Adult ADD, ADHD Symptoms and Their Impact

Adult ADD, ADHD symptoms and their impact on quality of life. Specific information about ADHD symptoms in adults and signs of adult ADD.

Adult ADD symptoms resemble those seen in children with ADHD (see ADHD Symptoms in Children), but certain symptoms, such as hyperactivity, may lessen in prominence over time. Researchers estimate that approximately 8 million people in the U.S. exhibit adult attention deficit disorder symptoms, but few actually receive diagnosis and treatment of adult ADHD. ADHD symptoms in adults cause difficulties in multiple environments, including relationships, academic situations, casual social interactions, and professional achievement. (see ADHD and Relationships and Managing ADD, ADHD at Work)

Signs of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder

Common signs of adult ADD include many of those described by health care professionals who treat children with the condition, but others seem to emerge or become conspicuous in adulthood. One of the primary criticisms of ADHD diagnostic criteria concerns the core symptoms list. In DSM-IV and prior editions, the list describes how the condition looks in school-aged kids but doesn't reflect how the symptoms look in adults and older teens.

However, the DSM-V core ADHD symptom set remains virtually unchanged but does add examples of how these symptoms might appear in older teens and adults. Common ADD symptoms in adults can manifest directly due to the disorder or because of associated social adjustment issues:

  • Chronic boredom
  • Chronic tardiness
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Problems in primary relationships
  • Anger management difficulties
  • Concentration and attention problems
  • Poor time management
  • Poor prioritizing skills
  • Low motivation and procrastination
  • Difficulty holding onto employment
  • Low frustration threshold

Frequently, adult ADHD signs present with the opposite characteristics, depending on the adult and situation. Adults may exhibit either antisocial tendencies, withdrawing from family and friends, or require constant social attention and feel uncomfortable when alone.

(Take a free online ADD, ADHD test to assess your symptoms.)

Adult ADD Symptoms and Associated Impact on Quality of Life

All adults, accurately diagnosed with ADHD (see Adult ADHD Testing and Diagnosis), have suffered from the disorder since childhood. Clinicians use diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition (DSM-V) when determining if an individual's complaints are due to adult ADD symptoms. Key signs of adult ADD include:

  • Frequent poor behavior reports while in school as a kid
  • Academic underachievement in school years
  • Repeating a grade
  • Poor professional performance
  • Few professional achievements
  • Financial issues due to poor management skills
  • Substance abuse
  • Multiple driving violations and accidents
  • Marital problems, including multiple marriages

Left untreated, the impact of adult ADHD can have a devastating effect on a person's quality of life. However, proper treatment greatly relieves the majority of these impairments.

Psychological Disorders Associated with Adult ADHD Symptoms

About 50 percent of adults with ADHD also have a coexisting psychological disorder, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and others. The presence of these co-morbid conditions can make an accurate diagnosis of ADHD in adults challenging. Symptoms of these other conditions are similar to some adult ADD symptoms. The doctor or therapist must determine whether the patient has ADHD and another mental disorder as well, or a mental disorder with symptoms similar to those of ADD.

article references

APA Reference
Gluck, S. (2021, December 20). Adult ADD, ADHD Symptoms and Their Impact, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: January 2, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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