Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) was once thought to be common only in children – but more recent research indicates 4-5% of American adults have the disorder.[1] The hyperactivity component (ADHD) is oftentimes seen in children but decreases in prevalence amongst adults.[2]

Medication is the most effective treatment for ADHD and many other treatments have minimal efficacy unless medication is already being taken to treat the ADD.[3]

Symptoms of ADHD/ADD[4]

I’ve placed an asterisk after symptoms I’ve experienced in the past or experience currently.

  • Focus Issues:
    • Trouble concentrating*
    • Trouble staying focused*
    • Short attention span*
    • Lack of persistence in tasks.*
    • Zoning Out.*[5]
    • Difficulty completing (even simple) tasks.*[6]
    • Lack of attention to details.*[7]
    • Poor listening skills.*[8]
    • Fail to remember/follow directions.
  • Hyperfocus.*
  • Disorganization:
    • Forgetful.*[9]
    • Difficulty determining relevancy of information.*[10]
    • Prioritizing tasks.[11]
    • Tracking tasks/responsibilities.
    • Time management.*
    • Procrastination.*
    • Late to appointments.*
    • Misplacing things (e.g. keys, wallet, cell phone, glasses).*[12]
    • Inability to adequately estimate time required for specific projects/tasks.*
  • Impulse Control:[13]
    • Interrupt or talk over others.
    • Poor self-control.*
    • Speak before thinking.
    • Addictive tendencies.*
      • Compulsive eating.*
      • Substance abuse.
    • Act without regard for consequences.
    • Inability to follow social etiquette (e.g. sitting for extended periods).*
  • Emotional:
    • Feel one is not achieving one’s potential.*
    • Easily frustrated.*
    • Easily stressed.*
    • Irritable.
    • Mood swings.
    • Lack of consistent motivation.*
    • Hypersensitive to criticism.
    • Short (and sometimes explosive) temper.
    • Low self-esteem.
  • Hyperactivity / Restlessness:
    • Internal feelings of restlessness.*
    • Increased willingness to take risks.*
    • Easily bored.*
    • Racing thoughts.*
    • Fidgeting.*
    • Adrenaline Junkie.*
    • Constantly talking.
    • Hyper-Multitasking.*

Dr. Barley’s book provides fascinating statistical evidence of these differences. For example, when polling an ADHD population versus a regular community population these sorts of differences appear:

  • “Fails to give close attention to details”, ADD: 74%, Regular Community: 3%.
  • “Difficulty sustaining attentuion”, ADD: 97%, Regular Community: 3%.

A much fuller description of differences is found on pp. 32-34 as well as in the Appendixes on pp. 269-275.


ADD appears to be a highly heritable disorder – it is passed on via genetics.[14]

Other Insightful Quotes:

  • “In our research, the average number of major life activities in which adults with ADHD said they were often impaired was 6 or 7 out of 10. ADHD causes serious impairment across all the domains of adult life, from education to work to family.” – Dr. Russell A. Barkley, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, pg. 9.
  • “The fact is that adults (and children) with ADHD often report doing better on certain tasks than outside observation and objective measurements reveal. Driving is a particularly common example.” – Dr. Russell A. Barkley, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, pg. 23.
  • “What distinguishes adults with ADHD from others is the considerably greater frequency with which they display these characteristics. Distractibility, inability to concentrate, and other problems reach a point of being developmentally inappropriate (rate) for their age group.” – Dr. Russell A. Barkley, pg. 32.
  • “ADHD IN ADULTS IS NOT MERELY A TRIVIAL DISORDER OF PAYING ATTENTION! Instead it’s a problem with the ability to organize behavior over time to prepare for the future. The five problem areas in ADHD add up to an exceptional nearsightedness about the future.” – Dr. Russell A. Barkley, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, pg. 56.
  • “Poor inhibition is a problem that develops very early in life in most cases and remains a problem for adults with ADHD across their entire life. Parents, friends, and coworkers have probably been baffled by your inability to block out distracting sights, sounds, and movements for as long as you can remember. They can zero in on the task at hand; why can’t you? Do you perceive peripheral noises and sights better than other people? Are you more sensitive to everything that’s going on around you? No. People without ADHD can stop themselves from responding to distractions; they do it so automatically that they’re not even aware of having made an effort to do so….The same underlying problem that makes it hard for you to sit still and concentrate or to think before acting can, believe it or not, also make it difficult to stop what you’re doing….If what they are doing is particularly fun, rewarding, or interesting, many adults with ADHD may als find it hard to stop even when they’re not making mistakes but need to get on with another task that needs to be done soon but is far less interesting. We call this problem perseveration. Perseveration often looks like procrastination. But as you might know, it’s not that the person has decided to put off something that isn’t fun. It’s that he or she decided to keep going on something that is fun.” – Dr. Russell A. Barkley, Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, pg. 59, 61, 62.
  • “Lacking self-control robs you of free-will. This is one of the most tragic consequences of ADHD. You might think you’re doing what you desire. Yet if you can’t inhibit your behavior, you miss out on the delay between an event and your response. That delay is essential: It gives you the chance to think. Even more critically, that delay empowers you to choose freely.” – Dr. Barkley, TC, pg. 63.

Recommended Reading

  • Additude Editors. Daily Tips: Surviving the Holidays. – This collection focuses on surviving the holidays when one is the parent of an ADD children, but also covers a few tips for individuals with ADD…and some tips for children are applicable to adults as well.
  1. [1]Barkley, Taking Charge, pg. 2.
  2. [2]Barkley, Taking Charge, pg. 6.
  3. [3]Barkley, Taking Charge. pg 15.
  4. [4]I am heavily indebted to’s ADD/ADHD page for this list.
  5. [5]While reading I oftentimes find myself needing to reread a section b/c my mind has floated off elsewhere.
  6. [6]I oftentimes find mundane tasks like brushing my teeth and shaving painful.
  7. [7]I avoid all skills which require the ability to do detail work – e.g. almost any form of art.
  8. [8]I have great difficulty remembering people’s names, even immediately after they have told them to me. I have improved significantly in this area due to constant practice as a pastor…but still much worse than many.
  9. [9]I live by my smartphone. It tells me what I need to do and when. If it isn’t in the smartphone, I won’t remember.
  10. [10]I get overwhelmed by the vast amount of info. available on any topic – and have a hard time sorting out what I need to consider immediately and when I should stop researching and take action.
  11. [11]I hate trying to decide what to do next, and even when I can I oftentimes feel great resistance to performing said task.
  12. [12]This is constant. Oftentimes I will put something down and literally look for it two seconds later and be unable to remember where I put it.
  13. [13]“Impaired ability to control impulses and delay gratification.” (TC, pg. 29)
  14. [14]Barkley, Taking Charge, pg. 46.

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