difficulty starting and/or completing tasks
  • Refusing to attend school
  • Accelerated speech
  • Restlessness
  • Substance abuse
  • Partaking in risky behaviors
  • Ongoing procrastination

Physical symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Tense muscles
  • Frequent urination
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Appetite changes
  • Noticeable changes to one’s weight
  • Stomachaches

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Rapid thought processes
  • Ritualistic thinking or repetitive thought patterns
  • Inability to sustain attention
  • Increased hyperactivity
  • Memory problems
  • Low tolerance threshold
  • Paranoia

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Insecure feelings
  • Shifts in mood
  • Depressed feelings
  • Irritability
  • Agitation


Effects of ADHD

Because the symptoms of ADHD can vary in severity, there are numerous adverse effects that could occur in an individual’s life should this mental health condition remain untreated. With some consequences having the potential to be lasting, the following effects are those that can be avoided if a person receives therapeutic intervention to manage the potentially destructive symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder:

  • Decline in academic performance with the possibility of academic failure
  • Disciplinary action(s) taken at school due to behavioral concerns
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Development of a substance abuse problem(s)
  • Onset of symptoms of an additional mental health disorder(s)
  • Inability to form and/or maintain healthy relationships with others
  • Financial strife
  • Decline in one’s sense of self-worth or self-esteem
  • Presence of self-harming behaviors
  • Increase in interaction with law enforcement/legal system
  • Suicidal ideations with the potential for suicide attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

ADHD and co-occurring disorders

The symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are known to occur alongside other mental illnesses. For this reason, it is important for an individual to receive a thorough assessment of his or her symptoms should mental health services be sought. The listed disorders are those that are commonly diagnosed at the same time as ADHD:

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Tic disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

I give Southwood a big thanks — they were the help that I have been looking for. The staff was wonderful!

– Former client