What is ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.
- Inattention means a person wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized; and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
- Hyperactivity means a person seems to move about constantly, including in situations in which it is not appropriate; or excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, it may be extreme restlessness or wearing others out with constant activity.
- Impulsivity means a person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.
Symptoms in Children
Symptoms are grouped into three categories:
Inattention. A child with ADHD:
- Is easily distracted
- Doesn’t follow directions or finish tasks
- Doesn’t appear to be listening
- Doesn’t pay attention and makes careless mistakes
- Forgets about daily activities
- Has problems organizing daily tasks
- Doesn’t like to do things that require sitting still
- Often loses things
- Tends to daydream
Hyperactivity. A child with ADHD:
- Often squirms, fidgets, or bounces when sitting
- Doesn’t stay seated
- Has trouble playing quietly
- Is always moving, such as running or climbing on things (In teens and adults, this is more commonly described as restlessness.)
- Talks excessively
- Is always “on the go” as if “driven by a motor”
Impulsivity. A child with ADHD:
- Has trouble waiting for his or her turn
- Blurts out answers
- Interrupts others
Symptoms in Adults
Symptoms of ADHD may change as a person gets older. They include:
Diagnosis in Children
Diagnosing ADHD in children depends on a set of strict criteria. To be diagnosed with ADHD, your child must have 6 or more symptoms of inattentiveness, or 6 or more symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
To be diagnosed with ADHD, your child must also have:
- been displaying symptoms continuously for at least 6 months
- started to show symptoms before the age of 12
- been showing symptoms in at least 2 different settings – for example, at home and at school, to rule out the possibility that the behavior is just a reaction to certain teachers or to parental control
- symptoms that make their lives considerably more difficult on a social, academic or occupational level
- symptoms that are not just part of a developmental disorder or difficult phase, and are not better accounted for by another condition
Diagnosis in Adults
ADHD often lasts into adulthood. To diagnose ADHD in adults and adolescents age 17 or older, only 5 symptoms are needed instead of the 6 needed for younger children. Symptoms might look different at older ages. For example, in adults, hyperactivity may appear as extreme restlessness or wearing others out with their activity.
For an adult to be diagnosed with ADHD, their symptoms should also have a moderate effect on different areas of their life, such as:
- underachieving at work or in education
- driving dangerously
- difficulty making or keeping friends
- difficulty in relationships with partners
Treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can help relieve the symptoms and make the condition much less of a problem in day-to-day life.
ADHD can be treated using medication or therapy, but a combination of both is often best.
Treatment is usually arranged by a specialist, such as a paediatrician or psychiatrist, although the condition may be monitored by your GP.
There are 5 types of medication licensed for the treatment of ADHD:
As well as taking medication, different therapies can be useful in treating ADHD in children, teenagers and adults. Therapy is also effective in treating additional problems, such as conduct or anxiety disorders, that may appear with ADHD.
Some of the therapies that may be used are outlined below.
Psychoeducation means you or your child will be encouraged to discuss ADHD and its effects. It can help children, teenagers and adults make sense of being diagnosed with ADHD and can help you to cope and live with the condition.
Behavior therapy provides support for carers of children with ADHD and may involve teachers as well as parents. Behavior therapy usually involves behavior management, which uses a system of rewards to encourage your child to try to control their ADHD.
Parent training and education programmes
If your child has ADHD, specially tailored parent training and education programmes can help you learn specific ways of talking to your child, and playing and working with them to improve their attention and behavior.
Social skills training
Social skills training involves your child taking part in role-play situations and aims to teach them how to behave in social situations by learning how their behavior affects others.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. A therapist would try to change how your child feels about a situation, which would in turn potentially change their behavior.
CBT can be carried out with a therapist individually or in a group.
You Are Not Alone
The following famous people have suffered from ADHD
- Justin Timberlake – The Grammy-winning singer said in an interview with Collider.com that he has “ADD mixed with OCD”. That didn’t stop him from bringing sexy back—or writing hit after hit.
- Will Smith – Actor, singer and one of Parenting.com’s hot celeb dads said on the Celebrities with Diseases website that growing up, he was the “fun one who had trouble paying attention”, and that today, he would’ve been diagnosed with ADHD. He also recalls having trouble reading—these days he follows along with books on tape.
- Jim Carrey – Funnyman Jim Carrey is well known for his zany, all-over-the-place antics—but he said on the Celebrities with Diseases website that’s a result of his ADHD. He remembers coping by being the class clown, and said that it’s “hard for me to come down from what I do.”
- Sir Richard Branson – Virgin Founder and adventurer Sir Richard Branson has ADHD—but that hasn’t stopped him from owning a major airline, sending tourists into space or building an underwater plane.
- Paris Hilton – The socialite/heiress/reality TV starlet said in her post-jail interview with Larry King on CNN that she takes Adderall to manage her ADHD, which she’s struggled with since she was 12.