Common Symptoms of ADD in Adults

many faces

1. We are easily distracted and have difficulty paying attention. We have a tendency to tune out or drift away. For example, we might say:

It is a struggle for me to stay focused or centered. When I least expect it, my brain changes channels, and I respond to the beat of another drum.

Although I can hyperfocus a times, I am more often distracted, and have difficulty staying on target.

At times I feel scattered and confused, like iron shavings attracted by competing magnetic fields.

I set out to clean the kitchen, and often find myself reading a cookbook and deciding to try a new recipe. I eventually finish the kitchen, but it takes me a while.

2. We are impulsive, and we make hasty decisions without considering the consequences. For example, we might say:

I make plans without consulting my family, and then wonder why they don't share my enthusiasm. I jump to conclusions before analyzing all the facts. This creates problems in my personal and business life. I make decisions, commitments, purchases, even major life changes without adequately considering the consequences. I buy things I don't need, and then wonder where all my money went. The worst part is having to justify my actions.

3. We are restless, often hyperactive, and full of nervous energy. For example, we might say:

I usually feel edgy and am always "on the go." My insides are constantly churning. I drum my fingers, twist my hair, pace, shift positions while seated, or leave the room frequently. I'm always looking for a way to release my excess energy. I channel-surf with the TV remote control and find it hard to relax. I am an aggressive driver and love to weave in and out of traffic. My favorite game is looking for "hole shots" and creating my own car race.

4. We have a strong sense of underachievement and always feel that we fail to live up to our potential. For example, we might say:

Whether I am highly accomplished or floundering, I feel incapable of realizing my true potential. I feel like a failure and view success as something that only others achieve. In spite of my accomplishments and a satisfying relationship, I find it difficult to feel happy and fulfilled. In school I was called an underachiever, and that message still affects me today. I tend to be critical of my performance, even if others compliment me for a job well done.

5. We have difficulty in relationships. For example, we might say:

My inability to stay focused in the present moment gives others the impression that I don't care. I get bored easily and have a hard time listening to others. I feel uncomfortable in group activities where social interaction is required. I prefer not to be noticed, because I'm afraid I will say the wrong thing. Sometimes I forget to say hello or goodbye, and others accuse me of being rude.

6. We are procrastinators and have trouble getting started or feeling motivated. For example, we might say:

I put things off until the last minute, but the last-minute adrenaline rush makes the task possible, more interesting, and stimulating. I use deadlines as a way to create panic and chaos. This enables me to hyperfocus, so that I can complete the task on time. I allow piles of work to accumulate because I can't get organized. Only in times of hyperfocus can I actually get something accomplished. I'm inclined to start a project the night before it is due, stay up all night to finish it, and be totally burned out the next day.

7. We cannot tolerate boredom and are always looking for something to do. For example, we might say:

I become bored with activities, conversations and situations that do not interest me. I'm always looking for highly stimulating activities that keep my adrenaline flowing. When I sense boredom approaching, I look for something new and stimulating, rather than accept the idea of being bored. All of my waking moments need to be filled with something to do or something to think about. I cannot risk the possibility of having nothing to do.

8. We have difficulty getting organized. For example, we might say:

I have organizational plans, to-do lists, schedules and resolutions, but still end up with piles on my desk, missed appointments and unanswered phone calls. I have difficulty managing my time effectively. I am often late for meetings, and I lose track of everything from keys to commitments. I often feel out of control and confused because I don't know how to organize my time and activities. My kids do a better job of organizing than I do. I do better when others remind me of appointments and give me direction and structure.

9. We are impatient and have a low tolerance for frustration. For example, we might say:

I become impatient when things don't happen fast enough for me. I have a tendency to withdraw or react in anger. I like to know the bottom line without having to listen to all the details that I consider unimportant. If a line is held up because of coupons, price checks or check cashing, I get impatient and want to lash out at the person creating the delay. I don't like waiting for people or dealing with people's problems.

