ADHD Signs & Symptoms

What Is ADHD

Understanding Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a problematic mental health condition that usually begins in childhood. The essential features of ADHD include a persistent pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity that interferes with a child’s daily functioning or development. A diagnosis of ADHD is broken down into different subtypes depending upon the specific symptoms that a child is struggling with. For example, a child or adolescent can experience predominantly hyperactivity-impulsive symptoms, predominantly inattentive symptoms, or a combination of both types. Children and adolescents with ADHD may experience a number of difficulties including poor school performance, trouble obtaining and maintaining interpersonal relationships, and low self-esteem. However, there are a number of treatment options available to help children with ADHD learn to manage their symptoms.



Studies have indicated that approximately 5% of children struggle with the symptoms of ADHD. It has also been concluded that men are more susceptible to developing symptoms of this illness, and tend to present with symptoms that are more hyperactive in nature. On the other hand, women with ADHD are more likely to present with more inattentive-type symptoms.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Multiple factors have been identified as contributing to the development of ADHD; however, the exact cause has still not been determined. For example, genetic influences, environmental factors, and a number of other risk factors have been known to make a child or adolescent more susceptible for the development of this disorder. Consider the following:

Genetic: As is the case for many other mental health conditions, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is more likely to occur in individuals who have a first-degree relative who have been diagnosed with this disorder. There have been multiple studies conducted that have confirmed the presence of a genetic link to the onset of ADHD.

Environmental: It is a commonly held belief that certain environmental factors can impact a person’s susceptibility to developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. For example, some studies have shown that being the victim of abuse or neglect, experiencing traumas, or being exposed to chronically stressful environments can place individuals at risk for developing symptoms of ADHD.

Risk Factors:

  • Being male
  • Certain temperamental traits
  • Low birth rate
  • Mother smokes during pregnancy
  • Exposure to toxins, infections, or alcohol in utero
  • Family history of ADHD or other mental health conditions
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Chronic exposure to violence or crime
  • Being subjected to abuse and/or neglect

Signs of ADHD

Signs of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

The symptoms of ADHD are classified into three main categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The symptoms that a child with ADHD experiences will depend upon which characteristics are predominant. Below are some of the common signs and symptoms of ADHD, which have been broken down into each category:

Inattentive symptoms:

  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Is easily distracted
  • Has trouble staying focused
  • Doesn’t seem to listen when being spoken to
  • Has a hard time remembering things
  • Finds it difficult to follow directions
  • Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
  • Becomes easily bored with a task
  • Frequently loses homework, toys, or other items

Impulsivity symptoms:

  • Acts without thinking
  • Blurts out answers in class without being called on
  • Has a hard time waiting his or her turn
  • Often interrupts
  • Intrudes on other people’s conversations
  • Says the wrong thing at the wrong time
  • Is unable to control emotions
  • Guesses instead of trying to figure out answer

Hyperactivity symptoms:

  • Constantly squirms or fidgets
  • Frequently leaves his or her seat in situations when sitting still is required
  • Is constantly moving around
  • Talks excessively
  • Has a hard time playing quietly or relaxing
  • May have a quick temper

Effects of ADHD

Effects of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Undiagnosed and untreated ADHD can lead to the development of many problems in various aspects of a young person’s life. Some of these difficulties can include:

  • Poor school performance
  • Social rejection
  • Elevated interpersonal conflict
  • Development of conduct disorder or antisocial personality disorder
  • Engagement in drug and/alcohol abuse
  • Higher risk for being involved in accidents
  • Low self-esteem

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

It is fairly common for children and adolescents who meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD to experience co-occurring mental health disorders. In fact oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) occurs in about 40 percent of children with ADHD. Some examples of additional disorders that are known to occur alongside ADHD include:

  • Conduct disorder
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder
  • Certain learning disorders
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder

Thanks to SUWS, our son has learned better social skills that he was lacking and we've truly seen him come out of his shell

– Anonymous Parent