What is High Functioning ADHD? Understanding the Condition and its Signs

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High Functioning ADHD is a prevalent condition, unlike the stereotypical portrayal of ADHD as a hyperactive and distractible disorder. It can be challenging to understand and recognize, as the symptoms are often subtle or misunderstood. However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, individuals with High Functioning ADHD can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. 

What is High Functioning ADHD? 

High Functioning ADHD individuals have ADHD but can function relatively well despite their symptoms. They usually learn to compensate for their symptoms through practical coping tools and possess high intelligence or exceptional skills in certain areas.

However, despite their apparent success, individuals with this condition may still experience significant challenges related to their High Functioning ADHD symptoms, including difficulty sustaining attention, completing tasks, and managing emotions. These challenges may not be readily apparent to others. The experience of High Functioning ADHD can be complex, and seeking a proper diagnosis and treatment plan can help people better understand and manage their symptoms.

How Does it Differ from other Types of ADHD? 

ADHD and High Functioning ADHD share many commonalities, as they are variations of the same disorder. While similar symptoms, such as inattention, characterize both ADHD and High Functioning ADHD, the types of symptoms differ. High Functioning ADHD may be more difficult to diagnose and recognize, which can result in a delayed diagnosis and treatment. Over time, it can impact the individual’s functioning and overall well-being.

While individuals with ADHD and High Functioning ADHD may be at increased risk for co-occurring conditions, the specific co-occurring conditions may differ. For example, individuals with High Functioning ADHD may be more likely to have anxiety or depression. In contrast, individuals with ADHD may be more likely to have conduct or behavioral disorders.

What are the causes of High Functioning ADHD? 

The exact causes of High Functioning ADHD are not fully understood, but research suggests that a combination of factors may play a role. 


ADHD is known to run in families. Studies have identified several genes associated with ADHD, including genes related to dopamine regulation. This neurotransmitter plays a key role in concentration and reward processing.


Exposure to certain environmental factors, such as prenatal alcohol or tobacco use, premature birth, low birth weight, and high levels of stress or trauma, may increase the risk of developing High Functioning ADHD.


Individuals with ADHD may have different brain structures and functions than those without ADHD. For example, individuals with ADHD may have decreased activity in certain areas of the brain that are important for attention and self-regulation.


High Functioning ADHD may develop during childhood or adolescence. While emotional development and other developmental issues may impact the severity of symptoms, the underlying neurological differences in the brain that contribute to ADHD are present from an early age.

Symptoms of High Functioning ADHD

High Functioning ADHD is a subtype of ADHD that is characterized by symptoms that are not as severe but still interfere with daily functioning. The following signs of High Functioning ADHD can vary from person to person, but some common symptoms may include:


Inattention is a key symptom of ADHD. It can affect individuals with ADHD and High Functioning ADHD. However, the severity and impact of inattention can vary. Typically, they may need help with focusing on and organizing tasks and they are easily distracted by external stimuli or their thoughts. They also lose things and tend to be forgetful.


While individuals with ADHD may struggle with hyperactivity, individuals with High Functioning ADHD may experience hyperfocus, which is the ability to focus intently on a particular task or topic for an extended period of time, often to the exclusion of other tasks. Hyperfocus can be both a positive and negative aspect. It can help individuals accomplish tasks, but it can also make it difficult to switch focus, which can lead to procrastination or neglect of other important activities.

Time management

ADHD and High Functioning ADHD can both affect time management skills, but the severity and impact differ. People usually struggle to manage their time, estimate how long tasks will take, stay on schedule, and meet deadlines. Time management is a complex cognitive process. People with the condition may need to utilize these executive functions more effectively.

Anxiety and Depression

Difficulties managing symptoms of ADHD can lead to feelings of frustration, low self-esteem, and stress, which may increase the risk of developing anxiety or depression. They may experience chronic stress due to their challenges in managing and meeting expectations. Not everyone with ADHD will experience anxiety or depression, and not everyone with anxiety or depression will have ADHD. However, it’s not uncommon for these conditions to co-occur.

Final thoughts

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functioning skills such as attention, planning, and impulse control. With High Functioning ADHD in adults, there is often a deficiency in the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which play a role in regulating attention and impulse control.

High Functioning ADHD individuals have learned to cope with their symptoms by using various strategies such as:

  1. Establishing a consistent routine can help with time management and reduce the likelihood of forgetting important tasks or appointments.
  2. Breaking tasks into manageable steps lessens feelings of being overwhelmed and the tasks are more achievable.
  3. Calendars, to-do lists, and reminders can help keep track of tasks and stay organized.
  4. Eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep can help manage ADHD symptoms and improve overall well-being.
  5. Joining a support group, connecting with a therapist or coach, or talking to friends or family members can provide additional support and resources for managing ADHD.

It’s important to seek help for High Functioning ADHD if it impacts your daily life or causes significant distress. Signs that you may need professional help include difficulty with time management and organization, inability to focus or complete tasks, impulsivity, forgetfulness, and other issues that contribute to problems with relationships or work performance problems. A mental health professional can provide a formal diagnosis and recommend treatment options, including medication, therapy, or lifestyle changes.

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