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What are the symptoms of adult attention deficit disorder (ADD)?

There are five hallmark symptoms of ADD
  • Short attention span, for regular, routine everyday tasks. People with ADD have a difficult time with boring tasks and need stimulation or excitement in order to stay engaged. Many people with ADD can pay attention just fine for things that are new, novel, interesting, highly stimulating or frightening.
  • Distractibility. People with ADD tend to notice more in their environment than others, which makes them easily distracted by outside stimuli, such as light, sounds, smells, certain tastes or even the clothes they were. Their keen sensitivity causes them to get easily off task.
  • Disorganization. Most people with ADD tend to struggle with organization of time and space. They tend to be late and have trouble completing tasks on time. Many things get done at the last moment or even later. They also tend to struggle keeping their spaces tidy, especially their rooms, book bags, filing cabinets, drawers, closets and paperwork.
  • Procrastination. Tasks and duties get put off until the last moment. Things tend not to get done until there are deadlines or someone else is mad at them for not doing it.
  • Poor internal supervision. Many people with ADD have issues with judgment and impulse control and struggle not to say or do things without fully thinking it through. They also have a harder time learning from their mistakes.
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Leading attention deficit disorder (ADD) experts Russell Barkley, Kevin Murphy and Mariellen Fischer have found that persons with adult ADD are often:
  • Distracted easily by unimportant stimuli
  • Impulsive in decision making
  • As if driven by motor and have difficulty stopping when involved in a task
  • Prone to jump into a project without following directions
  • Likely to forget about promises and commitments
  • Likely to mix up the order and sequence of well defined tasks
  • Likely to drive their cars too fast
  • Likely to struggle with paying attention in work and recreation
  • Disorganized
Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

ADD/ADHD affects about five percent of children and more than half of them will carry those symptoms into adulthood. In addition, many adults have ADD/ADHD without ever being diagnosed. 

Untreated ADD/ADHD can cause numerous mental and physical health problems, difficulties with work and finances, and put strain on relationships. It’s important to recognize the signs of Adult ADD/ADHD so that you can get proper treatment.

The symptoms of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) are:

  • Lack of focus
  • Hyper-focus
  • Disorganization
  • Forgetfulness
  • Impulsivity
  • Emotional Problems
  • Poor Self-Image
  • Lack of motivation
  • Restlessness and Anxiety
  • Health problems
  • Relationship issues
  • Other common traits among adults with ADD/ADHD include:
    • changing employers often
    • few personal or work-related achievements
    • higher use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs
    • repeated patterns of relationship issues, including divorce
It doesn't just affect children, watch this clip to learn the symptoms of adult attention deficit disorder (ADD).


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.