ADHD 101 – What is it, and what are the symptoms

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood. It sometimes persists even in adulthood for some people. Historically, more boys than girls are diagnosed with ADHD, though, thankfully, that is changing. Many symptoms of ADHD are common, even in people without ADHD but not to the same degree and intensity.


Many people with ADHD can relate to feeling like they are different from their peers but still try their best to fit in and blend in

Though it is recommended, you do not have to read this article in the order it is written. Feel free to skip ahead to the section you are most curious about

What is ADHD?

As mentioned, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. According to the EPA, neurodevelopmental disorders affect the development of the nervous system and the brain and how they function. Therefore, they can affect different aspects of the affected persons’ life, such as how they learn, emotional regulation, self-control, communication, and many more. 

Common examples of neurodevelopmental disorders include Autism Spectrum Disorder, learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia, and cerebral palsy. 

The degree of the effect of neurodevelopmental disorders varies from person to person. It is, therefore, common to find people with one disorder presenting differently and having different talents and challenges. 

What causes neurodevelopmental disorders?

Current research is yet to uncover a definite cause of neurodevelopmental disorders. Instead, they posit that an interplay between several factors, such as genetic, environmental, and developmental factors,s may cause them. If you’re interested in learning more about the causes of ADHD specifically, you can check out the article I wrote on this topic here. That article also looks at some common misconceptions about the causes of ADHD.  

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Due to the nature of ADHD, diagnosis is often done through questionnaires and forms rather than ‘intrusive’ medical tests

ADHD is considered a mental disorder and is therefore diagnosed using the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM). Doctors and psychologists currently use the fifth version of the DSM or the DSM-5. According to the DSM-5, the symptoms of ADHD fall under three core symptoms, namely Impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention. In a future article, we will look at the DSMV diagnostic criteria more closely, but for this article, we shall only give you an overview. 

The three core ADHD symptoms.

As mentioned above, there are three core ADHD symptoms from which the other ADHD symptoms stem. Let’s look at them briefly.

Distractibility, as demonstrated in this picture, is a common symptom of ADHD resulting from a combination of several Executive function failures.


Many people think that inattention means the inability to concentrate. However, as Dr. Russel Barkely, one of the lead experts in ADHD, points out, people with ADHD don’t struggle with being focused but with regulating their attention, so they focus on the right things. This is an important distinction because it then debunks the idea that ADHDers need to work harder at it. 


When many people think of ‘hyperactivity’, they think of the kids in school that couldn’t stay in one place or how some kids behave when they’ve had too much sugar. While this is one expression of hyperactivity, it is not the only way. For many people with ADHD, and especially for adults, hyperactivity feels more like restlessness. 

This may express itself as racing thoughts (you will often hear the ADHDer complain that their minds just never stop, or as talking too much. The physical representation of hyperactivity may also look like squirming, fidgeting, drumming or restless movements of the legs. 


Impulsivity, sometimes called response inhibition, may look like a lack of discipline to the outsider, but for the ADHDer, it is so much more. ADHDers have problems regulating their behavior like their neurotypical peers do. This may look like interrupting conversations and engaging in risky behavior. 

Other symptoms of ADHD

The three core symptoms of ADHD often lead to the other symptoms of ADHD. Some of the ‘behavioral quirks’ of ADHDers can often be attributed to one or a combination of the three core ADHD symptoms. Let’s look at some examples below. 

Losing track of time is one common symptom of ADHD, and it is often a result of time blindness
  • Disorganization
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood dysregulation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Disrupted relationships
  • Poor time management
  • Daydreaming a lot
  • Make careless mistakes 
  • Talking too much, etc. 

Please note that this is not a conclusive list of ADHD symptoms. 


ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how those with its function and interact with others in their environment. ADHD is diagnosed using the Diagnostics Statistical Manual or, more specifically, the DSM-5, the 5th edition of the manual. The symptoms of ADHD are classified into three groups, namely impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention. 

This article falls under a series of articles aimed at educating the general public on what ADHD is and how the disorder affects those diagnosed. Feel free to comment on what you’d like to learn next. Also, share the article with anyone you feel may be interested in learning about the topic. 

If you are looking for a coach to assist you in managing your ADHD or in filling executive function deficits, email me or book a free 30 min consultation using the button below. Not sure what executive functions are? Check out this article I wrote on it.

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Disclaimer:If you notice some of the symptoms in this article in yourself, please seek the counsel of a certified psychologist or psychiatrist to get the proper diagnosis. Only they have the authority to diagnose the disorder. My articles are meant to educate, not diagnose and are based on my research, personal experiences, and those of people I interact with with the disorder.

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