Are you having trouble paying attention in class or at meetings? Do you often find yourself fidgeting, tapping your foot or fingers? Are you famous amongst your friends and family for acting in the moment without thinking about consequences? In short—are you worried you have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (commonly called ADHD)?Relax. Only about five percent of the population suffers from ADHD. If you answered yes to any of the questions above, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have the disorder—you’re only human, after all. The true ADHD sufferer shows inattentive and/or hyperactive-impulsive behavior much more frequently and more severely than most people, to the extent that these characteristics interfere with their everyday lives, and especially their interactions with the people around them. There are three subtypes of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive, and combined. ADHD sufferers will manifest inattentiveness and hyperactivity-impulsivity in varying degrees, tend strongly toward one, or regularly exhibit both (hence the subtypes).
Inattentiveness is the AD of ADHD; it means that the sufferer has extreme difficulty focusing his or her attention, remaining on task, and attending to important details. Depending on the person and their situation, this can manifest in diverse ways, such as:
Failure to properly complete various tasks in school, work, and the home
Difficulty in organizing their environment, whether desk, closet, computer, etc.
Forgetting about important deadlines, events, appointments, meetings, etc.
Avoiding, resisting, and/or feeling frustrated with tasks that require sustained mental effort, like writing a report or reading an eighteenth-century novel
Frequently misplacing important things like a wallet, keys, medicine, phone, etc.
Becoming sidetracked easily by stimuli like … oh, hey, something shiny!
A person with inattentive-subtype ADHD will chronically experience all this, and more, to the point that it affects their social relationships and their quality of life. A combined-subtype sufferer will show behaviors like the ones listed above as well as those of the hyperactivity-impulsivity subtype.
These two components are the second half of ADHD; they present themselves as uncontrollable energy and impulse. In day to day activities, this can manifest as:
Squirming, fidgeting, tapping fingers or toes, or any other anxious, nervous habits
Showing impatience at precise, meticulous tasks or when forced to wait for something
Talking excessively, speaking out of turn, interrupting others, and/or the inability to pay attention when spoken to
Needing to constantly stand up, walk around, converse, and do pretty much anything except the task at hand
Children with ADHD will also often behave in ways that are inappropriate for the situation they’re in, like running and shouting in a library or climbing on tables at restaurants. In adult sufferers, this often manifests as a feeling of restlessness, which often leads them to fiddle with their phones, check their email or Facebook on their work computers, and engage in other distractions.
Behaviors like the ones described above constitute symptoms of ADHD when they are inappropriate for the individual’s level of cognitive development and affect the sufferer’s quality of life. To qualify as ADHD, symptoms must persist for at least six months, and, moreover, must be present before the age of 12; if you’re an adult who has suddenly begun suffering ADHD-like symptoms, you may want to just cut back on the coffee.On the other hand, inattentiveness and hyperactivity-impulsivity are not restricted to ADHD; other disabilities can cause these behaviors as well. Moreover, these conditions can also entail other disabilities, such alcoholism, illiteracy, and depression. If you or a loved one fits the profile for ADHD, you should contact an experienced medical professional; only they are qualified to definitively diagnose ADHD and help manage the condition.