10 Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in Adults (And When to Get Help)
Signs of ADHD aren’t as easy to spot in adults as in children. Adult ADHD can be more subtle and misinterpreted as another mental health condition, complicating its diagnosis.
Whether or not ADHD was diagnosed during childhood, it can pose different challenges during adulthood. Symptoms affect more aspects of your life, such as personal relationships, work, and emotions.
Without treatment and support, ADHD can cause people to struggle with career goals, memory, prioritizing, and daily tasks at work and home.
Recognizing signs of ADHD is the first step toward real change. Knowing the facts empowers you to seek the professional help you may need to overcome challenges and thrive.
Read on to discover some of the main signs and symptoms of ADHD in adults.
While many people will experience these issues at some point, ADHD means a persistent pattern (at least six months) of behavior that interferes with your ability to function.
1. Difficulty Focusing
People with ADHD may lack control over what they focus on and have difficulty concentrating.
You may notice the following: 
- Easily distracted
- Zoning out during conversations
- Overlooking instructions and details
- Unable to finish projects or tasks on time
Another symptom of ADHD is a tendency to hyperfocus on projects you find exciting and interesting. In this state, you may be unable to turn your attention toward other important tasks or people in your life.
2. Misplacing Items
Storing, organizing, or keeping track of belongings can be troublesome for those with ADHD.
This can involve:
- Misplacing everyday items (i.e., car keys or wallet) while the brain is on autopilot
- Losing track of where an item is placed after a moment of inattention
- Constantly retracing steps to find lost items
- Storing things in the wrong places (i.e., work papers in your car, dirty dishes in the bedroom).
3. Always Running Late
Due to poor time management, adults with ADHD often run late for meetings, appointments, or social plans.
- Unable to find required items (car keys, wallet, meeting notes, etc.)
- Forgetting dates and times
- Underestimating time needed to complete tasks
- Getting distracted while preparing for an appointment or event
4. Risky Behaviors
Research shows that adults with ADHD are more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior (RTB). These behaviors may involve the following:
- Starting arguments or fights
- Reckless driving
- Substance use (alcohol or drugs)
- Risky sex-related decisions (i.e., unprotected sex)
- Impulsive eating
By seeking help and support, you can proactively reduce your chances of involvement in these activities.
5. Lack of Listening
Social interactions may feel like a challenge if you have ADHD. You may struggle with: 
- Waiting for your turn to speak
- Staying on topic
- Keeping track of the conversation
- Using non-verbal cues to show active listening
- Talking too fast
- Speaking too much
- Blurting out words that make others uncomfortable
- Unable to read other people’s body language
6. Prioritization Perils
Adults with ADHD are almost always occupied. However, deciding which task to prioritize can be a challenge.
You may struggle with prioritization for any of the following reasons:
- Feeling like you have too much to do (which can overwhelm you, even get you into a state of ADHD paralysis)
- All tasks feel equally important
- Difficulty thinking ahead – you underestimate deadlines
- Seeking novelty over familiar tasks that may be more significant and relevant
Adults with ADHD also tend to procrastinate on tasks that require more focus and attention, leading to missed deadlines and workplace issues.
7. Relationship Roadblocks
Problems in relationships with friends, colleagues, family, or partners is another common issue for adults with ADHD.
There are several reasons why symptoms of ADHD can cause tension, anger, and frustration.
Some ADHD traits that may lead to relationship strains include:
- Speaking over the other person
- Not actively listening to the other person
- Forgetting important events and dates (like birthdays)
- Blurting out hurtful statements
- Failing to fulfill responsibilities, commitments, or promises
- Trouble regulating emotions
Despite these challenges, adults with ADHD can have happy relationships and fulfilling marriages. Seeking professional counseling and support is one of the best ways to work toward this.
8. Nervous Energy
Another sign of ADHD in adults is restlessness. This may present in a variety of ways:
- Flight of thoughts
- Constant fidgeting
- Overthinking and catastrophizing
- Trouble sitting still
Fidgeting is often misinterpreted as inattention in adults with ADHD. However, fidgeting and stimming can signify attempts to stay focused when a task isn’t providing enough stimulation for the brain.
Interestingly, fidgeting may help increase the ability to focus and concentrate in adults.
9. Memory Issues
ADHD may impact two different kinds of memory.
Working memory is your brain’s short-term storage space, and it’s where adults with ADHD are more likely to experience problems.
Here are some examples of how ADHD can impact working memory:
- Forgetting things on grocery lists
- Leaving essential items at home
- Losing track of belongings
- Difficulty following instructions to complete tasks
- Re-reading sections of text due to not retaining information
ADHD’s impact on long-term memory isn’t well-understood. Some research shows that adults with ADHD may experience problems with long-term memory.
The ADHD brain tends to encode information in a disorganized manner, interfering with the storage of new information.
10. Easy to Anger
An estimated 70% of adults with ADHD experience mood swings (emotional dysregulation).
Adults with ADHD may notice the following signs of emotional turbulence:
- Impatience when under stress
- Explosive outbursts of anger
- Persistent irritability
- Surges of anger when met with everyday obstacles
- Frequent and reactive mood changes
- Unaware of the other party’s feelings
Professional therapy, medications, and self-care can play a vital role in managing ADHD-related anger.
Adult ADHD Symptoms: It’s Not Too Late to Get Them Diagnosed
If you think you’re experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of ADHD, it’s best to take your concerns to a trusted healthcare provider who can address them effectively.
