ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a developmental and behavioral disorder that affects 3% to 7% of all school-age children. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 5.5% per year from 2003 to 2007.
Although ADHD usually manifests in childhood, it can persist into adulthood, causing difficulties at home, school, and work if it is not recognized and treated.
The symptoms of ADHD include inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity
that are inappropriate for age.
There are three different types of ADHD. Combined ADHD (the most common
type) includes all of the symptoms. Inattentive ADHD is marked by impaired
attention and concentration and hyperactive-impulsive type is marked by
hyperactivity without inattentiveness.
To help recognize ADHD, understand that some symptoms that cause impairment
must be present before age seven years and some impairment from the symptoms
must be present in more than one setting (like home and school or home and
The symptoms of ADHD include inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity that are inappropriate for a person's age level.
Children who have ADHD often:
Are easily distracted by sights and sounds in their environment.
Are unable to concentrate for long periods of time on low stimulation tasks (homework vs. video games)
Are restless and impulsive
Have a tendency to daydream
Are slow to complete tasks
Adults who have ADHD often:
Miss work deadlines
Appear hectic and disorganized
Have significant problems prioritizing
Symptoms of ADHD in adults and children vary by individual and range from mild to severe.
What Causes ADHD?
The exact cause of ADHD isn't known. Experts do know that there are changes in the brains of people with the condition. It is not caused by home or school situations or by poor parenting.
How Is ADHD Diagnosed?
There is no single test used to diagnose ADHD. It is diagnosed after a child has shown some or all of symptoms of ADHD on a regular basis for more than 6 months.
The diagnosis of ADHD involves the gathering of information from several sources, including school, caregivers, and parents. The health care provider will consider how a child's behavior compares with that of other children the same age.
The health care provider will do a physical exam to look for any medical problems that may affect a child's behavior. A child may also be given neurological testing and/or a noninvasive brain scan.
ADHD in adults is diagnosed using a similar process.
How Is ADHD Treated?
Although there is no cure for ADHD, treatment can help control symptoms. There are several types of treatments available.
Stimulants for ADHD Treatment
Stimulant medications (or psychostimulants) have been used to successfully treat ADHD symptoms for many years. Stimulants are used to treat both moderate and severe ADHD in adults and children over age 6, with the exception of Adderall, Dexedrine, and Dextrostat, which can be safely used in children as young as age 3.