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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms that include:

  • difficulty concentrating and paying attention
  • hyperactivity
  • impulsiveness

Symptoms of ADHD in children and teenagers

Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed at an early age. They may become more noticeable when a child’s circumstances change, like when they start school.

The main symptoms of ADHD in children and teenagers are:

1. Inattentiveness

The main signs of inattentiveness are:

  • having a short attention span
  • being easily distracted
  • making careless mistakes
  • appearing forgetful
  • losing things
  • being unable to stick at tedious or time-consuming tasks
  • appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions
  • constantly changing activity or task
  • having difficulty organizing tasks

2. Hyperactivity and Impulsiveness

The main signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are:

  • being unable to sit still, especially in quiet surroundings
  • constantly fidgeting
  • being unable to concentrate on tasks
  • excessive physical movement
  • excessive talking
  • being unable to wait their turn
  • acting without thinking
  • interrupting conversations
  • little or no sense of danger

Symptoms of ADHD in adults

If you’re an adult with ADHD, you may find that:

  • you get easily distracted and find it hard to notice details, particularly with things you find boring
  • it’s hard to listen to other people – you may find yourself finishing their sentences for them or interrupting them
  • it’s hard to follow instructions
  • you find it hard to organize yourself – you start a lot of things without ever finishing them
  • you find it hard to wait
  • you fidget and can’t sit still when there’s nothing much going on
  • you’re forgetful and tend to lose or misplace things
  • you easily get irritable, impatient or frustrated and lose your temper quickly
  • you feel restless or edgy, have difficulty turning your thoughts off
  • you find stress hard to handle
  • you tend to do things on the spur of the moment, without thinking, which gets you into trouble

Some people with ADHD have problems with inattentiveness, but not with hyperactivity or impulsiveness. This form of ADHD is also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD). ADD can sometimes go unnoticed because the symptoms may be less obvious.

Related conditions 

Some people might have other conditions alongside ADHD.