Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Additional Information

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a psychiatric disorder. Its cause is not known. ADHD is one of the most common disorders diagnosed in children and teens.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can cause a child to:

  • Have difficulty paying attention (inattention).
  • Be more active than normal (hyperactivity).
  • Tend to act without thinking (impulsiveness).

ADHD can continue into adulthood, causing difficulties for people at home, at school, at their jobs, and within their communities.

  • The most common symptom of ADHD is difficulty remaining focused on a task until it is completed (inattention). People with ADHD have a hard time starting and completing tasks that are boring, repetitive, or difficult for them.
  • Many people with ADHD have trouble thinking before acting. Impulsiveness usually continues into adulthood and may interfere with keeping a job and developing personal relationships.
  • Although most people with ADHD (especially as adults) do not appear overactive (hyperactive), they may often feel restless or look fidgety.

ADHD is usually diagnosed when a child is 6 to 12 years of age. ADHD in an adult often goes unnoticed because the symptoms are not seen as problems if the person maintains relationships, stays organized, and holds a steady job. The key to the diagnosis of ADHD for an adult is the presence of symptoms before he or she was 7 years old. It is not unusual for a parent to discover he or she has ADHD when his or her child is diagnosed with the disorder.

ADHD is estimated to affect people as follows:

  • ADHD affects about 3% to 5% of all school-aged children.
  • Girls may not be recognized as having ADHD as often as boys because they are more likely to have inattention as their primary symptom of ADHD and less likely to be aggressive, lose control, or be defiant. For these reasons, girls may be at a greater risk for school, social, and emotional difficulties because they often are not diagnosed and treated for the disorder.
  • Up to 70% of hyperactive children continue to have ADHD as teens and up to 65% have symptoms into adulthood.

ADHD is often associated with learning, emotional, or behavioral problems.

About one-third of children have more than one other condition along with ADHD, such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder, anxiety disorder, or depression. The symptoms of these conditions are often mistaken for symptoms of ADHD. Before the person can receive the greatest benefit from treatment for ADHD, any other conditions need to be identified and treated.