ADHD: Symptoms

There is not one unique symptom that points to ADHD. Rather, it is a combination of several character traits that are typical of "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" (ADHD).

Core symptoms and secondary symptoms of ADHD

Experts distinguish between core symptoms and secondary symptoms of ADHD.

The three core symptoms are attention disorders, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Typical secondary symptoms are disorganisation and emotional symptoms (such as rapid mood changes or reduced ability to cope under stress).

Core Symptoms
Secondary Symptoms
    • Mood Disorders
    • Decreased Emotional Control
    • Decreased Tolerance to Stress
    • Disorganisation
    • Forgetfulness*
    • Impatience*
    • Compulsive Shopping*
    • Addiction Tendency*
    • Prone to Overstimulation*
  • Lern more about the secondary symptoms
* No classic symptom, but often seen in ADHD patients.

Different forms of ADHD

ADHD is not the same for everyone. Not all the core symptoms need to be present in all sufferers.

Accordingly, distinctions are made between different forms of ADHD in adults:

Inattentive-type ADHD
  • Attention disorders
  • Concentration disorders
Combined-type ADHD
  • Attention disorders
  • Concentration disorders
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsiveness

Frequency of the symptoms occurring with ADHD in adults:


Attention disorders


attention disorders



Are there differences in the symptoms of ADHD in adults and children?

The symptoms of ADHD can change over the course of time. For example, by adulthood many ADHD patients have learned to better control their impulsiveness. Hyperactivity, which can be pronounced in childhood, often turns into an inner turmoil in adults.
However, some form of attention disorder for almost all ADHD sufferers – regardless of the age group – is a very central and usually also very stressful symptom that often causes problems in everyday work.

Patrick L. (23 years old) It is hard for me to sit quietly for a long period. I'm always a live wire. I feel most comfortable when I can move around. It is very difficult for me to rest in the evenings. I like exciting activities. I'm always looking for a buzz. I like driving my car fast. Nothing is quick enough for me.
Melanie B. (43 years old) I often offend other people by speaking before I think. I'm not very good at waiting. Other people say that I'm impatient. I often make promises without first thinking about whether or not I can keep them. Everything has to be done here and now. I spend too much money because I often spontaneously buy something I like. People tell me I do and say things without thinking in advance. I always make decisions based on my gut feeling. I hardly ever plan things.