Adult ADHD/ADD: Signs to Consider

Keeping in mind that many other physical and/or psychological conditions can cause or contribute to attention problems, this list edited from Ed Hallowell, MD [see his many excellent ADHD publications], covers many typical signs of adult ADHD/ADD.  Everyone has some of these difficulties, and to qualify as ADHD, these characteristics must be much stronger than average and cause significant clinical trouble.  It takes an expert to gather the history and do the interview necessary to differentiate this syndrome from other similar looking difficulties.  Though there are many screening tools, no test can absolutely accurately identify adult ADHD – psychological testing is always interesting, sometimes useful/sometimes misleading, and very in-frequently necessary if the clinician is experienced and expert with adult ADHD.


  • 1 . A sense of underachievement, not meeting one’s goals, no matter how much one has actually accomplished
  • 2. Difficulty getting organized.
  • 3. Chronic procrastination or trouble getting started or finishing.
  • 4. Too many projects going at once, and/or trouble with follow through.
  • 5. A tendency to say what comes to mind without fully considering the timing, appropriateness or consequences.
  • 6. Frequent search for high stimulation.
  • 7, Unwillingness to be bored.
  • 8. Easy distractibility/the hallmark sign: trouble focusing attention, tendency to tune out or drift away in the middle of a page or conversation, sometimes coupled with being unable to focus.
  • 9. Frequently creative, intuitive, highly intelligent
  • 10. Trouble in going through established channels and following the “proper” procedure.
  • 11. Impatient/ low frustration tolerance/”hot tempered”
  • 12. Impulsive, either verbally or in behavior: impulsively changing jobs/geographic locations, spouses, spending money, etc.
  • 13. Frequently changing plans/constant new schemes or career plans and the like.
  • 14. A tendency to worry needlessly, endlessly; seeming to look for Something to worry about, alternating with attention to or disregard for actual dangers.
  • 15. Deep insecurity.
  • 16. Mood swings, especially when disengaged from a person or a project.
  • 17. Physical or cognitive restlessness.
  • 18. A tendency toward addictive behavior.
  • 19. Lifelong problems with self-esteem.
  • 20. Important inaccurate self-observations, even in context of generally accurate self-observations.
  • 21. Family history of ADHD, manic depressive illness, depression, substance abuse or other disorders of impulse control or mood. 


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