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9 Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD is a complex disorder that presents with a wide range of symptoms, both obvious and lesser-known. While inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are well-recognised features of ADHD, emotional dysregulation, RSD, time blindness, hyperfocus, and sensory sensitivities can also significantly impact an individual’s daily life. The consequences of untreated ADHD can be far-reaching, affecting academic and occupational performance, social relationships, self-esteem, and mental health.

A thorough diagnosis and appropriate treatment, including behavioural therapy, medication, and supportive interventions, can help individuals with ADHD better manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. Moreover, raising awareness about the diverse manifestations of ADHD is crucial for fostering understanding and empathy within society and promoting inclusive environments for those living with the condition.

This article discusses both the obvious and lesser-known symptoms of ADHD and their profound impact on individuals, their families, and society as a whole. Additionally, it will explore the process of ADHD diagnosis and treatment approaches.

What is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects individuals of all ages. ADHD typically appears in childhood and often continues into adolescence and adulthood. However, it is now becoming more common for adults to receive an ADHD diagnosis. Often mistaken as simply a lack of focus or hyperactivity, ADHD is actually a complex condition characterised by a combination of symptoms that can significantly impact a person’s daily life. While some symptoms may be apparent and well-known, others remain lesser known and can be easily disregarded, leading to misdiagnosis and overlooked challenges.

According to the American Psychological Association, ADHD has three main subtypes. These include hyperactive-impulsive, primarily inattentive, and combined. With the inattentive types, the restlessness often associated with ADHD is internal, which is why it is often overlooked. Because the symptoms are less disruptive than the hyperactive-impulsive type, the symptoms are more easily unnoticed. This misunderstanding is especially true with girls and women, despite the challenges and adverse effects of untreated ADHD.

OBVIOUS SYMPTOMS OF ADHD

INATTENTION

The inattentive symptom of ADHD is characterised by an individual’s difficulty sustaining focus, staying organised, and following through on tasks and instructions. People who experience this symptom may become easily distracted, overlook details, make careless mistakes, and struggle to complete assignments or activities that require prolonged attention. They may appear forgetful, have trouble listening, and seem disorganised in their daily lives. Even when they are interested in the subject or activity, people with inattentive ADHD may find it challenging to maintain attention, leading to potential academic or occupational difficulties, impacting their ability to function effectively.

HYPERACTIVITY

Hyperactivity is a prominent symptom of ADHD, resulting in a person exhibiting excessive and uncontrollable levels of physical restlessness and fidgeting. They may have difficulty remaining seated or engaging in quiet activities, frequently interrupting or intruding on others. These individuals might feel an intense urge to constantly be on the move, almost as if an internal motor drives them. Children with hyperactivity often feel a strong desire to run or climb, even in inappropriate situations. In adults, hyperactivity may present as a feeling of internal Hyperactivity can manifest in various settings, such as school, work, and social environments, making it difficult to focus and complete tasks.

IMPULSIVITY

The impulsive symptom of ADHD is described as a constant pattern of acting without considering the consequences. Individuals with ADHD may often act on impulse, make hasty decisions, or engage in reckless behaviours without fully thinking through the potential outcomes. They may struggle to control their immediate reactions, interrupt others,s and find it difficult to wait their turn. They may also resist delaying gratification and impulsive spending, making unplanned purchases without considering the long-term financial consequences or whether they can genuinely afford it. Impulsivity may also result in emotional outbursts and disruptive behaviours.

LESSER-KNOWN SYMPTOMS OF ADHD

EMOTIONAL DYSREGULATION

ADHD is often accompanied by emotional dysregulation, where individuals experience intense and fluctuating emotions. They may have difficulty managing anger, frustration, or sadness, leading to mood swings and impaired social relationships.

REJECTION SENSITIVITY DYSPHORIA (RSD)

RSD is a unique aspect of ADHD, characterised by an intense emotional response to perceived rejection or criticism. People with ADHD may be highly sensitive to negative feedback, leading to feelings of sadness, shame, and/or anxiety. This can result in avoiding social situations or struggling to maintain relationships.

TIME BLINDNESS

Time perception can be distorted in individuals with ADHD. They may struggle to estimate how long tasks take to complete, have difficulty staying on schedule, or fail to recognise the passage of time. This can lead to problems with time management and punctuality.

HYPERFOCUS

Contrary to inattention, some individuals with ADHD experience periods of hyperfocus, where they become deeply engrossed in a particular activity or interest. While this can be beneficial in certain situations, it may lead to neglecting other essential tasks or responsibilities.

