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Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Doctors now call this condition ‘ADHD’. It used to be called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a term you still hear today. In actuality, the ADHD diagnosis has three subtypes:

  • ADHD - inattentive
  • ADHD - hyperactive and impulsive
  • ADHD - combined type, with all three exhibited

Though some patients are not hyperactive, the word ‘hyperactive’ is still included in the name of the condition. This has caused some confusion among patients, families and doctors, and it may be why many people continue to call the condition Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Some doctors believe the diagnostic term will eventually be corrected, but for now, all Attention Deficit conditions are included in the ADHD category. Whatever the name, this disorder is a medical condition that affects a person’s ability to focus; and to sit still and pay attention. The families of those with ADHD often say the patient has a ‘short attention span’.

Doctors used to think that ADHD was only a childhood disorder. Now we know that the symptoms of hyperactivity may decrease, but the attention and impulsive symptoms often last into adulthood. This disorder may be hereditary, and it results from a chemical imbalance in the patient’s brain. Patients with ADHD may also have other disorders such as:

  • Specific learning disability like dyslexia
  • Conduct Disorder with lying, stealing, fighting and aggression
  • Tourette Syndrome with nervous tics and repetitive mannerisms
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder mostly in boys, with temper outbursts, stubbornness
  • Anxiety, Depression and/or Bipolar Disorder are also coincident with ADHD in some patients

What are the symptoms?

ADHD symptoms vary, depending on the ADHD subtype, and whether the patient is a child or an adult. Remember, children by nature, will exhibit some of these symptoms from time to time. If the symptoms persist or get worse, you should consider having a doctor evaluate your child. Symptoms can include some or all of the following:

Childhood Symptoms

  • Forgetful
  • Easily distracted
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Blurting out answers
  • Interrupting or intruding
  • Difficulty organizing tasks
  • Fidgeting, squirming in chair
  • Hyperactivity, talking excessively
  • Losing school assignments, toys or books
  • Does not listen, does not follow instructions
  • Difficulty waiting in line or waiting for their turn
  • Running, climbing, leaving when quiet behavior is expected
  • Problems finishing school assignments, jumping from one thing to another
  • Unable to pay attention, no attention to detail, careless mistakes in schoolwork

Adult Symptoms

  • Inattention
  • Disorganization
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Fidgeting and restlessness
  • Losing or misplacing things
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Difficulty sitting still in meetings or long discussions
  • Difficulty in finishing, starting lots of projects at once
  • Procrastination on tasks that require a lot of detail or attention
  • Persistent forgetfulness in daily activities, forgetting appointments and obligations

Most of us have these symptoms on occasion, to some degree, in certain situations. However, those with ADHD experience symptoms often, and these symptoms create extreme distress and anxiety.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Most people have said things they don’t mean, or have occasional problems focusing. Because many of the symptoms of ADHD are common to all of us at one time or another, you might think it would be difficult to diagnose ADHD. However, the guidelines for ADHD are quite specific, so your doctor can help you determine whether you or your child are suffering from ADHD.

For children, the symptoms must appear before age seven, and continue for at least six months prior to diagnosis. Symptoms must impose a handicap in two or more areas of a person’s life; for children, it might be in class, at recess, at home. For adults it can be in groups, at work or in a social environment. If you suspect ADHD, it is important to find a doctor who has appropriate training and experience to diagnose and treat the condition. Doctors will first rule out other causes for the symptoms, looking at vision and hearing problems and other medical disorders.

Treatment can include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Social Skills Training
  • Support groups for the patient and the family
  • ADHD-Specific Medications like Concerta, Ritalin, Strattera
  • Coping skills training for parents of ADHD children, and for students and adult patients, study skills for students

Index of Articles


About 3% to 7% of American children have ADHD.

Approximately 4% of the American adult population has ADHD...

Boys are 5-7 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls.

Approximately 60% of the children diagnosed with ADHD will exhibit symptoms as adults.

80% of children who are on medication for ADHD, need medication during their teen years. More than 50% will still need medication as adults.

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