Mental illness is more common than most people think. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 45 million American adults battle mental health disorders. But adults are not the only ones who struggle. The CDC reports that in 2012, nearly 11 percent of all American children, ages 4 to 17 had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.1

ADHD Symptoms

The National Institute on Mental Health classifies ADHD as a condition that affects the mood, cognitive abilities and behavior of the diagnosed.2 Depending on the type of ADHD a patient has, they may be markedly overactive and unable to calm themselves at times. Others may have serious difficulty paying attention to the tasks even when it’s an activity they are interested in. For a select group, both sides of the spectrum apply.

The symptoms of ADHD are very diverse and depend on the individual. There are several subtypes of ADHD. These are: hyperactive impulsive, inattentive and combined. The symptoms of each of these subtypes include the following:

Hyperactive-Impulsive-

  • Fidget and squirm in their seats
  • Leave their seats in situations when staying seated is expected, such as in the classroom or in the office
  • Run or dash around or climb in situations where it is inappropriate or, in teens and adults, often feel restless
  • Be unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly
  • Be constantly in motion or “on the go,” or act as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talk nonstop
  • Blurt out an answer before a question has been completed, finish other people’s sentences, or speak without waiting for a turn in conversation
  • Have trouble waiting his or her turn
  • Interrupt or intrude on others, for example in conversations, games, or activities3

Inattentive-

  • Overlook or miss details, make careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities
  • Have problems sustaining attention in tasks or play, including conversations, lectures, or lengthy reading
  • Not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Not follow through on instructions and fail to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace or start tasks but quickly lose focus and get easily sidetracked
  • Have problems organizing tasks and activities, such as what to do in sequence, keeping materials and belongings in order, having messy work and poor time management, and failing to meet deadlines
  • Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork or homework, or for teens and older adults, preparing reports, completing forms or reviewing lengthy papers
  • Lose things necessary for tasks or activities, such as school supplies, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, and cell phones
  • Be easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
  • Be forgetful in daily activities, such as chores, errands, returning calls, and keeping appointments4

Combined-

  • People with this type of ADHD exhibit behaviors of both hyperactive/impulsive and inattentive. Combined is the most common type of the disorder.5

To be diagnosed with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, the patient must present with at least six symptoms that are noted in the hyperactive category and fewer than six in the inattentive category. For those diagnosed with the inattentive type of ADHD, the inverse applies. There must be at least six symptoms present in both categories to receive a combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive diagnosis.

Causes and Treatment

Cabins at Black Bear LodgeThe root cause of ADHD is still unknown, but it is thought to stem from a combination of both environmental and genetic influences. Some research points to the disorder running in families while others note specific risk factors, such as exposure to toxic substances during prenatal development.

ADHD is commonly seen and diagnosed in the substance-abusing population. Many drug and alcohol abusers engage in these destructive behaviors in an effort to self medicate or hide the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental illness such as ADHD. Treatment for ADHD includes age-appropriate psychotherapy and medication. As with other mental illnesses, early diagnosis and treatment is key to living a normal and productive life. Dual diagnosis treatment facilities specialize in diagnosis and treating mental illness and addiction. Proper diagnosis and simultaneous treatment of these two disorders greatly increases the likelihood of a successful recovery.

Finding Help for ADHD and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse and mental illness often go hand in hand. The proper diagnosis and treatment of these co-occurring disorders offers hope for a life free from substance abuse. If you or a loved one struggles with drug abuse and you suspect mental illness is part of the problem, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.


1Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 20 July 2017.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Williams, Penny. “ADHD vs. ADD: The Three Types of Attention Deficit Disorder.” ADDitude. N.p., 13 July 2017. Web. 20 July 2017.