SENSORY SENSITIVITIES

ADHD is associated with sensory processing issues, causing individuals to be more sensitive to external stimuli like noise, touch, or light. This can result in sensory overload, making concentrating or participating in certain environments challenging.

EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING CHALLENGES

ADHD can affect a person’s executive functioning skills, including planning, organisation, initiating tasks, and following through on complex projects. Difficulties with organisation and other administrative functions can lead to misplaced keys, wallets, and essential documents. People may also miss deadlines for critical school or work projects or not perform well on them altogether.

IMPACT OF ADHD SYMPTOMS

  • Academic and Occupational Challenges: The inattentiveness and impulsivity associated with ADHD can hinder academic progress and job performance. Difficulties with organisation, planning, and completing tasks can lead to underachievement and a sense of frustration.
  • Strained Relationships: ADHD symptoms – particularly emotional dysregulation and impulsivity – can strain relationships with family members, friends, and colleagues. Frequent mood swings, forgetfulness, and impulsive reactions may cause misunderstandings and conflicts.
  • Low Self-Esteem and Mental Health Issues: Persistent difficulties in various aspects of life may lead to low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy in individuals with ADHD. They may also be more susceptible to developing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
  • Risk of Substance Use: Individuals with untreated ADHD may turn to substance use as a coping mechanism, seeking relief from the challenges posed by their symptoms. This can lead to a vicious cycle of addiction and exacerbate their ADHD symptoms.
  • Physical Safety: Impulsivity and inattentiveness can increase the risk of accidents and injuries, as individuals with ADHD may be more prone to engaging in risky behaviours without considering potential consequences.
  • Financial Difficulties: Poor impulse control can lead to impulsive spending and economic mismanagement, resulting in debt and financial strain.

ADHD DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosing ADHD is a specialised process that requires trained professionals and careful consideration of various factors. Early and accurate diagnoses can improve outcomes by providing appropriate interventions and support. The steps in diagnosing ADHD may include the following:

  • Initial Screening: This can be initiated by parents, teachers, or healthcare professionals who notice symptoms suggestive of ADHD in an individual.
  • Comprehensive Assessment: This should be conducted by a qualified healthcare professional, such as a paediatrician, child psychiatrist, psychologist, or neurologist. The assessment usually involves gathering information from multiple sources, including parents, teachers, and the individual themselves.
  • Medical History: This step rules out other medical conditions that might contribute to the symptoms. Certain medical conditions, sleep disorders, or medications can mimic or exacerbate ADHD-like symptoms, so it’s essential to identify and address these factors.
  • Psychological Evaluation: This test is often performed by a psychologist or psychiatrist. This may include standardised behavioural rating scales, questionnaires, and interviews to assess the severity and nature of the symptoms.
  • Academic and Social Assessment: An evaluation of academic performance and social functioning is crucial for children. This can involve reviewing school reports, academic testing, and assessing the child’s interactions with peers.
  • Diagnostic Criteria: The assessment process uses specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. The DSM-5 provides guidelines for diagnosing ADHD based on the presence and persistence of specific symptoms over time.

MEETING THE DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA

  • Symptoms must be present in multiple settings (e.g., home, school, work).
  • Symptoms must significantly interfere with daily functioning and development.
  • Symptoms must have been present before the age of 12.
  • The symptoms cannot be better explained by another medical or psychiatric condition.

The ADHD assessment at All Points North London involves a face-to-face assessment, as well as gathering information from other sources.

ADHD TREATMENT

Treatment plans for ADHD are designed collaboratively with the client, including their goals and tailored to their specific needs and preferences. Because the symptoms vary from person to person, as does the impact of ADHD, different treatments may be tried to help find the best approach for each individual, and not all adults with ADHD require a medication prescription. ADHD treatment plans at APN London may include (but are not limited to):

Lifestyle advice

  • Personalised nutrition and fitness plans
  • Environmental adaptions
  • ADHD-focused educational groups
  • ADHD coaching
  • ADHD therapy
  • ADHD medication management*

*Medication is recommended when ADHD symptoms are still causing significant impairment in at least one domain of everyday life despite environmental adaptations.

Get Started at APN London

APN London offers a wide variety of services, which includes individual and group therapy, deep TMS, behavioural health assessments, lifestyle psychiatry, and more. Integrated care goes beyond treating the symptoms and helps provide answers, professional support, community connection, and long-term healing. To learn more or to take the next step in treating ADHD, call us at 0203 984 7699 or complete our confidential online contact form.

References

  • “An ADHD Diagnosis in Adulthood Comes with Challenges and Benefits.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, www.apa.org/monitor/2023/03/adult-adhd-diagnosis. Accessed 15 Jan. 2024.