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The 9 Symptoms of ADHD in Children: Understanding Inattention, Hyperactivity, and Impulsivity

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects lots of people across the UK. It is a condition that affects a person’s ability to focus and pay attention, as well as their ability to control their impulses and behaviour. Symptoms of ADHD often begin in early childhood, but they can persist well into adulthood.
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The 9 Symptoms of ADHD in Children: Understanding Inattention, Hyperactivity, and Impulsivity

07/04/2023
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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects lots of people across the UK. It is a condition that affects a person’s ability to focus and pay attention, as well as their ability to control their impulses and behaviour. Symptoms of ADHD often begin in early childhood, but they can persist well into adulthood.

Recognising the signs and symptoms of ADHD, particularly in children, is crucial in helping them receive the appropriate treatment and support they need in order to thrive. In this article, we’re going to explore the nine main symptoms of ADHD in children, including inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, as well as some treatment options that are available.

The 9 Symptoms of ADHD: What are They and How do They Affect People?

There are three types of ADHD: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and combined. Every person with ADHD will be affected in a different way, and the type of ADHD a person has will also impact the symptoms they display. For example, those with predominantly inattentive type ADHD will likely struggle with organisation and focus the most, whereas those with predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD will find it more difficult to sit still and control their impulsive urges.

That being said, ADHD as a whole is characterised by a number of standard symptoms. Everyone with ADHD will likely display at least one or more of the following symptoms for sustained periods of time.

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1. Inattention

People with ADHD, specifically inattentive or combined type, often have difficulty paying attention to details, maintaining focus during tasks or conversations, and following instructions. This can make it challenging to complete work, school assignments or even household chores, and may lead to careless mistakes.

2. Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities

Lots of people with ADHD struggle to stick with tasks that are not immediately engaging or stimulating. This can lead to procrastination, incomplete projects, and frustration. In the workplace or an academic setting, this can mean that projects get put off because there’s no initial interest to start them, or because the person with ADHD feels unsure and overwhelmed, therefore puts the task off for a long time. This often results in tight deadlines and stressful situations as work and projects mount up.

3. Impulsivity

Impulsivity is a hallmark symptom of ADHD, more specifically hyperactive-impulsive or combined type. Impulsivity can manifest itself in behaviours such as interrupting others, acting without thinking, and engaging in risky or reckless activities. People with this symptom may find that they don’t think about the consequences of certain actions, sometimes leading to poor decision making based on short-term thinking.

4. Fidgeting with or tapping hands or feet

Some people with ADHD, mostly hyperactive type, have difficulty sitting still, meaning they often fidget or tap their hands or feet. This can be distracting to others and make it challenging to concentrate in quiet environments, but for some people with ADHD, fidgeting in this way allows them to concentrate better if someone is speaking to them or they’re watching or listening to something.

5. Squirming while seated

Restlessness is another common symptom of hyperactive type ADHD, which may lead to squirming or shifting whilst seated. This can make it difficult to concentrate during long periods of sitting, such as during meetings or classes, and again, be distracting to others.

6. Running or climbing excessively

Hyperactivity is a core symptom of combined and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. Children with ADHD may appear to be constantly on the go, running, climbing, or jumping excessively, even in situations where it is inappropriate.

7. Difficulty engaging in activities quietly

People with ADHD may have difficulty engaging in quiet activities such as reading, writing, or studying without becoming distracted or restless. This can make it difficult to concentrate or get things done, and can be an issue when it comes to things such as tests and exams.

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8. Talking excessively

Some people with ADHD may talk excessively, interrupt others or struggle to take turns during conversations. This can make it difficult to form relationships or thrive in social situations.

9. Blurting out answers before questions are completed

Some people with ADHD blurt out answers or responses before the speaker has finished their sentence, leading to misunderstandings or miscommunications, and sometimes appearing rude or abrasive.

The severity of symptoms varies from person to person, with some people experiencing mild symptoms with minimal and manageable impact on their daily lives, and others experiencing more severe symptoms on a more frequent basis.