10. We have mood swings with periods of anxiety, depression or loneliness. For example, we might say:

Periods of depression affect my work, relationships and perception of reality. I sometimes withdraw and isolate myself. A simple setback can bring on feelings of overwhelming hopelessness for me. My moods are unpredictable and can cause me to be either verbally and physically active or quiet and inactive. In the midst of a seemingly endless stream of thoughts, a memory of past failure or loss can submerge my mood instantly.

11. We worry excessively and often have a sense of impending doom. For example, we might say:

Within minutes after awakening or after arriving at work, I seem to search my mind for a topic to worry about. I use worry as a way to stay focused. It's like cutting my finger; all my attention can be in one place. A feeling of impending doom seems to hover over me. I worry constantly about my health. I fear that I'm too fat, too thin, or have some fatal or debilitating disease.

12. We have trouble going through established channels or following proper procedures. For example, we might say:

I am a maverick at heart and do not like to follow rules or go through proper channels to complete a task. I tend to be critical of those in charge, and prefer being free to do things my own way. I feel smothered by procedures, policies, and being directed by others. Being required to conform stifles my productivity. I have a hard time teaching my children to respect authority and follow the rules, because I have a hard time doing those things myself.

13. We have many projects going simultaneously, and have trouble following through with a project or task. For example, we might say:

I assume responsibility for more projects than I can realistically accomplish. I lose interest quickly and have difficulty completing one task before starting a new one. I prefer simple tasks that I can complete before I get an urge to start another one. I am capable of juggling lots of projects or commitments at the same time, but it creates anxiety and pressure for me.

14. We are poor observers of ourselves and are often unaware of our effect on others. For example, we might say:

I have difficulty discerning how others perceive me. I rarely pick up the signals that indicate how well I am being received or if I'm talking too much. I tend to monopolize a conversation without knowing it. My friends tell me I talk too much about myself and don't give them a chance to share their story. I often exaggerate a story to make my point, and don't notice that others don't believe me. At work I think others agree with me. In reality they are confused by my "idea-a-minute" mentality.

15. We tend to say what comes to mind without considering the timing or appropriateness of the remark. For example, we might say:

I blurt out inappropriate comments without considering the possible consequences. Later, when I take time to reflect on what I said, I beat myself up for saying something so stupid. I have a hard time waiting my turn in conversations, and I interrupt others while they are talking. I speak out of turn in meetings. This makes people angry, and I often lose the main point of the meeting or lose the respect of those present. I have a reputation for making one-liner comments that hurt people's feelings.

16. We have a tendency toward addictive behavior, and use mood-altering substances to medicate ourselves. For example, we might say:

I use cocaine to help me focus, alcohol or marijuana to calm me down, and food to comfort me. I take prescription drugs as a way to speed up or slow down, depending on my needs of the moment. I use coffee and cigarettes to keep me energized and to numb my feelings. I use work to give me focus, motivation, and a sense of accomplishment. At times I use it as a way to avoid boredom.

17. We have difficulty in the workplace. We either change jobs frequently or have trouble getting along with our coworkers. For example, we might say:

I become bored with a job and cannot convince myself to stay, even though my financial security is at stake. I assume too much responsibility or take on too many tasks, and then cannot fulfill my obligations. I change my mind frequently and create confusion among my coworkers.

I waste time and resources on insignificant projects and spend time on things that keep my interest but have little value to the overall scheme of things.

18. We have a family history of ADD or other disorders of impulse control or mood. For example, we might say:

I have biological family members with strong evidence of ADD or other disorders of impulse control. I can trace ADD symptoms back several generations. I have family members who are considered high-strung and who have unstable careers. A lot of my close relatives have trouble controlling their tempers. I have biological children with ADD, and I learned of my own ADD through their diagnosis.

