Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
September 29, 2021
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

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Are you wondering if you have ADD? You are not alone.

Millions of people in the United States alone are struggling with ADD, and many do not even know they have it.

This blog post will go over signs of ADD in adults, clinical symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments to help you figure out what is going on.

What is ADD?

Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD for short, is a chronic condition affecting your ability to focus and pay attention. 

It can manifest itself in a multitude of ways, and some signs are more common than others.

According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), ADD is caused by differences in brain biology from person to person.

Some people struggle with it their entire lives, while others grow out of it as they get older.

Roughly 60% of children diagnosed with ADD continue to struggle with signs and symptoms as adults. 

In fact, ADD signs in adults are not always the same as signs of ADHD.

How does ADD differ from ADHD?

ADD is the umbrella term used to describe someone who has signs and symptoms of attention deficiency. 

They can be diagnosed with either Attention-Deficit Disorder (with or without hyperactivity) or ADHD, which stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

ADHD is actually a subset of signs and symptoms you could have if you have signs of ADD.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes people to have trouble paying attention and focusing, as well as difficulty controlling their impulses.

It affects millions of children worldwide, and it can also affect adults if they continue to struggle with signs and symptoms into adulthood.

Both ADHD and ADD cause similar signs such as difficulty completing tasks, disorganization, procrastination, and more.

However, signs of ADD do not always present with hyperactivity or impulsivity like symptoms of ADHD often do.

What triggers ADD in adults?

Environmental and psychological factors trigger many symptoms of ADD in adults.

For example, if you grew up with a parent who was constantly critical or negative towards you, signs of ADD may manifest as possible coping mechanisms to deal with the criticism.

If someone tells you all your life that what you do is no good, it can be hard to accept a compliment or acknowledge a success.

As an adult, it is easy for ADD signs to show up when you are stressed out about work, school, and other responsibilities.

Also, signs of ADD in children will often manifest as symptoms of anxiety and depression if they go untreated long enough because the child cannot cope with the signs and symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

What does ADD in adults look like?

There are ADD signs in adults that can be seen very clearly, but there are also signs that are pretty difficult to see.

Frequently, signs of ADD will show up as different moods or emotions for the individual struggling with signs and symptoms.

For example, if someone has trouble focusing at school, they may come home feeling frustrated and angry about not being able to learn the material.

Also, they may lack motivation and be apathetic towards their work, which will eventually cause attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to manifest at school or work because they do not have anything to show for all the time they put into it.

On the other hand, adult ADHD looks quite similar to those who have ADD, but this time, hyperactivity and impulsivity join the picture more significantly. 

If someone has adult ADHD symptoms, they may struggle with pacing or fidgeting because it helps them focus. 

They may also be more impulsive and make decisions without thinking them through, which often leads to careless mistakes.

If you have adult ADHD symptoms, it is important to get assessed by a mental health professional.

Many adults struggle with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder for so long because they are unaware that their problems can be signs of ADHD or ADD.

It is very likely you could have one mental health disorder, but there are also times when both disorders co-occur.

If you think signs of ADD may be affecting your life, speak to a mental health professional who can provide medical advice that suits your needs.

It is very likely that adult ADHD symptoms or other mental disorders, for that matter, do not have to control your life anymore if you get the appropriate treatment from a mental health expert.

Signs of ADD in Adults

Adult signs of ADD are not always easy to detect, but there are signs that can point you in the right direction.

The following signs show up more commonly than others:

Sensory Overload or Underload

Adults with ADHD are affected by too many stimuli around them and cannot focus on one thing at a time, or they may be overwhelmed by the small details that surround them and miss the bigger picture.


Adults with ADHD often make decisions without thinking through what they need to do.

For example, symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may include behaviors like acting before your brain registers it or engaging in dangerous activities such as drinking alcohol underage.

Excessive Fidgeting

Adults with ADHD often pace or tap their feet as a way to help them focus.

They also might be very active and move around even if they are sitting down, such as tapping their fingers on the table while you talk to them.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may keep you from getting things done; you may find yourself procrastinating on tasks that are important to your job or education.

Also, you might be seen as unreliable and forgetful because your attention deficit hyperactivity disorder made it difficult for you to finish projects on time.

Difficulty with Planning and Organization

If you have adult ADHD, it is highly likely that you have trouble organizing tasks and prioritizing what you need to do.

This can lead to problems at work or school, such as forgetting deadlines, not completing projects on time, and getting distracted frequently while working on a task.

Lack of Focus

Adults with ADHD often find it hard to stay focused on one thing for a long time.

They may also struggle with reading or writing for a more extended period of time and lose interest quickly if they do not find what they are learning engaging enough.

