Dr. Amen’s Adult ADHD Checklist


by Daniel G. Amen, MD – 

One of the most common ways I diagnose ADHD in adults is when parents reluctantly tell me that they have tried their child’s medication and that they found it very helpful. They report it helped them concentrate for longer periods of time. They became more organized and were less impulsive. Trying your child’s medication is not something I recommend!

Editor’s note: In conjunction with other diagnostic techniques, Dr. Amen uses the following general adult ADHD checklist to help further define ADHD symptoms.

Terms of Use

This checklist is not a tool for self-diagnosis. Its purpose is simply to help determine whether ADHD may be a factor in behavior. An actual diagnosis can be made only by an experienced professional. This educational material is made available courtesy of the Dr. Amen and ADD Resources. You may reprint this article for personal use only.

.To Use

  • Read the list of behaviors below and rate yourself (or the person you’re rating) on each.
  • It’s essential that Items #1, #6 and #7 are completed (those with *).
  • Use the following scale and place the appropriate number next to each item on the list.

0 = never

1 = rarely

2 = occasionally

3 = frequently

4 = very frequently

.Past History

 *1.  __  History of ADHD symptoms in childhood, such as distractibility, short attention span, impulsivity or restlessness. ADHD doesn’t start at age 30.
 2.  __  History of not living up to potential in school or work (report cards with comments
such as “not living up to potential”)
 3.  __  History of frequent behavior problems in school (mostly for males)
 4.  __  History of bedwetting past age 5
 5.  __  Family history of ADHD , learning problems, mood disorders or substance abuse problems

Short Attention Span/Distractibility

*6.  __  Short attention span, unless very interested in something

*7.  __  Easily distracted, tendency to drift away (although at times can be hyperfocused)
 8.  __  Lacks attention to detail, due to distractibility
 9.  __  Trouble listening carefully to directions
10.  __  Frequently misplaces things
11.  __   Skips around while reading, or goes to the end first, trouble staying on track
12.  __  Difficulty learning new games, because it is hard to stay on track during directions
13.  __  Easily distracted during sex, causing frequent breaks or turn-offs during lovemaking
14.  __  Poor listening skills
15.  __  Tendency to be easily bored (tunes out)


16.  __  Restlessness, constant motion, legs moving, fidgeting
17.  __  Has to be moving in order to think
18.  __  Trouble sitting still, such as trouble sitting in one place for too long, sitting at a desk job
for long periods, sitting through a movie
19.  __  An internal sense of anxiety or nervousness


20.  __  Impulsive, in words and/or actions (spending)
21.  __  Say just what comes to mind without considering its impact (tactless)

22.  __  Trouble going through established channels, trouble following proper procedure,
an attitude of “read the directions when all else fails”
23.  __  Impatient, low frustration tolerance
24.  __  A prisoner of the moment
25.  __  Frequent traffic violations
26.  __  Frequent, impulsive job changes
27.  __  Tendency to embarrass others
28.  __  Lying or stealing on impulse

Poor Organization

29.  __  Poor organization and planning, trouble maintaining an organized work/living area
30.  __  Chronically late or chronically in a hurry
31.  __  Often have piles of stuff
32.  __  Easily overwhelmed by tasks of daily living
33.  __  Poor financial management (late bills, check book a mess, spending unnecessary
money on late fees)

Problems Getting Started and Following Through

34.  __  Chronic procrastination or trouble getting started
35.  __  Starting projects but not finishing them, poor follow through
36.  __  Enthusiastic beginnings but poor endings
37.  __  Spends excessive time at work because of inefficiencies
38.  __  Inconsistent work performance

Negative Internal Feelings

39.  __  Chronic sense of under achievement, feeling you should be much further along in
your life than you are
40.  __  Chronic problems with self-esteem
41.  __  Sense of impending doom
42.  __  Mood swings
43.  __  Negativity
44.  __  Frequent feeling of demoralization or that things won’t work out for you

Relational Difficulties

45.  __  Trouble sustaining friendships or intimate relationships, promiscuity
46.  __  Trouble with intimacy
47.  __  Tendency to be immature
48.  __  Self-centered; immature interests
49.  __  Failure to see others’ needs or activities as important
50.  __  Lack of talking in a relationship
51.  __  Verbally abusive to others
52.  __  Prone to hysterical outburst
53.  __  Avoids group activities
54.  __  Trouble with authority

Short Fuse

55.  __  Quick responses to slights that are real or imagined
56.  __  Rage outbursts, short fuse

Frequent Search For High Stimulation

57.  __  Frequent search for high stimulation (bungee jumping, gambling, race track,
high stress jobs, ER doctors, doing many things at once, etc.)
58.  __  Tendency to seek conflict, be argumentative or to start disagreements for the fun of it

Tendency To Get Stuck (thoughts or behaviors)

59.  __  Tendency to worry needlessly and endlessly
60.  __  Tendency toward ADHD ictions (food, alcohol, drugs, work)

Switches Things Around

61.  __  Switches around numbers, letters or words
62.  __  Turn words around in conversations

Writing/Fine Motor Coordination Difficulties

63.  __  Poor writing skills (hard to get information from brain to pen)
64.  __  Poor handwriting, often prints
65.  __  Coordination difficulties

The Harder I Try The Worse It Gets

66.  __  Performance becomes worse under pressure.
67.  __  Test anxiety, or during tests your mind tends to go blank
68.  __  The harder you try, the worse it gets
69.  __  Work or schoolwork deteriorates under pressure
70.  __  Tendency to turn off or become stuck when asked questions in social situations
71.  __  Falls asleep or becomes tired while reading

Sleep/Wake Difficulties

72.  __  Difficulty falling asleep, may be due to too many thoughts at night
73.  __  Difficulty coming awake (may need coffee or other stimulant or activity
before feeling fully awake)

Low Energy

74.  __  Periods of low energy, especially early in the morning and in the afternoon
75.  __  Frequently feeling tired

Sensitive To Noise Or Touch

76.  __  Startles easily
77.  __  Sensitive to touch, clothes, noise and light

End of Checklist

When you finish, complete the following
Score for Item #1: _______ (Is it 4?)
Score for Item #6: _______ (Is it 4?)
Score for Item #7: _______ (Is it 4?)
Total Number of Items with a Score of Three (3) or Four (4): _______ (More than 20?)


Dr. Amen suggests that an indicator of a strong tendency toward ADHD is a score of 4 on Items #1, #6, and #7 and a score of 3 or 4 on more than 20 items.
Editor’s Note: If you believe your score indicates possible ADHD, then you might want to read other articles at our website about ADHD.


About the Author

AmenDaniel G. Amen, MD, is a child and adult psychiatrist, brain-imaging specialist, best-selling author, and founder of Amen Clinics.  Through his clinics, he has compiled a large database of functional brain scans for neuropsychiatry. Amen Clinics has locations in Newport Beach, California, San Francisco, California, Atlanta, Georgia, Reston, Virginia, Bellevue, Washington and New York City.
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