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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Symptoms of ADHD

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Symptoms of ADHD continued...

Hyperactivity may vary with age and developmental stage.

Toddlers and preschoolers with ADHD tend to be constantly in motion, jumping on furniture, and having difficulty participating in sedentary group activities. For instance, they may have trouble listening to a story.

School-age children display similar behavior but with less frequency. They are unable to remain seated, squirm a lot, fidget, or talk excessively.

In adolescents and adults, hyperactivity may manifest itself as feelings of restlessness and difficulty engaging in quiet sedentary activities.

Impulsivity symptoms include:

  • Impatience
  • Difficulty delaying responses
  • Blurting out answers before questions have been completed
  • Difficulty awaiting one's turn
  • Frequently interrupting or intruding on others to the point of causing problems in social or work settings
  • Initiating conversations at inappropriate times

Impulsivity may lead to accidents such as knocking over objects or banging into people. Children with ADHD may also engage in potentially dangerous activities without considering the consequences. For instance, they may climb to precarious positions.

Many of these symptoms occur from time to time in normal youngsters. However, in children with ADHD they occur frequently -- at home and at school or when visiting with friends. They also interfere with the child's ability to function as other children of the same age or developmental level. 

ADHD is diagnosed only when children consistently display some or all of the above behaviors in at least two settings, such as at home and in school, for at least six months.

Long-Term Prognosis With ADHD

Some children with ADHD -- approximately 20% to 30% -- develop learning problems that may not improve with ADHD treatment. Hyperactive behavior may be associated with the development of other disruptive disorders, particularly conduct and oppositional-defiant disorder. Why this association exists is not known.

A great many children with ADHD ultimately adjust. Some, though, especially those with an associated conduct or oppositional-defiant disorder, are more likely to drop out of school. These individuals fare more poorly in their later careers.

Inattention tends to persist through childhood and adolescence and on into adulthood, while hyperactivity tends to diminish with age.

As they grow older, some teens that have had ADHD since childhood may experience periods of anxiety or depression.

Several  of the symptoms of ADHD may get worse as the demands at school or home increase. They include:

  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Being unable to get organized, either at home or at school
  • Fidgeting, especially with the hands and feet
  • Talking too much
  • Failing to finish projects, including chores and homework
  • Not paying attention to and responding to details
  • Getting poor grades in school
  • Being isolated from peers due to poor grades and secondary depression

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Patricia Quinn, MD on March 17, 2013
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