Do you often find yourself struggling with starting and completing tasks? Do you get distracted easily, or have trouble sitting in the same spot for a long time?
If you’re asking these questions just like I was, you could have ADHD. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (or ADHD) is a condition that makes it hard to focus. It affects up to 11 percent of the U.S. population. As people become more aware of ADHD, there’s more of a mental health and wellness spotlight on this condition.
As a person with ADHD, I want to share some of the telltale symptoms of ADHD that I—and many people who have ADHD—experience every day. Of course, ADHD has many symptoms, and they vary from person to person. But here are some of the most common ones.
Struggling to start or finish tasks: Sometimes no matter how small a task is, you might find it extremely difficult to finish—or even start. Writing a short email can seem as daunting as climbing a mountain or running a marathon.
Absentmindedness: You might fall behind on work or tasks, or even feel detached when trying to complete them. You may occasionally or frequently forget work that you have to do, and need constant reminders.
Trouble staying still: You may feel uncomfortable sitting in one spot for extended periods. Or you might give yourself excuses to get up and do something else that involves moving. Some examples are going on frequent bathroom breaks while at school, or walking to your refrigerator every 30 minutes while trying to write an essay at home.
Trouble paying attention: It’s easy for you to “zone out” while someone is talking to you, even if it’s about something important. Whether it’s a meeting with your boss or a lecture that your teacher or professor is giving, you easily slip in and out of attention and wander off to other thoughts.
Interrupting others mid-conversation: When having a conversation with someone, you frequently feel the need to interrupt. You may feel like completing their thoughts or sentences to show them that you agree or understand. Or you may interrupt because you feel like you’ll forget what you want to say by the time they’re finished talking.
Impulsiveness: You tend to be impulsive when making decisions. You may not think carefully about your options when making decisions. You often realize that you haven’t made the right choice—after the decision has already been made.
Disorganization and problems prioritizing: Your thoughts feel very disorganized when you have several things to do. This can sometimes hurt your ability to focus on things one by one to get them done. You find yourself jumping between tasks without completing any of them, and you find it difficult to prioritize tasks based on their importance.
Poor time management: You find it extremely difficult to manage your time and make a plan. You might find yourself making excuses to take small breaks that end up wasting your day, like scrolling through social media or watching a TV show.
Becoming frustrated easily: You may find yourself losing interest in a task if it becomes hard to complete. You lack the patience that some tasks require. You may get frustrated and give up when you don’t get the results or progress that you expect.
If you feel like you experience many of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to someone. Only a professional can tell you if you have ADHD, but it can help to speak with people you trust, like friends or family.
One thing you can do: Keep a journal of what you experience. This can be useful to help you understand yourself. And you can refer to it if you decide to talk to a professional about ADHD. Learn more about how ADHD is diagnosed.