Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can damage your work performance, your grades and your relationships —but a proper diagnosis via an ADHD test can be life-changing. If you’re wondering if you have ADHD, contact a psychologist, who can give you a full examination, administer an ADHD test, and prescribe appropriate medication or advise other interventions. However, if you just want to get a rough idea if you might have ADHD, there are a few common symptoms to look out for.
Remember, no one can diagnose ADHD except for a mental health professional.
First: ADHD vs. ADD
Many people refer to ADHD by its original name, ADD —or attention-deficit disorder. (It doesn’t hurt that ADD is much catchier.) However, the current medical term is ADHD. Why? When the disorder was first added to the DSM-III in 1980, the medical community didn’t recognize how frequently hyperactivity co-occurred with attention-deficit symptoms.
Now we know that many people with ADHD are hyperactive. That’s why ADHD is currently the preferred term.
What Is ADHD?
Before digging into the details, it’s important to understand what ADHD is. This disorder affects your brain’s prefrontal cortex, which manages your executive function, emotional regulation, and impulse control. While “emotional regulation” and “impulse control” are likely self-explanatory, executive function is much more complex.
Do you have difficulty planning your days? Do you lose track of time easily? For you, is “multitask” a four-letter word? Those are signs your executive function may need some fine tuning — which could suggest you suffer from ADHD.
If you do have ADHD, you’re not alone: about 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults share this diagnosis.
While there’s no known scientific cause of ADHD, there are some clues. Researchers have found genetic links, although they’re not yet certain which genes are involved. Other possibilities include: premature birth, brain injury or smoking, drinking, or stress during pregnancy.
Diagnosis as an Adult
While most people with ADHD are diagnosed during their childhood, it’s not uncommon for the disorder to continue unnoticed into adulthood — especially for women. Perhaps your symptoms weren’t severe enough for adults to register the disorder when you were a child, or you simply developed coping methods that hid the evidence. Those coping mechanisms may have created increased anxiety as you aged, which can also be a sign of ADHD.
Generally, the symptoms in adults aren’t as explicit or obvious as in children, simply because they’ve already learned to regulate their hyperactivity and work around attention-deficit issues. This goes double for children who learned to intuitively manage their own ADHD symptoms. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem, or that your disorder isn’t affecting your work and relationships.
If you think you have ADHD, even if you weren’t diagnosed as a child, it’s important to see a qualified mental health professional. Therapy and medication can significantly improve your life and well-being.
Primary Types of ADHD
ADHD manifests differently in different people. However, there are three primary types of ADHD:
- ADHD, combined type
Includes both impulsive and hyperactive behaviors. People who have ADHD, combined type, tend to be inattentive and easily distracted.
- ADHD, impulsive/hyperactive type
Is less common. People with this disorder are impulsive and hyperactive, but don’t tend to have attention problems.
- ADHD, inattentive and distractible type
Doesn’t manifest with hyperactivity — although people with this type of disorder struggle with attention and distractibility.
While you’ll need a professional to administer an ADHD test to determine exactly which type of ADHD you have, there are common symptoms that fall under the three primary aspects of the disorder —inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
Here’s what to look for:
You might overlook small details or rush through jobs, ignoring obvious mistakes.
- Attention span
Listening to someone talk or doing an activity for a long period of time is difficult for you.
If something new and interesting comes along, you’ll stop what you’re doing to focus on what you believe is more exciting.
You often don’t remember details, like birthdays, appointments, and tasks.
- Organizational and study skills
Tests are hard for you, because you struggle to organize your thoughts in a way that allows you to study. Keeping on top of work tasks is difficult, too.
You might struggle to wait for your turn in conversations or games.
Sometimes, you don’t properly assess the risk before doing or saying something — instead, you just act.
You love to keep in motion, and may even feel anxious if you’re moving, jittering, or doing something active.
Whenever you’re sitting or not moving, you might fidget with your pen, clothes or any object that provides a distraction.
You love to talk, and might even talk more than your friends and family appreciate. Being quiet is hard.
“Where’s my cell phone” might be your catchphrase, because you’re always losing things or forgetting what task you were in the middle of.
- Poor multitasking
Often, you’ll shift from task to task without finishing anything — so you have a bunch of half-done projects, but nothing that’s complete.
Mental Health Professionals and ADHD
In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, you’ll need to take an ADHD test and undergo an evaluation under the guidance of a professional such as a psychologist. You should double-check that they have experience diagnosing and treating ADHD before making an appointment.
While some may diagnose you simply based on a discussion about your symptoms, you might be asked to take an ADHD test. Each provider’s examination and ADHD test may be different — some might include questionnaires, rating scales, and screenings. They may also use continuous performance tests, which can assess your attention, or brain scans to determine whether or not you have ADHD. They’ll also take a medical history and ask about your family’s mental health. If you have a brother or parent with ADHD, your chances of having it may be increased.
Once you have a diagnosis, you may feel relieved. Today’s medications and therapies have brought enormous advancement in the ways that ADHD is treated — it’s now entirely possible to lead a normal, functional life with the support of medical and mental health professionals. Just keep in mind that an online ADHD test is no substitute for a proper diagnosis. If you think you may have ADHD, talk to a professional. They’ll help get you the help you need.