Symptoms of ADHD

Key Points

  • ADHD symptoms can present as mostly inattentive, mostly hyperactive-impulsive, or a combination of both types of symptoms.
  • If you think you or someone you know might have ADHD, the first step is to talk with a healthcare provider.
Two parents smiling with their daughter in between them

Signs and symptoms

It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue, can be severe, and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.


A child with ADHD might

  • daydream a lot
  • forget or lose things a lot
  • squirm or fidget
  • talk too much
  • make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
  • have a hard time resisting temptation
  • have trouble taking turns
  • have difficulty getting along with others


Based on the types of symptoms, three kinds (presentations) of ADHD can occur:

  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation
  • Combined Presentation (a combination of inattentive and hyper-impulsive symptoms)

Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well.

ADHD Presentation
Types of Symptoms
Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
It is hard for the individual to organize or finish a task, to pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or conversations. The person is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines.
Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation
The person fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Smaller children may run, jump or climb constantly. The individual feels restless and has trouble with impulsivity. Someone who is impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times. It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others.
Combined Presentation
Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person.

When to talk to your doctor

If you are concerned about whether a child might have ADHD, the first step is to talk with a healthcare provider to find out if the symptoms fit an ADHD diagnosis. The diagnosis can be made by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, or by a primary care provider, like a pediatrician.

Is there a test for ADHD?

Deciding if a person has ADHD is a process with several steps. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, and many other problems, such as sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and certain types of learning disabilities, can also have symptoms similar to ADHD.

Read more about diagnosing ADHD.