Understanding Inattention: What is it and How Does it Manifest in People with ADHD?

Inattention is a core symptom of ADHD and is something that people with all types of the condition may struggle with.

What is Inattention?

Inattention is the inability to sustain attention or focus on a task or activity. It can also refer to being easily distracted by external stimuli or losing track of important details. Inattention can affect various aspects of life, including work, school and personal relationships.

How Does Inattention Manifest in People with ADHD?

Inattention is a core symptom of ADHD, and it manifests differently in each person. Some common ways inattention may manifest in people with ADHD include:

  • Difficulty sustaining focus: People with ADHD may struggle to sustain attention on a task, even if it is something they enjoy. They may easily get bored or distracted, making it challenging to complete tasks.
  • Forgetfulness: People with ADHD may forget important details or instructions, even if they were just given to them. This forgetfulness can lead to difficulties in school or at work.
  • Carelessness: Individuals with inattentive ADHD may make careless mistakes, such as forgetting to pay bills on time or missing appointments.
  • Disorganisation: Some people with inattentive ADHD struggle with organisational tasks, like keeping track of belongings or maintaining a tidy workspace.
  • Daydreaming: It’s somewhat common for people with ADHD to daydream often or get lost in their thoughts, making it challenging to focus on the task at hand.

These symptoms aren’t always the easiest to navigate; however, with the right strategies and support, it is possible to manage inattention and lead a productive life.

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: What Are They and How Do They Affect People with ADHD?

Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is the least common type of ADHD, but it still affects thousands of people.

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What is Hyperactivity?

Hyperactivity is an excessive level of activity that is not appropriate for a given situation. It can refer to physical activity such as restlessness, fidgeting and excessive talking, or mental activity such as racing thoughts or difficulty staying focused. Hyperactivity is one of the three core symptoms of ADHD, along with inattention and impulsivity.

How Does Hyperactivity Manifest in People with ADHD?

Hyperactivity can manifest differently in each person, but some common ways in which it may present include:

  • Excessive talking: People with hyperactive ADHD may talk excessively, interrupt others or have difficulty waiting their turn in conversation.
  • Restlessness: Many people with hyperactive ADHD struggle to sit still, often fidgeting or pacing, even when it’s inappropriate.
  • Constant movement: Lots of people with a hyperactive-impulsive ADHD diagnosis engage in constant movement, such as tapping their feet, fidgeting with objects or shifting in their seat.
  • Difficulty staying on task: It’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to have difficulty completing tasks or following instructions, because they often become distracted or move on to something else before finishing the first task.

What is Impulsivity?

Impulsivity is the tendency to act without thinking about the consequences. It can manifest in various ways, such as making impulsive decisions or acting on a whim without considering the potential outcomes. Impulsivity is the second core symptom of ADHD, along with hyperactivity and inattention.

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How Does Impulsivity Manifest in People with ADHD?

Impulsivity can manifest in several ways in people with ADHD, including:

  • Acting without considering consequences: Individuals with ADHD may act impulsively without considering the potential consequences of their actions.
  • Interrupting others: Impulsivity symptoms can cause people with ADHD to interrupt others or blurt out answers before the other person has finished speaking.
  • Difficulty waiting: It’s common for people with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD to have difficulty waiting their turn in activities or conversations, resulting in them often interrupting or jumping ahead.
  • Risk-taking behaviours: Some people with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD engage in risky behaviours, such as driving too fast or participating in dangerous activities, without considering the potential risks involved.

Like with inattentive ADHD, the severity of hyperactive-impulsive symptoms varies from person to person, but there is effective treatment available.

ADHD Treatment: Medication, Therapy and Lifestyle Changes for Managing Symptoms

Although ADHD can be challenging in lots of different ways, there are a number of treatments that can help to mitigate symptoms and limit their impact on your life.

Medication

Medication is one of the most common treatments for ADHD and can be highly effective in managing symptoms. Stimulant medications are often prescribed to help people with ADHD increase their focus and attention span, reduce impulsivity, and control hyperactivity. Non-stimulant medications are also available and may be prescribed in some cases where stimulants are not suitable.

