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ADHD in Children Health Center

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When to Call the Doctor About ADHD

Many parents watch as their child struggles with sitting still, being attentive, and remembering important events. Parents may wonder whether the very active child has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and if it's time to call the doctor about ADHD.

A child, teenager, or adult with ADHD symptoms should always see a professional. That way he or she can get the needed assistance to lead a productive and satisfying life. If your child or someone you love is having problems with inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity, talk to your doctor. Discuss these ADHD symptoms, and ask if treatment is warranted.

What causes ADHD?

There is no known cause of ADHD. There is, though, research underway to determine the cause. Many experts say that some children are born with a genetic predisposition for this disorder. Others believe that ADHD is associated with environmental and social factors. And still others maintain that prenatal conditions or a brain injury after birth is the likely cause of ADHD.

Whatever the cause or causes, for those living with ADHD, life isn't easy. Children, adolescents, and even adults with ADHD struggle daily. Because of ADHD they need to cope with learning difficulties, relationship problems, and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Does my child need help for ADHD?

The three key difficulties for those with ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Of course, many people struggle with one or more of these difficulties at some point in their life. Yet for someone with ADHD, getting through a normal daily routine with ADHD symptoms is a true challenge. The chart below summarizes the primary symptoms of ADHD.

Symptoms of ADHD




Fails to pay attention, makes careless mistakes

Fidgets, squirms, has trouble remaining seated

Blurts out answers, does not wait for his or her own turn to speak

Does not appear to listen

Runs about or moves in inappropriate situations

Interrupts others

Does not follow through on tasks, is unorganized


Has trouble playing quietly


Loses things, is easily distracted and forgetful


Excessive talking



The American Psychiatric Association defined the criteria for diagnosing ADHD. Those criteria appear in the APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-V).

For an ADHD diagnosis:

  • A child must display symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, in various combinations for at least six months.
  • The symptoms need to be disruptive and developmentally inappropriate.
  • At least some of the symptoms need to have appeared before age 12.
  • The symptoms need to cause impairment in at least two settings in the child's life, for example school, work, home, or relationships with family and peers.

For a more detailed and comprehensive analysis of your child's behavior, it's important to talk to your child's pediatrician or health care provider. Currently, ADHD assessments are not recommended for children under 6 years of age. Research on preschoolers is being done to learn more about early screening for children at risk of ADHD. If your preschooler displays signs of ADHD, talk to your health care provider. Your doctor may advise you to observe and track your child's symptoms over time.

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