ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Definition

ADHD describes a group of behaviors that include difficulty paying attention, trouble sitting still, and/or acting hastily or impulsively. 

Overview and Facts

What is ADHD?

It's a brain disorder marked by ongoing patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsive behavior that interferes with functioning or development. There are three basic types of ADHD:

  • Inattentive Type
  • Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
  • Combined Type (most common). Person has both Inattentive Type and Hyperactive-Impulsive Type.
What Causes ADHD?

The exact cause or causes of ADHD are not known. Researchers believe possible causes include:

  • genetics/heredity
  • problems with brain structure and/or chemistry
  • the environment—for example prenatal exposure to alcohol or tobacco smoke
  • brain injury—concussion, for example.
What are the Symptoms of ADHD?

Symptoms can change over time, and can include:

  • Inattention--for example, difficulty concentrating or sticking with one activity, trouble with organization or completing tasks, difficulty following directions, getting easily bored, etc.
  • Impulsivity--for example, interrupts others, has trouble waiting for turns, overreacts to situations, does not understand consequences of actions.
  • Hyperactivity--for example, fidgeting, talking constantly, always moving about (even when seated), trouble sitting still during meals, etc.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?

No single test can be used to diagnose ADHD. A complete medical exam should be performed to rule out issues such as hearing problems, infection, anxiety, etc. Once medical issues have been ruled out your child's physician should consider a referral to a mental health professional who will gather information from a variety of sources (school records, medical records, caregivers, etc.). He or she may also gather information using:

  • questionnaires
  • behavioral rating forms
  • ADHD rating scales
  • tests to measure attention span
  • observation (in your child's school, for example).
Are Certain Conditions Related to ADHD?

Conditions that often accompany ADHD include:

  • learning disabilities
  • muscle or vocal tics
  • social communication disorder
  • auditory processing disorder
  • behavioral problems (for example, oppositional defiant disorder)
  • mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
How is ADHD Treated?

Treatment for ADHD may involve one or more of the following:

  • medication (stimulant medications, for example, can be helpful in controlling symptoms)
  • therapy (for example, psychotherapy or behavior therapy)
  • support an accommodations through your child's school.
What's the Difference Between ADHD and ADD?

ADD is simply considered an outdated term for ADHD.

Does ADHD Affect Adults?

Yes. While many children with ADHD outgrow the condition, some do not. Any adult who has ADHD had it as a child. Discovering you have ADHD later in life means the condition was simply never diagnosed when you were a child. Effective treatments for adults with ADHD include medication, counseling, and working with a life coach.