- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental health conditions in the US. While there’s no cure for this mental health condition, people with ADHD can manage their symptoms and harness their unique strengths.
- ADHD symptoms can vary between individuals, but often, those with ADHD have difficulty focusing, listening, and keeping still, despite being able to hyperfocus on subjects that maintain their interest.
- There are three types of ADHD: ADHD Inattentive Type, ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, and ADHD Combined Type (Inattentive and Hyperactive-Impulsive Type).
- ADHD symptoms are spotted by a mental health professional in an ADHD evaluation to screen for both ADHD as well as co-occurring disorders.
- ADHD symptoms can be treated successfully with counseling services or psychiatric care, but most clients benefit from a personalized treatment plan that utilizes both.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental health conditions in the US. Despite having the capability to disrupt our daily life and ability to focus, ADHD doesn’t have to detract from our quality of life. In fact, finding a successful form of treatment can help those with ADHD symptoms to manage their condition—and to amplify their strengths, too. People with ADHD have potential for greatness, and can harness their unique brains to become the ultimate creatives, problem-solvers, artists, ideators, and leaders the world needs.
But understanding and identifying their ADHD symptoms is the gateway into diagnosis, treatment, and thriving with ADHD.
What Are the Symptoms of ADHD? 9 Main Signs
ADHD symptoms aren’t universal—everyone who struggles with this mental health condition’s effects will experience their own unique and challenging setbacks that affect their life in subjective ways. But mental health professionals do recognize a generalized set of broadly presenting symptoms, which often include:
- Difficulty staying focused on a single task or project
- A tendency toward careless behavior or risky decision-making
- Restlessness or fidgeting
- Becoming easily bored at work or while at home
- Habitually losing personal items
- Difficulty listening when others are talking or giving directions
- A tendency to make mistakes while working
- Acting or speaking impulsively, often with detrimental consequences
- Hyper-focusing on activities that are interesting—to the point that essentials like eating or sleeping are pushed to the wayside
These ADHD symptoms may sound like something that many of us experience in daily life; to some extent, this is true. But the difference between occasionally presenting these symptoms and experiencing them on a daily basis is far different.
If it seems as though you (or your child) are showing more than one of the listed ADHD symptoms, talking with a licensed mental health professional could help you to receive an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
How do I know if I have ADHD?
While you can’t diagnose yourself with ADHD, a trained and licensed mental professional at Thriveworks can properly diagnose you. It’s easy to book your first session, with thousands of licensed therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists, across the country. You can choose to schedule your first session to discuss your ADHD symptoms and concerns in-person or virtually from home, work, or on the go.
What Are the 3 Types of ADHD?
The DSM-5 lists three types of ADHD, with specific symptoms that an individual may exhibit. They include:
- ADHD Inattentive Type: As the name implies, this type of ADHD is characterized by a persistent inability to focus, ranging from difficulty listening or following directions, to losing personal items regularly. Despite their best efforts and intentions, those with this type of ADHD are often disorganized and forgetful.
- ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: The ADHD symptoms of the second type are physically-oriented, with individuals showing a tendency toward fidgeting, feeling restless, excessive talking, or a feeling of never being able to “wind down.”
- ADHD Combined Type (Inattentive and Hyperactive-Impulsive Type): The third and final type of ADHD is a combined presentation of both inattentive symptoms and hyperactive and impulsive ADHD symptoms.
In most cases, complications or detrimental effects to one’s personal life are crucial to an accurate diagnosis of any of the three types of ADHD. For example, a loss of employment due to poor performance, a strained romantic relationship because of impulsive behavior, or legal trouble due to procrastinating on paying bills could all contribute to someone being diagnosed with ADHD.
How Is ADHD Diagnosed?
A licensed and trained mental health professional can offer an ADHD evaluation to determine whether you present the necessary symptoms to be diagnosed with one of the three types of ADHD.
An ADHD evaluation with a mental health professional will typically follow these steps:
- Screening for ADHD symptoms: Mental health professionals may vary in how they structure the evaluation, but they’ll use a standardized set of questions that help determine how your life experiences, such as childhood history, adolescence, and adulthood, may have affected your mental health. You’ll respond to questions about your habits, family history, and current and past forms of stress, as your mental health professional searches for relevant details that can help determine if you have ADHD symptoms.
- Screening for other psychiatric disorders: It’s actually rare to be diagnosed with ADHD and nothing else—this disorder often presents with another mental health condition that may contribute to your ADHD symptoms, or manifest as a result of your ADHD’s effects on your daily life. Some common co-occurring disorders include anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, or substance use.
- Feedback from family, friends, or partners: ADHD is known to affect memory recall ability in those with this disorder, so the observations and memories of family, friends, and romantic partners can be useful tools for your mental health professional to help determine whether you have ADHD. Providers use the people in their client’s support to help gather relevant details and information—not because they don’t trust you.
Unless the client requests otherwise, typically, ADHD therapy or psychiatric sessions will only occur between client and provider, post-evaluation.
- Standardized behavior rating scales: A behavior rating scale is a type of questionnaire that uses cumulative research that contrasts the behaviors of those with ADHD with those who do not. Suppose you have a romantic partner, close family member, or friend. In that case, they may also be asked to fill out the questionnaire for a more accurate perspective on your behaviors outside of therapy or psychiatric sessions.
- Additional testing, if required (which may include a medical examination): Additional testing may not be necessary, but it depends on your personal circumstances and symptoms of the client. Other tests may include a psychiatric screening, medical examination, or test to help detect learning disabilities.
ADHD symptoms are also age-specific, meaning that being diagnosed as a child vs. as an adult will require different criteria as set by a mental health professional.
How Are ADHD Symptoms Treated?
The mode of treatment you may receive depends primarily on the type of provider that you’re paired with. Typically, counselors and therapists stick to the following 7 methods of treatment, which can include the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Family therapy and marital therapy
- Specific behavioral classroom management interventions and/or academic accommodations
- Stress management techniques
- Support groups
- Parenting skills training (behavioral parent management training)
Psychiatrists, unlike counselors and therapists, are able to prescribe medications to alleviate ADHD symptoms. The most commonly prescribed ADHD medications include:
- Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts)
- Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
- Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
- Ritalin, Concerta (methylphenidate)
- Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)
The above are stimulants—non-stimulant medications prescribed for ADHD include Atomexetine and Viloxazine.
For many people, a combination of both medication and therapy works remarkably well to alleviate ADHD symptoms. With a provider’s assistance, people of all ages who are experiencing ADHD symptoms can enjoy increased mental clarity and improved quality of life.
Though often viewed as a hinderance, with proper treatment, the ADHD mind can be used and harnessed in incredibly productive ways. Those with ADHD symptoms have a unique ability to think outside of the box, pouring their energy and passion into what truly matters to them—and often helping others or making the world better in the process.