Symptoms and Causes

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Symptoms and Causes

two adultsWhat are the symptoms of ADHD?

In adults, ADHD symptoms must be present since childhood and affect the person’s ability to function in daily life. These symptoms must create significant difficulty in at least two areas of life, such as home, social settings, school, or work.

Increasingly, researchers are studying ADHD in the context of executive functions—the brain functions that activate, organize, integrate, and manage other functions. Impairment of these executive functions is considered highly interrelated to symptoms associated with ADHD.

There are three primary subtypes of ADHD, each associated with different symptoms.

ADHD—Primarily Inattentive Type:
  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention
  • Does not appear to listen
  • Struggles to follow through on instructions
  • Has difficulty with organization
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful in daily activities
ADHD—Primarily Hyperactive/Impulsive Type:

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair
  • Has difficulty remaining seated
  • Runs around or climbs excessively
  • Has difficulty engaging in activities quietly
  • Acts as if driven by a motor
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Has difficulty waiting or taking turns
  • Interrupts or intrudes upon others
ADHD—Combined Type:
  • Meets both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive criteria

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What causes ADHD?

multigenerational family

Research has demonstrated that ADHD has a very strong neurobiological basis. Although precise causes have not yet been identified, there is little question that heredity makes the largest contribution to the expression of the disorder in the population.

In instances where heredity does not seem to be a factor, difficulties during pregnancy, prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco, premature delivery, significantly low birth weight, excessively high body lead levels, and postnatal injury to the prefrontal regions of the brain have all been found to contribute to the risk for ADHD to varying degrees.

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HAVE QUESTIONS? We can help. Learn more about ADHD and related conditions at CHADD’s National Resource Center on ADHD. You may also contact us by phone (800-233-4050) and use our Online Form (select "Questions about ADHD") and a health information specialist will provide a personalized response.