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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Occasionally we all have difficulty sitting still, paying attention or controlling impulsive behavior. For some people, the problem is so pervasive and persistent that it interferes with their daily life. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by impulsivity, inattention and in some cases, hyperactivity. It affects three to five percent of school-age children. Until recent years, it was believed children outgrew ADHD in adolescence; however, it is now known many symptoms continue into adulthood.

Current research reflects rates of roughly two to four percent among adults. The exact causes of ADHD remain illusive; however, most research suggests a neurobiological basis. Since ADHD runs in families, inheritance appears to be an important factor.


Determining if an individual has ADHD is a multifaceted process. Many biological and psychological problems can contribute to symptoms similar to those exhibited by children with ADHD. For example, anxiety, depression and certain types of learning disabilities may cause similar symptoms. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD. Consequently, a comprehensive evaluation is necessary to establish a diagnosis, rule out other causes and determine the presence or absence of co-existing conditions. Such an evaluation should include a clinical assessment of the individual’s academic, social and emotional functioning, and developmental level. A careful history should be taken from the parents, teachers and when appropriate, the child. Checklists for rating ADHD symptoms and ruling out other disabilities are often used by clinicians. There are several types of professionals who can diagnose ADHD, including school psychologists, private psychologists, social workers, nurse practitioners, neurologists, psychiatrists, and other medical doctors.


There may be serious consequences for persons with ADHD who do not receive treatment or receive inadequate treatment. Treatment plans should be tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual and family. Treatment of ADHD in individuals, especially children, often requires medical, educational, behavioral, and psychological intervention. This comprehensive approach to treatment is called multimodal, and includes parent training, behavioral intervention strategies, an appropriate educational program, counseling, and medication. Prescription psycho-stimulants are the most widely used class of medication for the management of ADHD, though other medications are used as well. Research indicates these medications produce increased attention and concentration, compliance and effort on tasks, decreased activity levels, and impulsivity.

What is the outlook?
Children with ADHD are at risk for potentially serious problems: academic underachievement, school failure, difficulty getting along with peers, and problems dealing with authority. However, with early identification and treatment, children and adults can be successful. Studies show children who receive adequate treatment for ADHD have fewer problems with school, peers and substance abuse, and show improved overall functioning compared to those who do not receive treatment.

Additional Resource:
Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder