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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: What Is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common condition that affects children and adolescents and can continue into adulthood for some.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that 3% to 5% of children have ADHD. Some experts, though, say ADHD may occurs in 8% to 10% of school-aged children. Some experts also question whether kids really outgrow ADHD. What that means is that this disorder may be more common in adults than previously thought.

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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Causes of ADHD

The exact causes of ADHD are not known. Experts do know that ADHD has a strong genetic component. In addition, they think that genes that control the levels or functioning of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters seem to be different in those with ADHD. In some cases, though, there is no genetic link to ADHD, but other common behaviors,  such as smoking or drinking during pregnancy, as well as other obstetrical complications have been linked to ADHD in children. Babies with low...

Read the Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Causes of ADHD article > >

Children with ADHD generally have problems paying attention or concentrating. They can't seem to follow directions and are easily bored or frustrated with tasks. They also tend to move constantly and are impulsive, not stopping to think before they act. These behaviors can be normal in children. But they occur more often than usual and are more severe in a child with ADHD.

The behaviors that are common with ADHD interfere with a child's ability to function at school and at home.

Adults with ADHD may have difficulty with time management, organizational skills, goal setting, and employment. They may also have problems with relationships, self-esteem, and addictions.

What are ADHD symptoms in children?

Symptoms of ADHD in children are generally grouped into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

Inattention -- A child with ADHD:

  • Is easily distracted
  • Does not follow directions or finish tasks
  • Does not appear to be listening when someone is speaking
  • Does not pay attention and makes careless mistakes
  • Is forgetful about daily activities
  • Has problems organizing daily tasks
  • Avoids or dislikes activities that require sitting still or a sustained effort
  • Often loses things, including personal items
  • Has a tendency to daydream

Hyperactivity -- A child with ADHD:

  • Often squirms, fidgets, or bounces when sitting
  • Does not stay seated as expected
  • Has difficulty playing quietly
  • Is always moving, such as running or climbing on things (In teens and adults, this is more commonly described as a sense of restlessness)
  • Talks excessively

Impulsivity -- A child with ADHD:

  • Has difficulty waiting for his or her turn
  • Blurts out answers before the question has been completed
  • Often interrupts others

For in depth information, see WebMD's ADHD in Children.

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What symptoms of ADHD does your child have?