ADHD – what is it and how do you know it?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – a mouthful and a headful actually! 

For you and the people who struggle with it.  And it is a struggle.

  • Attention is the focus you have on a topic or in a situation
  • Deficit – attention or focus is missing in some situations for those with ADHD
  • Hyperactivity – doesn’t mean physically active but their brains don’t turn off much if at all
  • Disorder – it makes life more difficult for sure, and for those around them but is a shortfall

Hyper active children never sit still, can’t concentrate, don’t listen, jump around don’t they?

Not really, not all the time but if their minds are not focused then they need help focussing on something from adults around them.  They don’t – can’t – understand that, or know to look for options and ideas to manage it.

Whilst at least an adult can – if they choose to.

So what are the key points of ADHD sufferers?

  1. Lack of focus
  2. Hyper-focus on something
  3. Disorganisation
  4. Time management difficulties
  5. Impulsiveness
  6. Lack motivation
  7. Restlessness
  8. Sensitivity to emotions and reactive
  9. Poor listening skills


  1. Lack of focus on something or someone unless it is important for them at that moment, then nothing else counts and they become totally engrossed in it, in that moment. Even if realistically it isn’t a priority to others (or them except in their mind).


  1. Hyper-focus on something they love to do, that takes all their current attention – then nothing dissuades them from this and its all they can focus on, do and think about. Notice at times a blank look if someone speak to them about something else, or gets irritated its not what is in their mind right now.


  1. Disorganisation is something normal for them, something they actually cannot control or change – even if they wanted to. It’s not important and it’s not a priority, regardless of how stressful for them (and others) this might be. Their mind cannot arrange the order of putting things away – to find them next time.   Similarly, they jump from one thing to another, one task to another, or person to person, situation to situation, relationship to relationship.  This spreads too into organisation in their life, their job, their workload, their planning time.   Their mind struggles to find or make a pattern in numbers like accounts, or stay on a subject that requires long-term concentration and focus.


  1. Time management therefore is not happening for them. That requires organised thinking, forward action and maintaining that process ongoing. It can’t happen in their mind, the frontal lobe is perhaps smaller, or shorter pathways A-G or whatever the process is.  Their mind wanders or rather darts from their current thinking to the next interesting topic, bored with that last one


  1. Impulsiveness is a key indicator of ADHD – just making a decision and doing it, not even letting others know they are off or ready! It can be disconcerting for other mind-sets to say the least.   The person struggling with ADHD (and it is, even though they seem engrossed and excited at the job in hand) means they have no pattern, no routines, no forward thinking or planning nor decision making capacity – unless its NOW!  Here and now or not until the next time that ‘need’ arises within – mentally, emotionally, practically.


  1. Lack of motivation at least for those jobs that need doing but don’t interest them or that their mind cannot focus on for long enough. Planning ahead isn’t their forte and that alone means motivation to act except on the spur of the moment doesn’t happen. But when it does, it can be days before they stop and breathe!


  1. Restlessness means they never sit still, stop thinking or bodily stress reacting! Children are more obvious because they are active and learning, interested, focused in on one thing and running around exploring! Adults, though, can just seem to wander around, chatting to different people, looking for jobs to do, not settling on what needs to be done or started but not finished.  Always starting something new, but rarely finishing it there and then.


  1. Sensitivity to emotions – a lack of emotional control such as emotional outbursts, struggle to contain feelings and emotions and the associated verbalisation or action. Hurt by a sharp comment, they take it to heart and mull it over, taking it very personally.   Angry and frustrated they slam doors, throw things, hit walls or people and more.   Upset – it takes weeks to get through those intense emotions.  Intensity is the word to describe them perhaps – everything a little over the top than other people show or feel.  Happiness is embraced, more than that, savoured and never wanting it to end – but inevitably, nothing stays the same and they have to come down, which again is more intense and deep for them.  Fearful thoughts or situations create untold angst and turmoil for them, in their mind and therefore their body.


  1. Poor listening skills when something isn’t of interest, or you’re ‘doing something else’ – limited capacity for the brain to think, plan and listen – and its always doing something else! Clear disinterest or impatience for others thoughts and discussion.


