Short attention span
We all get distracted sometimes. However, if you almost always have trouble focussing on any one thing for any length of time, it could be a sign of ADHD. Having a short attention span makes completing tasks and even focusing on conversations difficult.
Careless mistakes have little to do with lack of knowledge, poor technical skills or bad teaching. Instead, they’re the mistakes that, for most people, can and ought to be avoided. That’s because they’re the result of inattention, boredom, a slapdash attitude and, just possibly, of ADHD.
Someone with the hyperactivity element of ADHD may realise that they’re always fidgety. Perhaps they pull at a button on their shirt, twirl a strand of hair around their finger, or constantly shuffle around in their chair. The person fidgeting may find that these little movements are comforting and help them concentrate.
Forgetfulness easily becomes the butt of other people’s jokes or, worse, the cause of their impatience. If, despite your best intentions, you’re always forgetting things, it could be a sign of ADHD. Of course, there are other reasons for forgetfulness that may merit investigation. However, if ADHD is the cause, you may be able to come up with strategies to help.
Are you always losing things? Inattention, forgetfulness and being easily distracted can all combine to mean that losing things becomes an everyday occurrence. And if ADHD is the cause, it won’t make any difference if people get annoyed with you or even if you get annoyed with yourself.
The ability to tune out from a tedious or downright boring situation is a useful skill – sometimes. However, if you find yourself always tuning out, even when you really need to focus on what’s going on, you might have ADHD. It’s certainly a classic sign, worthy of further investigation.
People with ADHD often have trouble switching from one activity to another. This is a particular problem for children with ADHD but even adults can have problem – especially if they need to stop doing something that they enjoy or find very rewarding. Sometimes breaking big tasks into smaller ones can help with transition difficulties.
Can’t sit still
It’s such a classic sign of ADHD that it’s become almost a cliché. However, for some people, the inability to stay still for long is a hallmark of the condition. It’s most frequently noticed in children, especially once they reach the age when they’re expected to sit still in a classroom. Medication helps some people. Others prefer to explore other coping techniques.
Inability to follow instructions
The ability to follow instructions is usually seen as a very basic skill. It’s one that we expect even young children to acquire. Consequently, an older child or, worse, an adult who has trouble following instructions may be dismissed as stupid, rude or both. Children with ADHD frequently find it easier to respond to very simple, clear and direct instructions.
The chatty kid is the one who’s always being sent out of the classroom. If they’re a chatty ADHD kid, they’re probably also blurting out whatever’s on their mind. “Talk first and think later” could be their motto. Adults with ADHD can have similar issues and others may sometimes perceive them as monopolizing a conversation.
If you have ADHD, you’re probably very easily distracted. Sometimes it’s the environment around you: noisy, busy places with lots going on can be particularly distracting. Sometimes, it might be the uncomfortable chair you’re sitting on or a seam in your shirt that’s irritating your skin. And, other times, it might be your own thoughts that distract you.
Low tolerance for tedious tasks
Very few people are naturally well-equipped to carry out tedious tasks. However, if you really struggle with them – perhaps to the extent that you can’t even start them – this could be a sign of ADHD. Try not to let this lack of tolerance worry you. Many people with ADHD come up with impressive coping strategies to ensure they get done what needs to be done.
Both children and adults with ADHD frequently display hyperfocus when engaged on a task that really interests them. Sometimes called “intense fixation”, it can allow them to focus for hours. They may even run late for work, miss meals, and not notice other people calling them.
No matter how much you may dislike them, if you have ADHD you may also suffer from obsessive thoughts. Even if they’re not negative in nature, they may come to feel negative because of the amount of time and mental energy they consume. Ignoring them is impossible and some people find that only medication helps. Others may benefit from CBT.
Prioritizing and organizing tasks is difficult for many people with ADHD. Impulsivity, sensory overload, forgetfulness and other issues all play a role in the issue. Although some people struggle all their lives with organizational problems, others come up with hacks and strategies to help them get as organized as possible. The ADHD online community is a great resource for this sort of workaround.
People with ADHD may struggle with the sort of social skills that other people take for granted. One of these social skills is taking turns. Unless you’re a pre-school age child, public tolerance for someone who can’t wait their turn is low. Unfortunately, difficulties with taking turns is a classic indication of possible ADHD.
If you have the inattentive form of ADHD, you may find concentrating very difficult. This is a problem that can persist through childhood and into adulthood and, without effective workarounds, can negatively affect self-esteem. Potential hacks include restricting your line of sight to only what you’re working on.
As well as small fidgety movements, if you have ADHD you may struggle to keep your entire body still. As an adult, perhaps you pace up and down a railway platform while waiting for a train. As a child, perhaps someone described you as “driven by a motor”.
Children with ADHD may be prone to meltdowns, which often occur after the child returns home from school. Although they look similar, these are not tantrums. Instead, they are the natural result of a child who can no longer contain all the emotions they have been struggling to suppress.
Aggressive behavior is a hallmark of some children with ADHD. The behavior does not occur because the child is inherently aggressive or nasty. Instead, it’s because ADHD means that individuals can feel emotions very acutely and, especially when young, may have real difficulty in managing them.
