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 can signify an attempt 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.
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.
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