Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC
Many people tend to have a preconceived idea of what they think ADHD behavior looks like. However, many different symptoms can come with ADHD. Understanding what these symptoms look like and the common behaviors that occur could not only help you know how to recognize it in your life or those around you, but it can be the first step in getting treatment and learning how to manage the symptoms.
While ADHD does not show up the same in every person, some common symptoms, complications, and ADHD behavior show up.
What’s The Most Common ADHD Behavior?
This is actually somewhat of a trick question. Many different ADHD behaviors can show in children or adults. Not everyone that is diagnosed with ADHD will experience the same types of behaviors. Part of the reason that this is true is that there are three different types of ADHD, including:
- Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation
- Combined Presentation
The ADHD behavior and symptoms that you experience are impacted by the type of ADHD you're diagnosed with. For example, if you are predominantly inattentive, you may struggle to pay attention to details or complete a task. Where someone who is predominantly hyperactive may fidget a lot and struggled to stay still for long periods of time.
So while there isn’t one set ADHD behavior that you can look for, here are some of the more common ones that you may find in adults:
Alcohol Or Substance Abuse
Studies have found that people diagnosed with ADHD are at a higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Research has found that if you struggle with ADHD, you may be at a higher risk of starting to consume alcohol at an earlier age, binge drinks more often, or be more impacted by the alcohol that you do consume.
It's also believed that alcohol consumption could have an impact on aggravating the typical symptoms that you may experience as part of ADHD. On top of that, if you're taking medication for your symptoms, consuming alcohol can impact the effects that it can have on you.
There are several different reasons why people who struggle with ADHD can lack organization in their life and work. For some people, it's because they have a drive for perfection. If they feel like they can't have everything exactly as it needs to be, it stops them from getting started at all. If you're unsure of exactly the steps that you need to do to get organized, it may delay you in doing anything.
Other people who struggle with ADHD may lack the focus needed to get organized in different areas of their lives. This means that even if they want to be organized, it may be unlikely that they can make it happen without a little help.
If you have been diagnosed with ADHD, learning how to organize your personal and professional life can be an important step in eliminating some of the chaos you may feel. If you struggle in this area, you may want to enlist help from a friend or family member or even a professional organizer.
Struggling In Relationships
Every relationship faces its own challenges. Someone that struggles with ADHD symptoms may also find that they have additional struggles in their relationship. They may come across as being self-absorbed or get ultra-focused on a project that they're working on, causing them to neglect other areas and people in their lives. The lack of time management skills may negatively impact their significant other. And they may struggle to control their emotions, which can be difficult for the other person to respond to.
It's not necessarily those relationships that include ADHD have different issues than other relationships; they may just be more frequent or more intense problems that are the same ones other people experience.
Lack of focus and being easily distracted may cause minor issues in some areas of life. However, when you're driving, these things can lead to serious problems. People who are diagnosed with ADHD and struggle to concentrate may tend to be less proficient drivers.
For example, the driving of teenagers with ADHD has even been compared to the dangers caused by intoxicated drivers. And when it comes to young people with ADHD, they represent a larger number of accident fatalities. This is an alarming statistic and just one more example of why it's important to seek proper treatment if you are struggling with symptoms from ADHD.
There is an interesting and unique connection between ADHD and lying. It may seem like children or adults who struggle with ADHD have a tendency to lie. However, things aren't quite as clear-cut as that.
People who struggle with ADHD may struggle with paying attention to conversations. This means they can tend to agree to do things that they weren't paying attention to. That means that they may seem more likely to not follow through on doing the things they say they're going to. However, it's not that they're purposely trying to lie or not do what they say they're going to; they may just not remember that they ever agreed to it.
But those who struggle with ADHD may also end up telling lies more frequently to cover up their behavior. For example, they may not want to admit that they didn't complete the assignment at work that they were supposed to on time. They missed the deadline, so instead of taking responsibility, they may tell a lie to excuse their behavior.
When you are trying to work with someone with ADHD to address the lies they are telling, it's important to determine the difference between the purposeful lies they’re telling and when they are just not paying attention. When you're able to recognize the difference, you can learn the best steps to take to address the behavior.
Poor Listening Skills
Another common behavior that many people with ADHD share is that they struggle to listen in conversations. Their minds might be moving in many different directions or being distracted by other things happening around them. This can also lead to difficulties in relationships because communication, including listening skills, is very important for healthy relationships.
Another reason that people with ADHD can have poor listening skills is that they may be talking nonstop. Some people diagnosed with the disorder have a tendency to interrupt others.
If you struggle with listening skills due to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, you may have to work extra hard to focus on slowing down and waiting for your turn to talk. And you may need to work to actively engage in the conversation so you're not distracted by other things that are happening around you or thoughts running through your mind.
And you may even find it helpful to remind yourself that conversations involve more than one person, and you need to allow others to have the opportunity to engage as well. In this case, it could help focus on asking questions of the other person to let them have a chance to be involved in the conversation.
Starting Tasks But Not Finishing Them
People with ADHD may struggle to finish projects that they start. It doesn't mean that they don't know how to do it. It could just be that they are doing too many things at once. One of the tendencies that some people have is to begin multiple projects because they get distracted with another one when they are in the middle of one. If they have hyperactivity, they may like the excitement and feeling of having many things going at once. However, once they get in the middle of it, it becomes more exciting to move on to another instead of finishing with the current one.
An additional reason people with ADHD may struggle with not competing tasks is that they can also struggle with organization. This can make it difficult to know what steps need to come next, and it can also make it easier to drop the ball on projects.
Several different factors can cause those with ADHD to procrastinate. The first is that they may just be distracted from getting started. There are other things that they would rather do, and they end up putting off things they should be doing.
Another reason why some struggle is that they become paralyzed with the feeling of being overwhelmed. They may feel like there is too much to do, and they just aren’t sure what needs to happen first. When this happens, the pressure continues to build, but that only causes the person to procrastinate.
Difficulty Controlling Emotions
Those living with ADHD may struggle with handling their emotions. It’s believed that they may experience more intense levels of emotions or that they can last for prolonged periods of time. They may grow frustrated quickly or worry more often than others. They can get overly excited and have a hard time calming down when needed.
While these emotions may show more strongly in children with ADHD before they learn how to control them, you may also see adults with ADHD that struggle to handle their emotions.
The positive Side Of ADHD
While there is a lot of attention to the negative behaviors associated with ADHD, there is a positive side to the disorder. Many of the symptoms that a person experiences can also be viewed as strengths in the right situation.
For example, some people diagnosed with ADHD struggle with being hyper-focused. While there are times when this can be a disadvantage, it can also be an advantage in the right situation, such as while working on a project. Where others may quit when things get hard, a hyper-focused person may be needed to help push through an obstacle to find the solution.
Creativity is another benefit that can come with ADHD. Some people with the diagnosis tend to be highly creative. They can also be spontaneous and energetic. These are all traits that can be beneficial when used in the right way.
It’s believed that when someone with ADHD learns how to use the traits associated with the disorder to their benefit, it can help them be successful leaders who stand out in their industries.
As you can see some many different symptoms and behaviors can be connected with ADHD. If you recognize some of these in yourself and wonder if ADHD may be something you’re struggling with, you can take this online ADHD quiz to see if you’re at risk. This is a good first step in identifying your challenges and learning the best treatment options for you.