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Health experts say that ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is the most common behavioral disorder that starts during childhood. However, it does not only affect children – people of all ages can suffer from ADHD. Psychiatrists say ADHD is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder.

In this article we will take you through the causes of ADHD, the common symptoms that often accompany it it is diagnosed. We will also discuss the available treatments for ADHD.

What is ADD/ADHD?

An individual with ADHD finds it much more difficult to focus on something without being distracted.

He/she is likely to have greater difficulty in controlling what he/she is doing or saying and is less able to control how much physical activity is appropriate for a particular situation compared to somebody without ADHD. In other words, a person with ADHD is much more impulsive and restless.

Health care professionals may use any of the following terms when describing a child (or an older person) who is overactive and has difficulty concentrating:

  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Hyperkinetic disorder
  • Hyperactivity

North Americans commonly use the terms ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). In the UK hyperkinetic disorder is the official term – however, ADD and ADHD have become widely used.

ADHD in children is completely different from normal childhood excited and boisterous behavior. Many children, especially very young ones, are inattentive and restless without necessarily being affected by ADHD.

ADHD and four other mental disorders/illnesses genetically linked –  researchers at the Cross Disorders Group of the Psychiatric Genomic Consortium believe that ADHD, schizophrenia, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorders may share the same common inherited genetic variations.

ADHD statistics

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), 5% of American children have ADHD. However, it should be noted that studies in the US have estimated higher rates as a result of surveys in the community. These surveys asked parents whether they had received a diagnosis of ADHD from a healthcare professional.

The survey results, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimate that approximately 6.4 million children (11%) aged 4 to 17 were diagnosed with ADHD in the US by a healthcare professional (as of 2011). This is a rise from 7.8% in 2003 (CDC data).

An interesting statistic from the same CDC survey results shows that boys (13.2%) were more likely than girls (5.6%) to have received an ADHD diagnosis.

Three types of ADHD

According to the CDC, there are three types of ADHD. They are defined according to which symptoms stand out the most.

  1. Predominantly Inattentive Type
    The person finds it very difficult to organize or finish a task. They find it hard to pay attention to details and find it difficult to follow instructions or conversations.
  2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
    The person finds it hard to keep still – they fidget and talk a lot. A smaller child may be continually jumping, running or climbing. They are restless and impulsive – interrupting others, grabbing things and speaking at inappropriate times. They have difficulty waiting their turn and find it hard to listen to directions. A person with this type of ADHD will have more injuries and/or accidents than others.
  3. Combined Type
    A person whose symptoms include all those of 1 and 2, and whose symptoms are equally predominant. In other words, all the symptoms in 1 and 2 stand out equally.

General signs/symptoms of ADHD in children

  • the child is restless, overactive, fidgety
  • the child is constantly chattering
  • the child is continuously interrupting people
  • the child cannot concentrate for long on specific tasks
  • the child is inattentive
  • the child finds it hard to wait his/her turn in play, conversations or standing in line (queue)
It is important to note that the above signs may be observed in children frequently and usually do not mean the child has ADHD. It is when these signs become significantly more pronounced in one child, compared to other children of the same age, and when his/her behavior undermines his/her school and social life, that the child may have ADHD.

Written by The MNT Editorial Team