This resource is focused on adults. Click here for information and treatment of childhood ADHD.
Have you ever had trouble concentrating, found it hard to sit still, interrupted others during a conversation or acted impulsively without thinking things through? Can you recall times when you daydreamed or had difficulty focusing on the task at hand?
Most of us can picture acting this way from time to time. But for some people, these and other exasperating behaviors are uncontrollable, persistently plaguing their day-to-day existence and interfering with their ability to form lasting friendships or succeed in school, at home and with a career.
Unlike a broken bone or cancer, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, also sometimes referred to as just plain attention deficit disorder or ADD) does not show physical signs that can be detected by a blood or other lab test*. The typical ADHD symptoms often overlap with those of other physical and psychological disorders.
The causes remain unknown, but ADHD can be diagnosed and effectively treated. Many resources are available to support families in managing ADHD behaviors when they occur.
ADHD, also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD) or hyperkinetic disorder, has been around a lot longer than most people realize. In fact, a condition that appears to be similar to ADHD was described by Hippocrates, who lived from 460 to 370 BC. The name Attention Deficit Disorder was first introduced in 1980 in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In 1994 the definition was altered to include three groups within ADHD: the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type; the predominantly inattentive type; and the combined type (in the DSM-5, these are now referred to as "presentations").
ADHD usually appears first in childhood, but can also now be diagnosed in adults (as long as some symptoms were present in the individual's childhood, but simply never diagnosed).
Recent steps forward in our understanding of ADHD include:
ADHD can be difficult for everyone involved to deal with. As well as the difficulty of living with the symptoms, wider society may face challenges. Some experts have linked ADHD with an increased risk of accidents, drug abuse, failure at school, antisocial behavior and criminal activity. But others view ADHD in a positive light, arguing that it is simply a different method of learning involving greater risk-taking and creativity.
ADHD is often accompanied by:
Exactly what causes ADHD has not been pinpointed, though many practitioners believe neurobiological or genetic elements play a role. In addition, numerous social factors such as family conflict or poor child-rearing practices, while not causing the condition, may complicate the course of ADHD and its treatment.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Oct 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.