Five Signs Of ADHD To Look For In Adults

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated March 26, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Please note that the term “ADD” is no longer used by mental health professionals. Instead, there are three specific subtypes of ADHD: predominantly Inattentive, predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive, and combined. “ADD” is now considered an inattentive presentation of ADHD. BetterHelp strives to use current terminology to accurately discuss mental health. Throughout the rest of the article, we will use the updated term “ADHD” to explore this topic.

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a common neurodevelopmental condition marked by impulsive behavior, restlessness, and impaired functioning in everyday life that may be related to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. While it seems to gain the most amount of attention among school-aged children, it can also cause challenges for adults as well. Learning to recognize the signs and core symptoms of ADHD diagnosed adults can help you identify if it’s something that you or a loved one may be struggling with. From here, you can take advantage of the treatment options available for adults to overcome the struggles you’re facing.

Understand adult ADHD in therapy

What is ADHD in adults?

ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, a neurodevelopmental disorder commonly diagnosed in childhood. While it’s more prevalent among children, it’s also possible for someone not to discover they have ADHD until they are an adult. In some cases, the symptoms aren’t detected when someone is a child, and in other cases, the signs aren’t present until one is older.

Many adults living with ADHD likely don’t know they have it, with as many as 75% of them unaware they have the disorder.

ADHD may impact the development of certain areas of the brain, such as the frontal lobe. The affected areas are responsible for helping with daily activities such as paying attention, making decisions, remembering things, and staying organized. While many people know and refer to the disorder as “ADD,” the official updated term to use is ADHD. There are three different ways that the disorder can present itself in a person’s life, including:

  • Impulsive/hyperactive type
  • Inattentive and distractible type
  • Combined type

While the “H” in ADHD stands for hyperactivity, there are some people who don’t experience those symptoms with their diagnosis. This is known as predominantly inattentive ADHD.

Adult ADHD symptoms

When many people think of ADD/ADHD (attention-deficit disorder, now referred to as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), they think of the way that the symptoms may present in children. This can include things like:

  • Running, climbing, and jumping around when they should be sitting still (i.e., like in school)
  • Interrupting others who are talking
  • Reacting quickly with anger
  • Having difficulty sitting still
  • Fidgeting and squirming

It’s important to note that ADHD is not considered the same as a learning disability like dyslexia or dysgraphia, though half of children with ADHD also have learning disabilities, like dyslexia or auditory processing disorder.

Some of these symptoms may be the same for adults, such as struggling to sit still. However, many adults have learned how to control impulsive behaviors that used to present themselves when they were children. However, just because you may have more self-control, that doesn’t mean that you won’t still struggle with symptoms from ADHD when you’re older. As an adult, the signs of ADHD may present themselves in other ways that can negatively impact your life if left unaddressed, like poor problem-solving skills. Here are some of the other symptoms that adults living with ADHD can experience: 

Getting bored easily

Adults with ADHD tend to get bored quickly throughout their day, especially when they have to stay on a single task for an extended period of time. This can make it difficult to focus on projects at work or complete things that you need to be doing in your personal life. You may find that you would prefer to jump from one task to the next, even if it means that you’re not completing what you need to before moving on. This feeling can cause you to fidget around, especially if you’re supposed to be staying still for things like meetings or long conversations.

Lack of organization

You may also find that you struggle with keeping your space organized, whether it be in the workplace or at home. Keeping things in their place and having the organizational skills to do so might not be something that comes naturally to you. Even though you may benefit from having sound organizational systems set up in your life to help keep you on track, it can still be something that’s difficult for you to implement on your own. You may struggle to find your keys when you’re trying to walk out the front door, misplace the mail when you come into the house, or keep papers stacked in messy piles on your desk instead of having them placed in folders and drawers.

Constantly in a rush or running late

If you struggle with adult ADHD, you may also find that you’re always running late for places that you need to be. This can occur for many different reasons. For example, you might discover that you’re always running late because you can’t remember where you put the items that you need to bring with you as you head out the door. You may lose track of time and not realize that you were supposed to have left 15 minutes ago. Or it could be that you committed to doing something and then completely forgot that you had agreed to do it because you overbooked yourself and didn’t write your commitments down in a calendar.