Careless Mistakes

If you have adult ADHD, it is very likely that you make careless errors.

For example, signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may include forgetting to turn off the stove after cooking dinner or not keeping track of how much money goes in and out of your bank account.

Trouble Focusing on Large Projects

If you have adult ADHD, it is highly likely that your mental health disorder may make completing large projects, such as remodeling a room or building something from scratch, difficult for you.

Also, adults with ADHD are prone to get distracted easily while completing a project.

Engaging Too Much in Distracting Tasks

If you have adult ADHD, it is likely that you may get distracted easily by irrelevant stimuli around you and engage yourself with tasks that do not require dedicated attention.

For example, signs of ADD include spending hours on social media instead of completing an important assignment.

Skipping Details

Adults with ADHD are highly likely to forget details when trying to focus on something for a long time.

They often need external support in order to complete projects, such as taking notes during meetings and asking others to remind them of important tasks they need to complete.

Unorganized Living Spaces

Adults with ADHD are highly likely to have messy living spaces all the time.

They also show signs of disorganization, such as a desk with scattered papers everywhere or clothes lying on the floor in front of the closet.


Adults with ADD are often easily distracted.

For example, signs of ADHD in adults may include:

  • checking social media when you should be working on a project
  • getting sidetracked while doing the dishes
  • cleaning up all over again because your mind wandered off thinking about something else. 

Low Energy and Exhaustion

Adults with ADD often show signs of low energy levels throughout the day.

They also feel exhausted easily after completing a task, even if it is relatively small or easy for others to finish in just one sitting.

It is also likely that signs of ADHD in adults may include trouble falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, and feeling like you do not get enough rest after sleeping for eight hours.


Adults with ADD often struggle to remember important tasks or things they need to complete each day.

They also forget about things that need to be done in the future, such as paying bills or putting gas into their car before it runs out.

Running Late 

Many adults with ADHD often run late to events or meetings, such as work or school. 

They also struggle to plan their days and may start a task without finishing it, leading them to be late when leaving the house.

Mood Swings

Adults with signs of ADD may show signs of mood swings throughout the day.

They often feel frustrated about their mistakes and find it challenging to take responsibility for them, leading to outbursts or becoming too moody at times.


If you have signs of ADHD as an adult, then you are likely to make impulsive decisions.

For example, signs of impulsivity in adults with ADHD may include:

  • making a decision without thinking about the consequences it could have on your life or others’ lives around you.
  • getting into arguments with other people impulsively because you reacted too quickly before first considering another person’s perspective.

Difficulty Getting Out of Bed

People with ADD often struggle to get out of bed in the morning.

They may hit the snooze button numerous times before finally getting up or lie down and fall asleep for a brief time after waking up.

Trouble Sitting Still For Extended Periods 

Adults with ADHD are likely to fidget and show signs of restlessness throughout the day.

They often struggle to sit still for extended periods of time, such as at work or school.

Even if they find a job that interests them, adults with ADHD have difficulty following directions from their boss without getting distracted by everything around them too frequently.

Risky Driving

Adults who have ADHD are more likely to get into car accidents because they drive too fast or do not pay attention when driving.

This may also lead them to show signs of impulsive driving, such as making turns without stopping first or quickly accelerating on the highway out of frustration.

Lack of Motivation

Adults who deal with ADHD are highly likely to lack motivation for tasks, such as at school or work.

Signs may include feeling like everything is too difficult and overwhelming to complete because you simply do not feel motivated enough to do it.

Low Self-Esteem 

If you have ADD, then you are likely to experience low self-esteem because you feel like everything is too difficult for you.

You may also compare yourself with others and think that everyone else is more intelligent or more successful than you in various aspects of life.


When people with ADHD find a task that interests them, they may become hyperfocused on it and spend an extended amount of time completing it.

They often forget about other tasks in their life because the exciting activity is so distracting to complete.

Although signs of ADD and ADHD are common, these symptoms may be signs of other mental disorders as well.

If you think that you might have ADD or someone close to you is showing signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it is highly advisable to schedule an appointment with a specialist for ADHD diagnosis who can provide medical advice and treatment that suits your daily life. 

Concluding Thoughts

Although signs of ADD and ADHD are common among adults, it is highly essential to schedule an appointment with a specialist for diagnosis if your symptoms continue for extended periods of time.

There are several treatments available, including medications and cognitive behavioral therapy, which can be highly beneficial in reducing signs of ADD or ADHD.

Each individual is different, so it is essential to speak with an expert who can provide you with the best care plan for your daily life specifically.

If you’re ready, take advantage of this ADHD quiz today.

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