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. Sheena says

    This article was so helpful. I was diagnosed with bipolar and I take Latuda, Topamax and Zoloft and as this has made me a whole new person I still struggle with things I just read in this article that blows my mind. The only difference is i have a problem with being very tired which could be caused by my meds and working nights. I have children with adhd and would have never thought I possibly had it.. i think it’s worth talking to the doc over…

  2. sharls says

    ive been diagnosed with major depression but reading this article made me understand myself abit better because i always ask myself why can i not commit to something and finish it and its been a frustration of mine for years i feel better knowing im not the only one going through all of this but i seriously wish my life can just be normal i hate what this shit is doing to me and i feel like i can just die at times so i dont need to face life anymore but tommorow morning i wake up and im fine am i insane? I have a husband and kids that love me but im irratable and angry most of the time and its killing them too sucks big time….

    • Patricia says

      I’m also a wife, mother with three children. Before writing this; read your message, got up started dishes, sat in the chair stared out the window thinking of what to write- completed dishes, got the kids milk, sat down again and continued staring out the window still thinking…if someone was dialoguing my movements, it would be bonkers!

      These are suggestions that have worked for me, to limit agitation and frustration.
      – lists for chores to complete during the day, keep home organized for less stress.
      – asking for help from hubby, such as vacuuming or cooking dinner one night.
      – limiting the circulating incompleted errands such as making dentist appointments, banking, work commitments, birthday presents, writing letters or registering kids for soccer etc. (knock that list down so it doesn’t keep resurfacing in your mind over and over and over…)
      – write all appointments on a calendar or in your own personal yearly planner.
      – have a white board for hubby and kids in the kitchen so if they need anything they can write it down. So you don’t forget them telling you repeatedly!! Lol!!
      – teach children to talk to you one at a time; if they all talk at once it gets overwhelming, harder to focus on their individual demands.
      – don’t stay up late. Going to bed around 10:30 works best for me, although I currently have toddlers that get up periodically during the night…it’s a good habit.
      – if you have a timed appointment, think of what time it will take to get there and seriously add an hour!! Especially with kids…
      – never apologize for who you are; God made you specifically this way for a purpose and people with ADD/ADHD are highly creative and insightful. Also people that get to know intrinsically you; love you entirely!! Thus you love greatly in return, we are very forgiving.

      Hope this gabbering helps!? I really pray you feel better and know you aren’t alone. We’ve all felt like the wonky shape surrounded by circles and squares! People have called me weird my whole life; and I say thank-you!! I would much rather be weird than unoriginal <3

  3. Patricia says

    Really enjoyed this article, and the nuance of humour!
    How do I go about getting diagnosed? Family doctor, or physiatrist?

    I always knew I was different as a child; drifting through school ‘does not pay attention in class’ or handing in half completed assignments. Having a tornado in my mind and unable to unravel the thoughts.
    It wasn’t until having our daughter her ability to remember everything; and her repeatedly having to remind me stuff so young. I now recognize I am different. (Although my husband would claim he called me weird from the beginning.) Not in a bad way; just an unique perception of the world.

  4. shar says

    Hi fellow ADD folk,
    I have written a post in response to ‘pat’s’ comment with regards to how I cope with ADD- please kindly take the time to read it. Meditation is my medication (nostril breathing) for all these symptoms which help tremendously from sustaining ones attention for a particular activity, increase concentration, reduce depression, helps foster ways of self acceptance and approval in daily activities, help with sleep etc. You name your struggles and meditation can help you with these. I am also struggling with ADD and was told my friends of how intelligence I am however tend to under perform/ under achieve in many aspects in life. Now I am starting to meditation my grades in are improving which is a nice feeling. Also Google ADD and giftedness which may also resonate with many of you folks, giftedness can also be mistaken as ADD or ADHD because they have very similar characteristics.
    hope this email serves folks well. Take care for now.

  5. Kristie says

    I’ll be really honest with you. I never knew that other people behaved as badly as I do. The common traits and characteristics That I just read are “me” to a tea! It really makes me feel so not alone. I thought I was the only one who talks to much, doesn’t get along with co-workers particularly well and I HATE being told what to do. I feel like saying, “leave me alone, I’ll do it MY way—hahaha. Anybody else here get bored to death in the shower? What a task it is for me. I mean I do shower on a daily basis, but man I dread the time it takes. No wonder I’m such a mess–and I do feel like a total failure. Someone will be talking to me, my mind just drifts off somewhere else and I have no idea afterward what they said–nor do I care. I sound like an a** don’t I?

