ADHD symptoms in children

Each ADHD has a specific pattern of symptoms. The full name of the disorder is "Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder" – thus naming two of the typical core symptoms. A third major symptom to occur may be impulsivity. Additionally, there may be various secondary symptoms, such as aggressive or disorganised behaviour. Frequently, there are also additional so-called "comorbid" disorders, such as dyslexia or social conduct disorder.

Main symptoms with ADHD

ADHD is characterised by three core symptoms:

Since ADHD can manifest itself very differently, the following ADHD types are distinguished:

Fidgety Phil Hyperactive-impulsive type
Dreamer Inattentive type
Mixed type Has all three major symptoms approximately equally pronounced

How does ADHD present itself?

The following signs may be indicative of ADHD, but it's not an absolute:

The child...

  • … has a strong urge to move and seems being driven
  • … cannot sit still, permanently climbs around or, in school, gets up from its chair/leaves the classroom
  • … talks excessively
  • … cannot play or work in quiet
  • … blurts out answers and interrupts others
  • … is impatient and cannot wait its turn
  • … has difficulties concentrating on a game or an assignment
  • … cannot complete an assignment
  • … cannot listen
  • … cannot get organised
  • … constantly loses or misplaces things
  • … reluctantly takes up assignments for which a prolonged mental effort is required

In children of preschool age, ADHD symptoms may appear different from those, for example, of primary school age, or in teenagers. Find out more

Secondary symptoms

In addition to the main characteristics, secondary symptoms generally occur with ADHD. They can also appear in entirely different combinations and manifestations.

    • Emotional lability
    • Disorganisation
    • Irritability
    • Forgetfulness
    • Academic performance deficits
    • Temper tantrums and aggressivity
    • Low frustration tolerance
Find out more about the secondary symptoms
Good to know: Furthermore, especially adolescents and adults with ADHD frequently also have depressions, social phobias and addictive behaviour. However, these problems are not to be considered secondary symptoms of ADHD but rather as autonomous, "comorbid" conditions generally requiring an additional, specific treatment.

Primarily inattentive type

When children have an attention deficit disorder, but do not suffer from the symptom of hyperactivity, this is called ADHD of the primarily inattentive type. The following characteristics are typical for it:

  • Unconcentrated
  • Easily distractable
  • Seems absent/dreaming
  • In case of conflicts, has withdrawal reaction
  • Shows fears and feelings of guilt
  • Completes assignments slowly
  • Wants to remain inconspicuous
  • Forgets a lot
  • Weeps quickly
Prerequisites for diagnosis DOES MY CHILD HAVE ADHD?
  • Symptoms occurred already before age seven and
  • permanently exist for more than 6 months.

An experienced paediatrician or a child and adolescent psychiatrist may provide the diagnosis.

Good to know: Whether ADHD requires treatment especially depends on the extent of which the child is impaired by the symptoms in school, in its family life and its age-specific development.

More on treatment