The signs of adult ADHD

ADHD can show itself in many different ways. How many of these symptoms did you know about?

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition that first appears in childhood which affects people’s behaviour – making it difficult for them to concentrate, and sometimes making them impulsive and restless.

As ADHD is a developmental disorder, it’s generally believed that it cannot develop in adults without first appearing during childhood. Previously thought to disappear as the child grew up, it’s now understood that symptoms of ADHD can persist from childhood into a person’s teenage years and then into adulthood. According to the NHS, by the age of 25, an estimated 15% of people diagnosed with ADHD as children still have a full range of symptoms, and 65% still have some symptoms that affect their daily lives.

That said, ADHD can present differently in adults than it does in children. Here, we explore 12 things you may not have realised could be symptoms of adult ADHD.

Excessive talking

It may be talking over people in conversations, taking the chat off-topic, or dominating the conversation; excessive talking is something that adults with ADHD may recognise as something that has stayed with them from childhood – perhaps they often got in trouble for chatting in lessons. Interrupting others may come from the impulsivity of ADHD, while talking too much may be linked to hyperfocus and, perhaps, not picking up on social queues from others.

Problems prioritising things

It can be difficult to work out what tasks should be prioritised, or to work through things in an effective order. You may find that you get pulled from one task to another, perhaps unrelated to their priority, or maybe leave things undone as your priorities suddenly shift.

Difficulty dealing with stress

Stress can be hard for many people to deal with but the additional challenge of ADHD can make managing it more difficult. In addition, living with ADHD can, at points, be a cause of stress in itself, and you may find that stress comes mixed in with feelings of frustration.

Taking risks

The impulsivity that often comes with ADHD is one of the more obvious symptoms that can translate to adulthood. In childhood ‘taking risks’ might be about doing things that may put one in the way of physical harm – but, in adulthood, this could be more to do with emotional or financial risk-taking.

Anxiety and depression

In a similar way to stress, anxiety and depression may be made worse by ADHD – or ADHD may be the root cause of an increase in anxiety levels. If ADHD can cause you to lose focus around impending deadlines, or to be aware when tasks need to be completed efficiently within a certain timeframe, it’s easy to see how this can affect your wellbeing in other ways.


We all manage to overlook things every now and then, but ADHD can lead to regular lapses in memory. A study published in Clinical Psychology Review found that children with ADHD have statistically significant memory problems compared to children who did not have ADHD – and this can continue, to some degree, into adulthood. It could involve forgetting dates and appointments, leaving the house without important items, or letting things slip from your to-do list at work. If you are worried about your memory, or notice you’re suddenly more forgetful than usual, it’s always worth checking in with your GP.

Mood swings

It’s common for people with ADHD to feel emotions intensely, and this applies to both positive and negative emotions. It’s also worth bearing in mind that medication can affect our mood so, if you are taking medication for ADHD, this can sometimes come with mood swings.

Fatigue and sleep problems

This could relate to trouble falling asleep at night, or fatigue during the day from intense activity, but sleep problems can be a common symptom of ADHD. In addition, some research has linked bruxism (teeth grinding) to ADHD, and this is heightened even further by stress and anxiety.

Sexual problems

Some people with ADHD may have trouble switching off during sex, others may find they have a high sex-drive due to impulsivity, or risk-taking may also be a factor in an individual’s sex life. It’s worth noting that sexual problems are not generally considered as part of an ADHD diagnosis.


A common misunderstanding about ADHD is that it comes with a deficit of attention; in reality, it’s about problems more generally with attention, which is why hyperfocus – periods of intense, deep focus – can be part of an ADHD diagnosis. While someone with ADHD may struggle with certain everyday tasks, they might completely immerse themselves in others, to the point where they may not be aware of what is happening around them.

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