What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD in teenagers and young adults? 

Common symptoms of ADHD are difficulty concentrating, getting easily distracted and trouble getting organised. People with ADHD are often more restless and fidgety than other young people their age. This usually becomes obvious around 3-8 years old but may not be diagnosed until much later or even in adulthood. People with ADHD  are also often very energetic, full of ideas and can be tenacious. They may be flexible in their thinking and come up with creative solutions to problems. Many adults with ADHD can be very successful using these skills, but may still struggle with the organisational side.

ADHD symptoms can differ slightly in girls, who may sometimes (but not always) have more inattention and less hyperactivity. The structure of school and family can help children and teens with ADHD cope to some extent, so that symptoms may only become a real problem when they are more independent. In addition, children who have been through severe stress or trauma can develop similar problems, which can make diagnosis difficult.

Many people with ADHD have developed coping strategies such as keeping lots of lists and reminders, which mean that they can manage really well. Others might need some support or even medication. Medication sometimes makes a huge difference to people, but it can also have unpleasant side effects on mood, sleep and more so that not everybody with an ADHD diagnosis chooses to try to or to stay on medication. 

Common signs of ADHD in young people and adults

When to see your GP
A good place to start explaining some of the common features of ADHD 

Could I have ADHD? The Mix summarises what it is and how it might affect you.
Are you worried your child is not learning because they struggle to concentrate and are always restless? (MindEd)
Should I get my child tested for ADHD? A sensible check-list 
What’s it like to have adult ADHD? from the Royal College of Psychiatrists
Signs and symptoms of ADHD and information on treatments for ADHD This NHS page has a summary of ADHD, common signs, medications and other treatments
Trouble with focus in kids– your questions answered by the respected US charity
I’ve heard that ADHD and autism can be related-is that true?

I have a child with ADHD-parenting questions answered by an expert– watch this video where Clare who has a daughter with severe ADHD asks questions of Professor Anita Thaper.

This video made by CAMHS is for parents and teachers and explains more about ADHD. It gives advice on common pitfalls and how you can support a young person with ADHD in practical ways

More information about ADHD

  •  A downloadable booklet all about ADHD in children. It is designed for parents, adults living with ADHD and friends or carers. It contains some quotes from parents about how ADHD affected them. It has very practical advice on ways parents can help communicate with their children as well as what medication can be used. There is also information on how schools can help.
  • YoungMinds This is a much briefer summary of ADHD but contains information on medication and what you should be offered. It also has a good list of contacts for you and also for young people.
  • Getting organised if you have ADHD This is one of many lists of suggestions you can find online- much depends on the age of the person with the diagnosis and this one is aimed more at older teens and young adults.
  • Parenting support strategies for children with ADHD

Support groups

  • ADDIS (The National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service)
    Provides information and resources about ADHD and the variety of approaches that can help including behavioural therapy, medication, individual counselling, and special education provision. Also can link you to local support.
  • AADD-UK Lots of very practical advice on living with ADHD from driving regulations to organisational skills 

What about ADHD rating scales?

There are various rating scales available online such as the Conner’s scale or the SNAP-IV scale but these need to be used with a proper clinical assessment to be really useful as they can be misleading on their own. Parent questionnaires exist in short forms and long forms. 

  • Children The short Conners form is available here and the short SNAP-IV form here but the longer forms are usually sent to you together with a teacher’s questionnaire if your child has been referred for assessment. In some children (often girls) there may not be obvious symptoms of being hyperactive but they do struggle to focus, get organised or complete tasks. The short forms might be useful to do when you go to see your GP and could be sent with a referral if appropriate. 
  • Young people and adults ADHD can be very difficult for older children or adults as it can cause problems with concentration and focus, affecting study and work. However, there are many ways to help once the diagnosis has been made. This might include medication, counselling and special educational support if relevant. Medication can be used continuously or as needed e.g. for exams. Older adults often find their ADHD becomes easier to cope with as they learn techniques and strategies to help them. This self-assessment questionnaire here is for young adults, and although it is not enough to give you a diagnosis, it may help you decide whether to seek a referral to a specialist. Be aware that waiting times for assessments in adults may be very long.

Books on ADHD