Try to seek a professional specializing in treating and supporting adults with ADHD.
The ADDA adult ADHD test is a great starting point to screen yourself for signs of ADHD.
Check out ADDA’s online resource hub if you’d like to learn more about adult ADHD. Here, you’ll gain access to support groups, communities, and tips on how to live and thrive with ADHD.
 Targum, S. D., & Adler, L. A. (2014). Our current understanding of adult ADHD. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 11(11-12), 30–35.
 Ashinoff, B. K., & Abu-Akel, A. (2020). Hyperfocus: the forgotten frontier of attention. Psychological Research, 85(1), 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-019-01245-8
 Pollak, Yehuda, Dekkers, Tycho J., Shoham, Rachel, Huizenga, Hilde M. (2019).Risk-Taking Behavior in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): a Review of Potential Underlying Mechanisms and of Interventions. Curr Psychiatry Rep 21, 33 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-019-1019-y
 Farley, J., Risko, E. F., & Kingstone, A. (2013). Everyday attention and lecture retention: the effects of time, fidgeting, and mind wandering. Frontiers in Psychology, 4. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00619
 Kofler, M. J., Singh, L. J., Soto, E. F., Chan, E., Miller, C. E., Harmon, S. L., & Spiegel, J. A. (2020). Working memory and short-term memory deficits in ADHD: A bifactor modeling approach. Neuropsychology, 34(6), 686–698. https://doi.org/10.1037/neu0000641
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It’s nice that you pointed out how people with ADHD may lack control over what they focus on and have difficulty concentrating. I was talking with my best friend earlier and he told me about the ADHD diagnosis of his brother. I heard there are adult ADHD counseling nowadays, so maybe he should have his brother try that out too.
I have tried on two occasions to get a diagnosis from my gp but the forms I filled in, one was for childhood and the same questions for now as an adult. Adhd was never heard of in the 60’s and 70’s and we were under fear of severe punishment if we got up and walked out at school. I have muddled through, some how, to now my 60th year but I fear its coming in too much now. I need direction, instructions and motivation . Feel like I may as well not be here
Hello Rosie, I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this, I can totally relate! I’ll be 55 in April and just learning about all the symptoms ~my life makes a little more sense, kinda😐 I’ve recently stopped drinking alcohol after an extender time of trauma/self medicating & the symptoms (ADHD) have seemed to have taken over or I should say I’m extremely more aware of them! Brought me back to my childhood/early adulthood Feeling anxious and lost! I’m still waiting to see my GP (in office once a week) but I do find that this meditation page helps!! https://www.theepicself.com/meditations/focus/
P.S We need you here & you are loved!! Wishing you an abundance of love & all that you need!! Stay strong!
I really understand how you’re feeling! I’m also a child of the 60s and I had no idea I had ADHD until the pandemic hit and I was totally isolated with just my three cats, God bless them! I live alone so no partner to help deal with it all. The result was severe depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and a total collapse of my former brain functioning capabilities. Typically, I was never diagnosed as a child and was a good student, although always late with things, a procrastinator, and a bit of a day dreamer. Women and girls, especially, learn how to develop coping techniques so that we can make our way through the world without too much trouble. In fact, I’m a university professor, but it was hard to get here, that’s for sure. Still, I did it and was managing to do a good job at everything–until the pandemic caused my brain to implode and nothing worked right any more. It was terrifying, confusing, and I was ashamed! I kept saying to myself, “Barbara!! Get it together, girl!” but the more it went on, the worse it got. Finally, a friend who had been recently diagnosed told me I had ADHD when I was describing what was going on with my brain. I did some research and, geez Louise, he was right! Of the list of 15 common symptoms, I clearly had 12! It was a terrifying realization, but after a few minutes, it became a relief to know that I wasn’t going crazy. I was already seeing a therapist for my depression and I asked her if there was anyone in her practice that dealt with ADHD, and thankfully, there was. It took a while to get in (about a month!) but after several interviews and tests, sure enough, I have a pretty severe case of Combined ADHD. My psychiatrist prescribed Adderal, which helped a bit, but the dosage was too low, so he upped it until we found a level that worked well. It’s amazing what being clear thinking can be like after so long in a daze–just miraculous!! I’m still working hard to find ways to deal with this because it hasn’t abated in this post-pandemic (hopefully) period, so I was excited to see this group and all the assistance it can provide.
The bottom line, Rosie, is that you need to keep looking until you find someone who can help you. If your GP isn’t helping, than move on to a psychological practice that offers ADHD testing and counseling. If you can’t get in right away, call another practice until you find one that can take you. You have to remember that this sudden awareness of psychological disorders like ours has exploded because of the pandemic, so you have to be patient, but it’s worth it–and keep coming here to find ways of coping now as you’re learning to deal with it. It’s not easy, but with a website like this, a community this this one, and a bit of patience and kindness to yourself, you’ll get it under control and keep it managed in such a way that you will do great! I hope this helps you and anyone else who’s just discovered that they are dealing with this condition. It’s hard to accept but we are very lucky that there is so much available to us now that wasn’t available even 10-15 years ago. Be patient with yourself, keep the faith, and remember to breathe. You’ve got this, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. It will!
Take care and know that there are lots of people here who want to help. Bless you, Rosie! Keep your courage up and frustration level down, and you’ll be fine. Barbara