Adapted from The Twelve Steps: A Key to Living With Attention Deficit Disorder (Friends in Recovery, RPI Publishing Inc


  1. David says

    I’m 64 and didn’t know much about it, just thought it was for kids who really just needed a couple swats and told to behave. Daughter’s an LCSW, who, along with my wife’s support, talked me into getting a formal evaluation. After eval, I talked to a Psychiatrist. She confirmed I had ADHD. when she recommended I see a therapist, she caught me rolling my eyes. She told me he was very good with this and I agreed to go. The guy laid out my life in 15 minutes like he’d been living in my head for all those years! I was stunned and shocked for several days, and then the anger set in. It’s taken awhile to get a handle on it, plus fight off the depression the thought of all those wasted years brought on. I came across this article in my research. It says what I’ve felt for so long so much better than I could say it. I’m making progress in therapy. To the clown who called bullshit, ya wanna trade , mr. normal?

    • Tony says

      Hey David my friend,

      I am about 60 and just a few years ago I was diagnosed. I can relate to your frustration but at least you have found the right person to help you.
      In regards to the clown just concentrate in getting your life back, they do not worth referring to them.

      All the best.

  2. Faith says

    I too struggle with ADD and I have for many years however I have not been diagnose with it but every other article are the same symptoms I have I can’t stay focus nor can I concentrate I also have a learning disability struggle with math and reading and I can’t seem to hold on to a job I do well on jobs but work very slow If you have any advice for me please do share

  3. David says

    I’m 64 and was just diagnosed. I must admit I was stunned by it. This article stated how I’ve felt and thought for most of my life more clearly than anything else I’ve read in all the research I’ve been doing since being diagnosed. It’s like someone had been watching me and reading my thoughts.

  4. Lizette says

    hi dont dispair! I have add too. I was diagnosed at 25. in short I found correspondence studies worked best and small study groups. ps I am an admitted attorney and just got a post grad diploma in financial planning while working. you can do it. just believe. give a shout if you want to know what worked for me. keep going.

    • says

      I would love to know what worked for you. I’m much older but am just a year are so ago got a handle on my AD. I have plenty of room for improvement.

  5. Abe says

    All of these except for the one about following rules.. I don’t think I have trouble with rules.
    I didn’t even consider this a real disease when I was younger but I’m 21 years old and barely scraped through my first semester of college.. I’m not a lazy person either. I work very hard and am constantly reminded of this by my coworkers, so having so much trouble with classwork was surprising to me, especially when it was stuff that I knew how to do, I just lacked the focus.

    Even with reading books or playing video games I have trouble finishing them. I find myself utterly distracted in every lecture I attend as well… I guess I’ll pursue treatment for this now that I believe I definitely may be being affected by it. I’m just worried about the medication because I know most of it is addictive..

  6. Jeff says

    Interesting to read this, I just spent the weekend visiting with my brother and he’s in the process of discovering his ADD and after many conversations over the weekend he’s sure I have it too. We’re in our late 40’s and after so many years of it our brains are almost in meltdown, our wives say we don’t listen and should work on one thing at a time but it’s just impossible, thank god for smart phones or I’d never remember any of the bills or appointments.
    As far as works concerned I’m taking more and more sick days and I really don’t care if anyone is annoyed or inconvenienced, I cannot stay on task and sometimes leave early and just drive for 3hrs before going home, I wish I knew the answer but feel unable to control it anymore.
    Reading this makes some sense of things but I think it’s time for professional help now.

    • Heather says

      This is so funny reading your comment! My brother was recently diagnosed and talking with him he thinks I am also ADD! I am also in my 40’s and had no idea this even existed! I have struggled for years with every single one of these issues listed and just thought it was life. Wth??!! The question is now what? All the medications really scare me. I have never been a pill pusher. Well best of luck.

  7. Johnny says

    I call bullshit. ANY of these symptoms has happened to EVERYBODY. It’s called being a human. Life isn’t a fairy tale, sorry! Some people are more sensitive (check), and lazy (check) and I’ve found this to be an awful combination. But hey at least I know it ! :-)

    We’re merely the result of the quick paced times we’re living in. Click here! Check this out! Buy this! My point… Never jump to conclusions.

    • anonymous says

      yes it’s true everybody does go through these symptoms from time to time. But people with ADD have these 5 or more of these symptoms all the time, everyday, all their lives. It’s not because we are lazy!. People with add are some of the most creative and smartest people. It has to do with the neurons in the brain, and dopamine levels.