  6. Pat says

    I was diagnosed with ADD 4 years ago. But the 3 prescriptions that my dr prescribed including adderall had side effects. I have high blood pressure, I don’t believe they worked with my bp prescription. I still live with it, very hard. Has anyone tried something natural for focusing?

    • shar says

      Hi Pat,
      I also have ADD and everything in this webpage resonates and clearly outlines my daily challenges. apparently there are 7 types of ADD and it’s important to know which one you have because then it leads to better treatment outcomes.
      I have the inattentive type and use natural herbs such as green tea (drink 1-2 cups/day), rhodiola ( a wonderful adaptogenic herb which enables your cardiovascular system to vasodilation creating a feeling of calmness, which also reduces blood pressure, and increase ones capacity for excerise), ginseng and L-theaine;
      for mood support i use l – tryptophan and magnesium(one of the precursor for serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that regulates our sleep, mood, appetite and libido)
      all these natural supplements have minor side effects which are tolerable and also can act as a desired effect ie magnesium if taken too much can give you loose stool due to this muscle relexant nature.
      in addition to herbal supplements with little or no side effect (because I am very very sensitive), to cope with ADD I also meditate ( nostril breathing -you can google this )throughout the day to keep me grounded and centered otherwise I am all over the place and can’t get anything done.
      Juggling work and school simultaneously is taxing to one’s mental health, so meditation helps a lot with staying focus, increasing your ability to concentrate and priotize, calms the mind, increases your tolerance for fustration, reduces anxiety, improves mood, reduces feelings of inferiority, depression, being hard on one self etc.
      the best part about meditation is that is free, and easy to do and you can practice it virtually anywhere, all it takes is some discipline and time allocated to practice. lastly, there are numerous variations of meditation so you can never get bored =) which is all a win-win situation for us folks with ADD. hope this message finds you well. Take care

  7. says

    I as advised by my wife to go see a Psychiatrist because of the moods that I was having and having no energy or enthusiasm any more. For all of my life I had been a keen almost obsessive Trout Fly Fisher and Fly Tyier. I can hardly remember the last two or three fishing trips I’ve had and don’t remember when I last tied any flies for fishing. The deep moods I found myself in were not good, I even thought of the places in the mountains where there was a sheer drop of at least 2,000+ Feet and with no barriers it would be so easy to simply drive off the road and down the canyon with absolutely no chance of survival, who would care about me, maybe my wife a bit as this state of mind that has been affecting me has caused her not to love me anymore. I gave up everything I had in Scotland to come over here to be with her and it was good for a few years but I had had a series of corrective surgeries on my shoulder, arm, leg, foot and testes. As a result or coincidentally some of the hormone levels have been affected, Testosterone being one of concern as the severe decrease in my libido went down to zero. It has literally been years since the last very embarrassing effort or attempt of intimacy. The head and heart were only very willing and eager but my body or loins were not interested in the slightest and have become dormant even when on my own and attempting some sort of self pleasuring, there was nothing not even when my Dr had put me on replacement Testosterone therapy. Another Dr gave me a sample of Viagra which had no effect whatsoever, Cialis was next, I felt a small “stirring”, for 10 mins then nothing.
    Recently my psychiatrist suggested that I was not suffering from “Depression”, but rather it was Anxiety and has started the appropriate medication changes and again no changes anywhere..
    I read on his report that I was suffering from Bi-polar and ADD. Not knowing what these were I went online to learn about the conditions. The descriptions given above are about 90% accurate for me and the next step I think for me is to discuss these matters in detail, ie how they came to be, how can I/we address them with the view to get rid of them and allow me to make it up to my very patient wife who deserves better than I have been this past years. There must be a way for me to save my marriage.
    The worst part of having these symptoms is the not knowing that it is happening when I upset folk with comments that I thought that I had only thought them instead of actually saying them aloud. I absolutely hate upsetting people unintentially, it makes me feel really bad and low when I am told about it. If I want to upset them then they will really know it but when it is unintentially like almost all of the time it is extremely embarrassing and I cannot apologise enough for doing whatever I have done or said. There are times on reflection of a social gathering at which I never really feel comfortable at anyway that I think about driving to the mountains and maybe not coming back. I know it would be a very selfish act but there are only a few people that would notice that I was gone. It could end as a toss of a coin to make the decision.
    I like Noelien’s comments.

