Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental disorder that affects the behavior, attention, and learning of children. If it is unrecog¬nized, these children can face excessive criticism, failure, and disappointment, while their parents struggle with what to do.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders, characterized by problems with inattentiveness, over-activity, impulsivity, or a combination. For these problems to be diagnosed as AD/HD, they must be out of the normal range for the child’s age and development. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often persists into adulthood. Diagnosis can be made reliably using well-tested diagnostic interview methods. Treatment may include medical, educational, behavioral, and/or psychological interventions. ADHD is a lifelong disorder that can negatively impair many aspects of daily life if not treated, including home, school, work, and interpersonal relationships

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

In adults, ADHD symptoms must be present since childhood and affect the person’s ability to function in daily life. These symptoms must create significant difficulty in at least two areas of life, such as home, social settings, school, or work.

Increasingly, researchers are studying ADHD in the context of executive functions—the brain functions that activate, organize, integrate, and manage other functions. Impairment of these executive functions is considered highly interrelated to symptoms associated with ADHD.

There are three primary subtypes of ADHD, each associated with different symptoms.


ADHD—Primarily Inattentive Type:

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention
  • Does not appear to listen
  • Struggles to follow through on instructions
  • Has difficulty with organization
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful in daily activities


ADHD—Primarily Hyperactive/Impulsive Type:

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair
  • Has difficulty remaining seated
  • Runs around or climbs excessively
  • Has difficulty engaging in activities quietly
  • Acts as if driven by a motor
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Has difficulty waiting or taking turns
  • Interrupts or intrudes upon others


ADHD—Combined Type:

  • Meets both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive criteria


Growing up with undiagnosed ADHD can have devastating effects, with adults often thinking of themselves as “lazy,” “crazy,” or “stupid.” As a result, proper diagnosis can be profoundly healing, putting present difficulties into perspective and making sense of lifelong symptoms

A comprehensive evaluation should focus on past and present ADHD symptoms; the person’s developmental and medical history; and school, work, and psychiatric history, including medications, social adjustment, and general ability to meet the demands of daily life.

Certain conditions that could mimic ADHD or cause the ADHD-like behaviors are:

  • Recent major life changes (such as divorce, a death in the family, or a recent move)
  • Undetected seizures
  • Thyroid problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Depression