    • JustSayin' says

      Johnny says: I agree with you, somewhat. My spouse has ADD, and it has literally driven a wedge through our marriage and family life. Can you imagine being married to someone who never focuses long enough to feed the baby on time, or writes bills from wrong checkbooks, or when you are explaining something important, they drift away mentally, looking at the tv or outside a window because they lose desire to listen to you because nothing you say is remotely important or interesting? It destroys EVERYTHING, because you find yourself doing EVERYTHING, because your spouse cannot focus or listen long enough to do anything correct, until it comes time for something they like to do – the everything changes. So Johnny does have a point. When its something they want, then they are ALL EARS and attentions is wonderful, but when its something that they think boring or tedious, its “Oh, I have ADD, sorry I can’t listen or do anything.” Sometimes its definitely a cop-out, buy many times its just a plain LACK OF EFFORT. I have seen it upfront, and have suggested many, many times to take notes and write reminders on the fridge door! No, that would make too much sense. He would rather forget everything and blame on ADD.

      Bottom line: 1) DO NOT marry anyone with add. You will struggle waaaaay more than you have to, especially if they use their add as a crutch. 2) If you do have add, then why not make yourself reminders, or work better at focusing? If you can focus on tv or your favorite sport, why can’t you focus on other things? Try harder and never give up, but don’t make excuses.

    • Betty says

      You have NO idea what you are talking about….. obviously you are not add . So don’t write RUDE comments. That’s like saying diabetes is BS!!!

      • Gayle says

        I have been married to a man who has ADHD, for 43 years. I was 18, young, naïve, lack of experience, and judgment, etc. As he is now older (64 ) he is getting worse by the day. I did not know that he had ADHD when I married him. He has ruined bank accounts, vehicles, lied, stolen, ruined the yard with hording and junk and gives no though to what he has done / doing to people and family. If you are dating someone who has ADD or ADHD and they don’s seek help- beware- your life will always be difficult. You don’t ever tell them know without a battle- believe me I would have left him, but some reason God has me in this mess for a reason…. just know living with someone who is mentally off with ADD or ADHD is a real life time challenge, that you wish was different. If I have 5 good days a month, I’m doing good.

  8. Amanda says

    Most of this is me. It is so nice to finally know I could be suffering from ADD/ADHD. My telltale signs have always been extreme boredom in interpersonal conversations (especially small talk), inability to finish work or rushing through it to just get it done, not finishing books (I will rent 5-6 books from the library, skim through them all, and not finish any), and always having the need to be busy or “on the go.” It is a scary place to be sometimes because it can feel very overwhelming. I often find myself waning to drink a few glasses of wine to calm my mind down.

  9. Cherie says

    Hi, this is so totally me, it made me cry reading it, I’m not being treated and need to be, my life is in shambles right now, I want to know how to find a doctor to treat me because whenever I’ve brought up these symptoms of my life, because I am in treatment for addiction and have a drug history, they I guess think I’m trying to get meds, and I AM, because I need them, but they don’t want to consider it even. I’ve been self medicating for years to try to feel normal or to feel like I can do things and get things done. Where can I go?

  10. Fabian says

    95% of everything you described sound like me,that is a hurtful feeling but it really help me to realize and admit that I do have a problem that has effected my whole life’s out come.Now it’s time to get some help and change the remaining part of my life.

  11. Tristan says

    Thank you for this article. I’ve realised a few things about myself.
    PS: I am in a lecture doing group work right now except I’m not doing any work.

  12. whitney says

    Well, this article has given me a lot of insight about a few things my husband complains about. I will heat him talking but im disconnected from the conversation…this happens several times a day. I get bored if i dont have 5 things going on at once, and I make stupid mistakes often, thatci docon a regular basis. I’m thinking I need to be tested for ADD.

  13. says

    Hi! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and
    tell you I really enjoy reading through your articles. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same topics?

    Appreciate it!

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