The impact of these symptoms

 Stress is a constant battle inside their body – increased heart rate, always warm, unhealthy eating patterns and lack of sleep with active minds.   Fight or flight with intense emotional reactions to situations and people, sharp words and hurtful comments, attacks for no apparent reason or all the time.

 Anxiety  is always around – never relaxing, unable to stop thinking or needing to do something physically, new ideas, new thoughts, analysing the latest interest constantly. Worrying they haven’t done this or that, or all those things their family need from them, their boss wants from them, the world offers them!

Fatigue – stress eventually causes exhaustion physically, mentally, emotionally, practically and so their may be periods of no action whatsoever, collapsing into bed/sleep (or wherever they are!) and not waking for days sometimes.  Then up and off when their body energy is rejuvenated!

Sleep/relaxation problems are always there.   Minds going all night, not just their unconscious mind keeping them breathing, safety and other natural roles it has, but their conscious brain of thoughts, decisions, ideas, options, opportunities, analysis, wondering, curiosity etc etc etc.  It never ever ends.

Relationship problems can be caused by their behaviour, thought patterns, lack of patterns or routines, or reliability.   This can be personal relationships with family and friends, professionally at work or in business, and socially because the social norms are not always adhered to.

  • Jumping from a deep, deep love affair to another person because it got to hard (emotionally, practically, demandingly) or because someone more exciting, new and interesting came along.


  • Similarly, friends. One close friend becomes just a friend, making way for the next ‘best friend’ who keeps their mind focused – for a time.


  • Family living with someone with ADHD can be exhausting, stressful, distracting and lonely.


  • Siblings are neglected by parents wholly trying to manage behaviours and safety of the ADHD child


  • Worried parents re the constant impulses, the anti-social behaviours or choices, the safety when they are in the moment and don’t realise the danger around them that a parent has to foresee but can’t get them to see! Not seeing plans through and not being aware they changed; not being ready on time no matter how much notice because they got distracted with too much, not enough time to sort themselves out too soon!


  • Slammed doors, shouted responses, demands and expectations beyond humanly possible, reading minds and attacks or criticisms may be constant and affect self-esteem of those around them, and their mental stability and ability to cope with the stress.


  • Health issues such as stress and depression and the physical impact of exhaustion and organ damage, heart attacks, stomach ulcers and headaches. Lack of sleep, eating patterns – not hungry (stress response ongoing), not planning meals in, no time to shop.  Falling over, slipping because of not thinking ahead, not watching and thinking instead, jumping up and running out.  Not having time to see the GP, take medication (forgetful), letting things fester and too late to action. Stress leads to depression in time, hence the need for drugs because they will leave it so long to manage it.


  • Substance misuse arises in teens often because they ‘self-mediate’ is a term used for this. Alcohol subdues active thought and slows their thinking; drugs can be uppers from the onslaught of exhaustion that affects them for days, or downers to slow the emotional turmoil within.  Self-harming can also feel like a release or distraction for them angst, anxiety, thoughts, turmoil, uncertainty, instability – and pain distracts them, watching something new happening, having control for once.


  • Poor self-image arises often from others shouting at them, demanding of them when they can’t meet those needs so feel like a failure, and from their own thoughts or beliefs of what they should be like – like other people, like society expects and demands (especially when undiagnosed or unaware of ADHD impact!).  Stress leads to depression, anxiety about themselves and their ability or lack of to be normal, like their parents or friends, criticisms and demands they can never really meet.

The positives of ADHD are energy, focus, consistent effort and that makes people with this

effective in business, ultra determined and successful if they harness these positives and

manage the gaps or potential problem areas in their life.  That’s what Clear Mind is all about

  • find tools and techniques you need, as with everyone else to match and meet their needs.






Further Reading:

14 symptoms in Adults

Guardian article first hand accounts of undiagnosed ADHD and the impact


– helping ADHD with techniques

– symptoms of childhood ADHD

– autism spectrum

Test for ADHD from Psychcentral

Coping with heightened emotions Psychcentral