Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Introduction

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood, affecting 8 - 12% of school-aged children. Although many people sometimes have difficulty sitting still, paying attention, or controlling impulsive behavior, people with ADHD find that these symptoms greatly interfere with everyday life. Generally, these symptoms appear before age 7 and can lead to problems in school and in social settings. One- to two-thirds of all children with ADHD continue to have symptoms when they grow up. A diagnosis can be controversial, since there are no lab tests for ADHD, and no objective way to measure a child's behavior. There is no best way to treat ADHD, however, experts agree that taking action early can improve a child's educational and social development.

Signs and Symptoms

A person is diagnosed with ADHD if they have at least 6 symptoms from the following categories, lasting for at least 2 months. In diagnosing children, the symptoms must appear before age 7, and pose a significant challenge to everyday functioning in at least 2 areas of life (usually home and school). Most children do not show all the symptoms, and they may be different in boys and girls (boys may be more hyperactive and girls more inattentive).

Inattention

  • Fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish tasks
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as school work)
  • Loses things needed for tasks or activities
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful in daily activities

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms when seated
  • Does not remain seated when expected to
  • Runs or climbs excessively in inappropriate situations (in teens or adults, may be feelings of restlessness)
  • Has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • Acts as if "driven by a motor"
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers before questions are completed
  • Has difficulty waiting his or her turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others
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