13 Symptoms of ADHD (and the underlying scientific causes)

13 Symptoms of ADHD (and the underlying scientific causes)

13 Symptoms of ADHD (and the underlying scientific causes)
  1. Short attention span. If the brain is bored, uninterested, overwhelmed, overstimulated etc., the tasks and/or information deemed "unimportant" at that moment will be neglected.  Job or hobby hopping is common.

  2. Difficulty with transitions or an inability to switch tasks once in hyperfocus mode.  It is almost painful to be asked to stop what you are doing and switch tasks once in a groove.  It throws us completely off.  

  3. ADHD paralysis. This happens when a person with ADHD is overwhelmed by their environment or the amount of information given. As a result, they freeze and aren't able to think or function effectively. This makes it challenging for the individual to focus and complete their tasks—including urgent ones.

  4. Hyperactivity, which may be physical, verbal, and/or emotional.  For females, often times the hyperactivity is in the mind.  The mind is always going--thinking about multiple things at one time.

  5. Impulsivity, which may manifest as recklessness.  Lots of speeding tickets, car accidents, impulsive spending, starting new hobbies but then quitting them once the novelty (dopamine supply) wears off.

  6. Fidgeting or restlessness. Wiggling your foot, squirming in your chair, biting your nails, picking your cuticles, twirling your hair, clicking your pen, etc.

  7. Disorganization and difficulty prioritizing tasks.  With so many thoughts going through your mind at one time, the brain doesn't know what to focus on and often jumps from one task to another before completing the first task.  The brain's priority filing system is almost nonexistent.  This is not a sign of low intelligence, this is an executive function disorder.  

  8. Poor time management and time blindness.  Time is not a linear concept for those with ADHD.   The amount of time it takes to complete a task is often grossly underestimated or sometimes overestimated which leads to panic and fluster as the time to "switch tasks" approaches.  

  9. Frequent mood swings and emotional dysregulation.  Irritability from sensory overload.  Frustration from living in a constant state of overwhelm. Unable to control feelings of anger, sadness, excitability, etc., but quickly able to switch moods. ADHD impairs the ability to regulate feelings – anger, anxiety, sadness, or other.

    The result: overblown, extremely emotional reactions to small setbacks or challenges. “Emotion regulation is a big part of ADHD that has been traditionally ignored,” says Joel Nigg, Ph.D.  “When comparing ADHD brains to those without, we see that the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the reward system has reduced activation, especially in the dorsal part of the prefrontal cortex. This could explain overexcitement, frustration & anger, and inability to respond to delayed rewards.”

  10. Forgetfulness and poor working memory.  Poor short term and/or long term memory.  This is due to phonological and visuospatial subsystem deficits.     

  11. Trouble completing tasks and frequent procrastination.  Cannot get brain to see a task as a priority until it is flagged as "panic mode" aka deadline.  This is not a choice for ADHDers and it's not "laziness."  This is an executive function disorder.

  12. Distractibility.  Thoughts are jumping around and fighting with each other for attention.  This can look like zoning out, not paying attention when someone is talking to you, asking a question and then not listening to the person's response, etc.  Often times the ADHD brain has already processed the problem/question, found the solution, and moved on to the next thing before the other person even has a chance to finish their sentence.  Difficulty awaiting turn/impatience. 

  13. ADHD brains have low levels of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is linked arm-in-arm with dopamine. Dopamine is the thing that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure center. The ADHD brain has impaired activity in four functional regions of the brain. Due to this lack of dopamine, people with ADHD are "chemically wired" to seek more, says John Ratey, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical.  People with ADHD thrive on adrenaline rushes. They may do their best work against a tight deadline. Many adults with ADHD thrive in high-pressure, fast-paced jobs, such as those in emergency services, healthcare, entertainment, and high tech.

Some people with ADHD mainly have symptoms of inattention. Others mostly have symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity. Some people have both types of symptoms.

Many people experience some inattention, unfocused motor activity, and impulsivity, but for people with ADHD, these behaviors:

  • Are more severe

  • Occur more often

  • Interfere with or reduce the quality of how they function socially (friendships and relationships) at school, or in a job

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