Symptoms and causes

Some people with ADHD have fewer symptoms as they age, but some adults continue to have major symptoms that interfere with daily functioning. In adults, the main features of ADHD may include difficulty paying attention, impulsiveness and restlessness. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Many adults with ADHD aren't aware they have it — they just know that everyday tasks can be a challenge. Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus and prioritize, leading to missed deadlines and forgotten meetings or social plans. The inability to control impulses can range from impatience waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and outbursts of anger.

Adult ADHD symptoms may include:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Disorganization and problems prioritizing
  • Poor time management skills
  • Problems focusing on a task
  • Trouble multitasking
  • Excessive activity or restlessness
  • Poor planning
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Problems following through and completing tasks
  • Hot temper
  • Trouble coping with stress

While the exact cause of ADHD is not clear, research efforts continue. Factors that may be involved in the development of ADHD include:

  • Genetics. ADHD can run in families, and studies indicate that genes may play a role.
  • Environment. Certain environmental factors also may increase risk, such as lead exposure as a child.
  • Problems during development. Problems with the central nervous system at key moments in development may play a role.

Risk of ADHD may increase if:

  • You have blood relatives, such as a parent or sibling, with ADHD or another mental health disorder
  • Your mother smoked, drank alcohol or used drugs during pregnancy
  • As a child, you were exposed to environmental toxins — such as lead, found mainly in paint and pipes in older buildings
  • You were born prematurely

ADHD can make life difficult for you. ADHD has been linked to:

  • Poor school or work performance
  • Unemployment
  • Trouble with the law
  • Alcohol or other substance abuse
  • Frequent car accidents or other accidents
  • Unstable relationships
  • Poor physical and mental health
  • Poor self-image
  • Suicide attempts
Aug. 15, 2017
References
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Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)