Lesser Know Symptoms of Adult ADHD

Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Adult ADHD has become a heavily talked about issue, and most of us know the general signs by now. But if we still aren’t sure that we are or aren’t a fit, it can help to know the symptoms of ADHD that get talked about less.

The main signs of Adult ADHD

A brief refresher. There are three main signs of ADHD, which are inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. You don’t have to have all of the three symptoms to receive a diagnosis.

What matters is that the symptoms you do have limit your capacity to cope on a daily basis, and have done since you were a child. ADHD doesn’t just suddenly start in adulthood. Generally it’s just that it was overlooked until the stress of adult life made your symptoms more apparent.

7 less talked about symptoms of adult ADHD

Think you have ADHD, but not sure? Here are other adult attention deficit symptoms that might make the picture clearer.

1. Talking issues.

Talking too fast, too much, and interrupting others despite not wanting to.

ADHD can lead to a constant feeling that there is a disconnect between your brain and your mouth, what could be seen as a sort of ‘verbal impulsivity’.

You tell yourself you won’t talk too much or share too much, but it’s like your mouth is one step ahead of your brain. And you misjudge the moment the other person is going to stop talking, and are seen as someone who always interrupts.

This can all lead to low self-esteem, if you constantly feel bad about the way you communicate or know that you are always upsetting others.

2. A body in perpetual motion.

Jiggling your leg, twitching or rubbing fingers, playing with things, shifting constantly when seated, feeling sometimes like you’ll jump out of your skin, rushing around, etc.

ADD symptoms in adults can manifest differently than in children in that hyperactivity can be less about being boisterous and more about being restless. And this can manifest as a jittery, always moving in some or another body.

3. Prioritising the wrong things.

Organising the kitchen to perfection when you have 24 hours to write an essay, finally getting all your finances in order when you are supposed to be preparing for a work presentation, etc.

While the general idea of adult ADHD is that one can never focus, that’s not actually the case. It’s just that the focus spectrum seems to be one or the other. As in, not at all, or what’s known as ‘hyperfocus’.

Adults with ADHD can so intensely focus on one thing they forget everything, even that they have eggs boiling on the stove.

The problem is that you will tend to hyperfocus on the wrong thing. It's as if the brain ADHD brain, left unsupervised, rebels and can't prioritise.

4. An endless nagging feeling you aren’t living up to your potential.

Working in a job that is beneath you, having great ideas that never manifest, a high IQ but a low IQ life, etc.

It’s like inside your head lives one person, full of amazing ideas and wisdom.

But then the person you end up being due to things like not finishing what you start, forgetting things, or making impulsive decisions that sabotage things, is a person who is average. Or maybe good compared to some people, but not at all who you know you are capable of being.

You can end up in a life that is so far beneath your potential you don't have contact with people who can truly challenge you, and feel endlessly frustrated and lonely.

5. Tumultuous romantic relationships.

Jumping into relationships only to regret it, many short relationships one after the other, dating people you don’t really like.

A 2021 research review on adult ADHD and relationships pointedly concludes:

"much research points toward adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) having short-lived and discordant romantic relationships".

Impulsivity can mean you can’t stop yourself jumping in to things even if you promised to go slow next time. When you actually know the person, you feel bored and jump ship. So life becomes a series of relationships, and you might feel judged by others for it.

Or the low self-esteem that ADHD can bring can means you settle for someone who isn't even right for as they ‘put up with you’.

You might also be emotionally impulsive, which doesn’t help things. Adults with ADHD are more likely to get angry too easily.

A study found that college students with ADHD had higher levels of anger, and less socially appropriate ways of expressing it.

6. Sleep problems.

Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, restless sleep with wild dreams, waking up too early in the morning, etc.

You are exhausted and sure you will feel asleep quickly… and then you don’t. Your mind instead floods with details of things you forgot in the day, or big ideas and thoughts.

When you do fall asleep, you might have wild dreams that mean you wake up somehow feeling tired, as if you are hyperactive even when you sleep.

7. Oversensitivity.

Feeling overwhelmed when in bright, noisy places, tortured by sounds that others hardly notice, being sensitive to touch, easily offended or suspicious over casual comments by others.

Attention deficit disorder in adults can be a close cousin of autism, and one shared symptom is sensorial sensitivity.

An interesting overview of research around sensory processing in adults with ADHD concluded that while on the one hand there is an increased intake of sensorial input, particularly when it comes to hearing, there can be an inability to moderate and choose input, particularly visual.

You might also be emotionally sensitive, easily feeling judged and reacting to ever nuance in what others say.

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Sure you have ADHD, and sick of waiting for a diagnosis? A psychotherapist who specialises in ADHD can help you learn long-term coping skills that help.

Andrea M. Darcy is a popular UK mental health writer who had lived with an ADHD diagnosis for over two decades.

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