  8. deborah gannon says

    I took a 2 hour test to find out I have both ADD and ADHD. I have been this way all my life.I went to my doctor when I was 38 and told him I wanted to try the diet drug Phen Phen. He put me on this drug and the first time in my life I felt normal.I lost weight I could sit still and watch a TV show all the way through without getting up 50 times.I could clean a room with out stopping.Then they took it off the market.I got really depressed and knew something was really wrong with me.When I turned 40 I went bat crap crazy,every little thing that happened would send me into a tail spin.I found out later when I started reading about ADD that when a woman’s hormones start going down the drain the ADD gets really bad.Thank goodness for Adderall, I have been taking it for 12 years now.I take 15mg’s a day of adderall XR….Life is good …….

  9. Jay says

    All of these points ring so true to me. My whole life, I was always told i was very intelligent… but i was always an underachiever in school. I was nominated as one of the ditziest in my high school year book. Since kindergarten, my report card always said i was very smart but was an underarchiever. My friends (in a good natured way) tease me about how I cannot listen to conversations and easily tune out. I went to a prestigious college and got a computer and systems engineering degree… but with a 2.5 grade average. I would go to classes… but would tune out th emoment i lost interest, and often turned to playing online poker, which stimulated me. After college, lacking confidence in myself, I took the first job I could find in a tech support role. After 4 years of hating my job, I found the focus to study a programming book and move up a level in my company… then I found myself in the same cycle, in the same position 5 years later. I am obsessed with numbers and great at saving my money.. but I often find myself feeling empty and unhappy inside. I feel like I neve rlive up to my potential. In my own mind, I feel like all others in my life are passing me and they find success, and I often have the feeling that the world just doesn’t want me to be successful. I know this is in my own head, but after 31 years of feeling like this, it becomes sooooo frustrating! I have a loving wife, but occasionally will have angry outbursts, and I often feel the root of it is my own frustration with myself and how I feel like the world hasn’t given me a fair shake. But I know alot of it is inside my own head. Everyday I wake up with anxiety, worrying about something. I always suspect that I have ADD (or just SOMETHING wrong with me); I mean, SOMETHING has to explain the way I am, right? But when I explain this to people close to me, they brush it off as me just trying to explain away my problems, which I guess they chalk up to my personaity. The self-diagnosing is also extremelty accurate. Everything on this entire post is so accurate, it’s scary. Throughout life, I go through periodic depressions. I can’t commit to anything long-term that leads to real success because I often lose interest. It’s so frustrating being this way. I think it’s time I see a psychiatrist or a doctor about this.

    • brad says


      I think we are in the same boat. I am not sure what ADD is but the points mentioned above are very accurate in describing my personality traits, especially #4. I feel like I am an underachiever, perhaps because I constantly reset the bar, but when I step back and really think about it, I know that is not the case. I have accomplished a lot professionally but it has been a hard road. That said salary and otherwise I am in the top 5%. Amusingly, at least to me, is relative to point #3, I may be the worst driver on the planet. I pretty much drive 20+ miles above the speed limit everywhere I go. Take care and I hope things work out for you.

  10. Julie says

    Many of these symptoms with me are so acute that my life has been extremely negatively affected by them. What do I do? I don’t want to take ADD medication. Can occupational or cognitive therapy help?

  11. Noelien says

    Painful, yet “comforting” to read. I’ve beaten myself up for years for not being able to stay focused and motivated. So many incompleted tasks, goals, dreams. I tick almost every point on this list. I’ve been distracted a few times and that was while reading this peace.

  12. Ellen says

    Most of this rings true for myself. I really struggle and want to do something to help myself, but at this stage in my adult life I rather like who I am and don’t really want to change. But, unfortunately, it does affect my relationships with others (I can be rude, not interested, etc).

  13. Jim says

    This is simply my experience! But i thank God it has not gotten out of hand yet, and now i know what my problem has been.
    Need a change.

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