Do you find it hard to let other people finish what they’re saying? If you frequently find yourself jumping in with a question, a comment or an anecdote of your own, this might be a sign that you have ADHD. The behavior is most common in children. Adults who know they have ADHD may find coping strategies that enable them to let others speak uninterrupted.
No sense of personal danger
Anyone who knows anything about young kids knows that they usually have very little sense of personal danger. For most people, aside from a blip during adolescence, this is something that develops with age and maturity. However, people with ADHD may not develop the same risk assessment abilities.
Although anxiety isn’t thought to be a direct consequence of an ADHD brain, it’s very common among people with the condition. Most professionals consider that it’s the natural result of a neurodiverse person struggling to cope in a world set up for people who think and act very differently.
High-octane sports, driving very fast, drinking to excess, taking drugs, and having unprotected sex are just some of the risk-taking activities that a person with ADHD might undertake. This is partly a consequence of a brain that doesn’t assess risk well and partly because of the dopamine high that such activities generate.
As with anxiety, depression is not a direct consequence of ADHD. Instead, it’s frequently an indirect consequence, caused by the emotional strain of coping in what can seem like a very alien and unforgiving world. CBT helps some people while others may opt for a carefully-monitored medication regime.
Everyone has trouble sleeping at some time. For those with ADHD, however, sleep disorders are frequently long-term and difficult to resolve. Insomnia is one of the most frequent manifestations of an ADHD sleep disorder. Classic ways of helping, such as a warm bath and no backlit screens in the bedroom, may not work. However, some people with ADHD benefit from a nightly melatonin dose.
Many kids go through phases of not wanting to go to school. However, if your child’s refusal is long-lasting and intractable, and perhaps for no obvious reason, ADHD might be the cause. Children with ADHD often find the modern classroom a bewildering, frightening place. Remembering this can help you understand why you child might be refusing to attend school.
Frequent job changes
While some job changes are acceptable and even inevitable if you’re working your way up a career ladder, very frequent changes are a red flag for many employers. They suggest a lack of commitment and perhaps an inability to get on with co-workers and bosses. For the person with ADHD, however, frequent job changes may simply be another manifestation of the condition.
The particular traits expressed by many people with ADHD are not always conducive towards holding down a job. Short attention spans, procrastination, talkativeness, and an inability to finish a task are just some of the reasons why a person with ADHD might find themselves out of work.
ADHD is not an intellectual impairment. Most people with ADHD have normal IQs and, as with the general population, some have very high IQs. However, periods of school refusal and an inability to engage or commit to the educational process can result in a sheaf of failed exams. That said, with the right support, many people with ADHD can and do pass their exams.
Even adults with ADHD can feel like they have an internal motor that won’t shut off. If this is you, you may want to keep moving and feel frustrated when this isn’t possible. Even if you don’t get up and walk around, you may tap your foot or shift in your seat.
Not finishing tasks
Procrastination and problems with inattention may mean that someone with ADHD experiences real difficulty in finishing tasks. Trialling different time management skills can help, as can knowing one’s own limits and keeping a paper to-do list. Mindfulness is another strategy that some people find helpful.
Experts often pinpoint impulse buying as a classic sign of adult ADHD. Someone affected in this way may be prone to spend even when they can’t afford what they’re buying and don’t particularly want the item in question. Some people build up considerable debt even as the purchases they’ve made may lie unworn or unused in closets and cupboards.
In the modern world where social media is Queen of all she surveys, self-image problems are common. For the person with ADHD, however, this can be a problem that they don’t grow out of as they leave adolescence behind. They may be hypercritical of themselves and view their own ADHD-related difficulties as a negative reflection of their own self-worth.
Lack of attention to detail
For someone with ADHD, the rush to get onto the next thing or the slipping powers of concentration can result in a piece of work that lacks attention to detail. This may not matter if the work in question is the dinner that you’ve neglected to season correctly. However, if it’s an official form or work for your employer, the consequences can be tougher.
Poor stress management
Life can be tough for everyone at times. And, while even neurotypical people may struggle to manage stress, it can prove a much harder battle for someone with ADHD. Unfortunately, lost jobs, failed relationships, poor diets, and even substance misuse may be among the consequences.
Just as children with ADHD can struggle to form and maintain friendships with their peers, so can adults with the condition. If you’re an adult and suspect you have ADHD, look at your relationship history. Do you find it hard to make and keep friends or romantic partners? Do you have a history of divorce. It’s possible ADHD could be part of the cause.
Losing track of time
Poor time management skills are another classic sign of ADHD. They can manifest in different ways. For instance, perhaps you put off starting a task, perhaps you daydream, or perhaps you jump up mid-way through a job in order to tackle something else that seems impossibly urgent.
Gifted and talented
“Savant syndrome” is not generally considered part of ADHD. However, those with ADHD may sometimes appear preternaturally gifted at something. Sometimes this is because – as with the general population – they are gifted. Mostly, however, it’s a reflection of the ability to hyperfocus on something that they enjoy. Hyperfocus often means that the person spends long periods of time practising and perfecting their task.
Working memory deficit
For some people, poor executive function is a side-effect of ADHD. This may show itself in working memory deficit. If this is you, you may have a poor short term memory, which can cause problems at school, work and in daily life. Some people find that creating very specific routines may help improve memory and performance.