Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
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Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

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Because ADHD develops during childhood, the information presented here focuses on children. The primary symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. At some time in their lives, all children are inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive. However, children with ADHD have symptoms that are noticeably more severe and consistent. Unlike "normal" children who just have lots of energy, children with ADHD have difficulty in school and with their family and peer relationships.

There are several different types of ADHD. Some children are mainly inattentive and don't display signs of hyperactivity (classic attention deficit disorder). However, some are hyperactive, some are impulsive, and others exhibit a mixture of these symptoms.

Behaviors linked to ADHD can last into adulthood, often resulting in problems with relationships and employment.

Specific symptoms include:

Inattentive (classic ADD)

  • Easily distracted by sights and sounds
  • Doesn't pay attention to detail
  • Doesn't seem to listen when spoken to
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Doesn't follow through on instructions or tasks
  • Avoids or dislikes activities that require longer periods of mental effort
  • Loses or forgets items necessary for tasks
  • Is forgetful in day-to-day activities
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks


  • Is restless, fidgets, and squirms
  • Runs and climbs and is not able to stay seated
  • Has difficulty playing quietly
  • Talks excessively


  • Blurts out answers before hearing the entire question
  • Interrupts others
  • Has difficulty waiting in line or waiting for turn

Combined (most common type)

  • Has a combination of the above symptoms

People with ADHD also often exhibit:


ADHD. American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Accessed April 1, 2007

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at:

Rappley MD. Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. N Engl J Med. 2005;352:165-173.

Last reviewed April 2007 by Janet Greenhut, MD, MPH

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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