It’s important to note that medication is not a cure for ADHD and it might not work for everyone. It’s also important to work closely with your healthcare provider to find the right medication and dosage for your needs. Regular check-ins with your provider are essential to monitor any side effects and ensure the medication is still effective.

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Therapy

Therapy can be an effective treatment for ADHD, particularly when used in combination with medication. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a common therapy used to help people with ADHD develop coping strategies and improve their executive functioning skills. It can also help people with ADHD manage their emotions and improve their communication skills.

Other types of therapy that may be helpful for those with ADHD include family therapy, which can help parents and siblings understand and manage ADHD-related behaviours, and social skills training, which can help people with ADHD improve their interpersonal relationships.

Lifestyle Changes

Making lifestyle changes can be an effective way to manage some of the symptoms of ADHD. Some lifestyle changes that could help include:

  • Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help people with ADHD release excess energy and reduce hyperactivity, and is good for overall health.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet can help improve focus and reduce impulsivity. Foods high in protein, such as fish, chicken, and beans can help improve concentration.
  • Get enough sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for managing ADHD symptoms. Aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Practice stress management: Stress can make ADHD symptoms worse, so practising stress management techniques like deep breathing and meditation can be helpful.
  • Stay organised: Staying organised can help people with ADHD manage their time and reduce distractions. Using a planner, setting reminders and creating to-do lists can all be helpful ways of staying organised.

It can sometimes be a case of trial and error when trying to determine the best treatment plan for your ADHD, so it’s best to work with a healthcare professional to make sure any adaptations you make to your lifestyle and any medications you’re on are suitable for you.

FAQs

How is ADHD diagnosed, and what tests or assessments are used to evaluate the 9 symptoms of ADHD?

Diagnosing ADHD is done through a comprehensive assessment, including a clinical interview and observation of symptoms. At The ADHD Centre, we follow the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) to diagnose ADHD.

What are the most effective treatment options for managing ADHD symptoms, and how do they work?

Treatment options for ADHD include medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Stimulant medications can help manage symptoms by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Non-stimulant medications may also be prescribed. Therapy, specifically cognitive behavioural therapy, is also effective for people with ADHD who struggle with negative thought patterns or co-morbid conditions like anxiety or depression.

What kind of medication is prescribed for ADHD, and what are the potential side effects?

Stimulants and non-stimulants are the main types of medications prescribed for ADHD, and both can be very effective for managing both child and adult ADHD symptoms alike. That being said, there are some side effects. Common side effects of ADHD medication include loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and irritability; however, most side effects are mild and short-lived.

What types of therapy can be effective in treating ADHD, and how do they help manage symptoms?

Therapy options for ADHD include cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), behavioural therapy, and family therapy. These therapies can help people with ADHD develop coping strategies and learn how to manage their symptoms, as well as help families and caregivers better understand ADHD.

What lifestyle changes can people with ADHD make to manage their symptoms?

Lifestyle changes such as exercise, healthy diet, and establishing a routine can help manage ADHD symptoms. Mindfulness techniques and organisation strategies may also be helpful, as well as using productivity apps like Trello or Brain.fm.

What resources are available for people with ADHD, and how can they find support and information?

At The ADHD Centre, we provide comprehensive assessments and treatment options for people with ADHD, as well as expert support and guidance for people with ADHD and their families.

ADHD Support at The ADHD Centre

ADHD can be a challenging condition to manage, but there are various treatments available that can help. Medication, therapy and lifestyle changes can all be effective ways to manage ADHD symptoms. If you suspect you or your child may have ADHD, it’s essential to seek professional help from a healthcare provider or ADHD specialist.

At The ADHD Centre, we specialise in supporting people with ADHD overcome their symptoms and manage them effectively. Our team of leading ADHD specialists are on hand to provide expert advice and support to people with ADHD and caregivers of people with ADHD. For more information on our services, please call us on 0800 061 4276 or email us at enquiries@adhdcentre.co.uk.

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We have been diagnosing and treating people with ADHD since 2009.

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