ADHD Effects, Signs & Symptoms

Understanding ADHD

Learn About Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

We all know that life is one great balancing act, but when an individual finds that they are chronically late, hopelessly disorganized, forgetful, and overwhelmed by daily responsibilities, this may be the result of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). ADHD was once considered to be a disorder of childhood, however, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that it affects many adults. The wide variety of symptoms can affect every aspect of an adult’s life. Fortunately, ADHD is an eminently treatable condition and can be managed with the proper treatments and therapies.

Many times, ADHD goes unrecognized and untreated throughout childhood, especially in the past when the disorder was not well-understood or considered to be a problem. Rather than focus on the issue – ADHD – and symptoms as a part of a larger picture, individuals were labeled as troublemakers, slackers, or goof-offs. Some individuals were able to correct some of their symptoms as children only to discover greater problems as responsibilities increased. The more things that an individual has to balance, the greater the responsibilities have become, the more likely that the compensation mechanisms used in childhood are no longer effective. This can make life seem impossible to manage.

ADHD isn’t simply a matter of willpower or “mind over matter,” it’s a real condition that requires action to properly manage. The challenges of this disorder can feel overwhelming and daunting; however, with the proper education, treatments, and support, most individuals who are struggling to manage their attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are able to lead productive and happy lives.


ADHD Statistics

While once considered simply a disorder of childhood, it has now been recognized that the challenges of ADHD can persist throughout adulthood. Approximately 60% of children who had childhood ADHD go on to experience adult ADHD. This means that about 4% of the adult population – 8 million adults – in the United States are struggling with ADHD.

Co-Occurring Disorders

ADHD and Co-Occurring Disorders

ADHD often occurs with other mental illnesses. The most common co-occurring disorders include the following:

  • Eating disorders
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder
  • Personality disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Alcoholism

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for ADHD

ADHD is not thought to be the result of one factor; rather it is believed to be the result of a number of factors working together. The most common causes for ADHD include the following:

Genetic: ADHD is known to have a strong genetic component, which means that individuals who have a family history of ADHD are at greater risk of developing the disorder themselves.

Brain Chemistry: Studies have shown that children and adults who are diagnosed with ADHD have dysregulation of neurotransmitters – most notably dopamine – in the brain. In addition, there tends to be abnormal functioning of the nerve pathways that regulate behavior.

Environmental: Prenatal exposure to cigarette smoke and alcohol, in addition to other obstetrical complications, is linked to the development of ADHD. Babies who are born at a low birth weight and children who have experienced injuries to the frontal lobe of the brain are also at greater risk of developing ADHD.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

The symptoms of ADHD will vary wildly among individuals who are diagnosed with this disorder. The most common symptoms of ADHD may include the following:

Inattention/concentration symptoms:

  • Extreme distractibility
  • Wandering attention
  • Difficulties staying on task
  • Zoning out without noticing it, even in the middle of an interesting conversation
  • Difficulties paying attention or focusing, especially while reading or listening to others
  • Struggling to complete even simple tasks
  • Overlooking details, which can lead to incomplete or error-ridden work
  • Poor listening skills
  • Challenges in recalling conversations
  • Difficulties following directions
  • Hyperfocus – the tendency to focus on tasks that are rewarding or stimulating to the exclusion of everything around the individual

Disorganization/forgetfulness symptoms:

  • Tendency toward procrastination
  • Chronic tardiness
  • Underestimating time needed to complete a task
  • Frequently forgetting appointments, deadlines, or commitments
  • Consistently losing items such as keys, wallet, cell phones
  • Difficulties starting and finishing projects
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Difficulties sorting out information relevant to the task
  • Challenges prioritizing
  • Poor time management skills
  • Difficulties keeping track of responsibilities

Impulsivity symptoms:

  • Difficulties inhibiting behaviors and responses
  • Acting without thinking
  • Reacting without considering consequences
  • Frequently interrupting others
  • Talking over others
  • Exclaiming comments in the midst of a conversation
  • Inability to remain patient
  • Risky behaviors
  • Quickly finishing tasks without instructions
  • Poor self-control
  • Addictive tendencies
  • Difficulties behaving in socially appropriate manners

Hyperactivity/restlessness symptoms:

  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Easily bored
  • Racing thoughts
  • Craving excitement
  • Talking excessively
  • Doing many things at one time
  • Trouble sitting still
  • Feeling restless
  • Agitation

Emotional symptoms:

  • Difficulties staying motivated
  • Short – somewhat hot – temper
  • Low self-esteem
  • Insecurity
  • Feeling like an underachiever
  • Difficulties with frustration
  • Easily stressed out
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism


Effects of ADHD

The long-term effects of untreated or undiagnosed ADHD may lead to devastating consequences for individuals who are struggling with this disorder. The most common effects of untreated ADHD may include the following:

  • Compulsive eating
  • Chronic boredom
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic stress
  • Difficulties managing anger
  • Impulsiveness
  • Poor self-image
  • Difficulties caring for medical conditions
  • Substance abuse
  • Challenges keeping a job
  • Poor job performance
  • Increased legal problems
  • Problems managing bills
  • Financial strain
  • Consequences of risk-taking behaviors
  • Interpersonal relationship challenges
  • Divorce

Marks of Quality Care
  • Arkansas Juvenile Officers Association
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • Missouri Hospital Association
  • Missouri Juvenile Justice Association
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval
  • Tricare

As a parent, I was starting to lose my patience in trying to handle my son's ADHD. We tried treatment after treatment for him, and none of them were as effective as the ADHD treatment at Lakeland Behavioral Health. The caring, compassionate, and patient staff at Lakeland were well-equipped in treating our son's ADHD.

– Erica C.