Poor listening skills

Since ADHD can cause difficulty paying attention, it may impact your ability to focus and actively listen during conversations. You might find that your mind begins to wander when you are supposed to be listening to another person talk. This can lead the other person to grow frustrated, causing you to miss out on hearing important information. Since listening is an essential social skill, not listening to others can also impact your ability to interact and build relationships with friends and family members, which can lead to relationship problems. They may see your behavior as rude if they don’t know that you struggle with ADHD and understand how the disorder can impact you.

Procrastination on larger projects

Another symptom that you may experience with ADHD is difficulty getting started on projects, especially ones requiring you to focus on them for longer periods of time. This can cause you to procrastinate on getting started at all. It could be that you feel overwhelmed about the task at hand, and so instead of getting started on it, you push it off, or you don’t prioritize time-sensitive tasks. While procrastinating only makes completing the project more challenging to complete in the long run, it can feel too overwhelming to get started at all. You may find yourself choosing to take advantage of the short-term benefit of procrastinating instead of thinking of the long-term benefits of completing the task at hand on time.


Challenges caused by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms

The symptoms adults living with ADHD experience can create challenges in many different areas of life. For example, adults may find that they struggle with their performance at work due to disorganization and procrastination. They might also find it difficult to stay focused when they should be working or make careless mistakes.

Maintaining relationships may be a challenge for adults with ADHD as well. You and your significant other might experience more conflict because of the struggles you’re facing due to ADHD. For example, your partner may be frustrated that you don’t listen and engage in conversations that they are trying to have with you. Or they may grow discouraged with your lack of organization around the house. If your partner doesn’t understand that these are not behaviors that you want to have but ones that you’re actively working to overcome, they could become offended and get their feelings hurt.

While your symptoms may make it appear that you don’t care about the other people that are around you or that you’re not taking things seriously, that’s usually not the case. Instead, it’s simply that the challenges that you face present themselves in these ways. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, ADHD adults are also more likely to develop a substance use disorder, although there is no definitive evidence to explain why. Substance misuse by people with ADHD may be an attempt to relieve their symptoms, or there may be a genetic link between substance abuse, ADHD, and other mental health conditions.

Treatment options that can help

The most common forms of treatment for ADHD include prescription medication and therapy. You may decide to consult with your primary care provider or a specialist in clinical psychiatry if you are interested in discussing potential medication treatment options.

Therapy is also a popular form of treatment. Therapists can work with you to identify the coping strategies that you can use to manage your behaviors and symptoms. For example, behavioral therapy can help you improve your self-esteem while also helping you become more aware of the distracting behaviors that you may want to change.

While there are plenty of people who benefit from one form of treatment or the other, there are some people who benefit from a combination of the two. It’s important to discover which treatment plan is most effective for your specific needs and situation. You can start this process by speaking with your doctor or a mental health professional. 

Understand adult ADHD in therapy

Online therapy with BetterHelp

You may find that you’re struggling with other challenges, such as personality disorders, anxiety disorders, or depression as a result of ADHD. In this case, working with an online mental health professional can be beneficial for addressing your concerns. You can connect with a licensed therapist through BetterHelp, an online counseling platform. ADHD can make it hard to plan ahead or get into a routine. Online therapy allows you to schedule sessions according to your availability, giving you flexibility and greater control over your therapeutic experience. You won’t have to spend time driving long distances to your sessions as you can connect from the comfort and safety of your own home. 

How online therapy supports those with ADHD and other mental disorders

Online therapy can be effective for managing the symptoms associated with ADHD but can also be helpful for treating other disorders. In a 2022 study, researchers found that digital-based therapy was “more effective than a waiting list in improving attention deficit and social function of adults and children with ADHD.” They found that the positive results experienced by participants tended to last for a long time without the fear of side effects that can come along with treatment plans involving medication.


Whether you’ve been living with this developmental disorder since you were a child or have recently been diagnosed in adulthood using psychological tests, it’s important to know that this disorder can be managed. If you’d like to explore which treatment options are available to you and might be most effective, it’s important to speak with your doctor. Additionally, an online therapist can help you address any mental disorders or mental health concerns that come along with ADHD, including conditions like anxiety and depression. A diagnosis of ADHD does not need to be something that stands in your way of accomplishing the goals and dreams that you have for your life. In fact, with the right treatment and support, it can spur you forward to achieve even more.

Gain a better understanding of ADHD
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