What is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. ADHD is characterized by a pattern of persistent symptoms.

Inattention is a term used to describe a person who has difficulty staying focused, staying organized and adhering to responsibilities. These problems are not caused by defiance or misunderstanding.

Hyperactivity is a term that describes a person who appears to be constantly moving, even in situations where it’s not appropriate. They may also fidget, tap, or talk excessively. Hyperactivity in adults can be extreme restlessness, or excessive talking.

Instability is when a person acts without thinking, or has difficulty controlling themselves. Impulsivity can also be defined as a need for immediate rewards, or an inability to wait. A person who is impulsive may make decisions or interrupt others without thinking about the long-term effects.

What are the symptoms and signs of ADHD?

Other people with ADHD have a tendency to show symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity. Others mostly have symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity. Some people show both types of symptoms.

ADHD is characterized by inattention, unfocused activity and impulsivity.

More severe

More often

They interfere with their social functioning, school performance, or job performance.


People who suffer from symptoms of inattention can often be:

You may make mistakes that seem careless or insignificant when you are working, studying, or doing other activities.

You may have difficulty maintaining your attention when playing or doing tasks such as listening to lectures or reading lengthy texts.

When spoken directly to, the person does not seem to be listening

You may find it difficult to finish your schoolwork, household chores or workplace duties, or you might start a task but lose focus.

Have trouble managing your time and deadlines, organizing and completing tasks, keeping things in order and arranging materials.

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Avoid doing tasks that require sustained mental efforts, such as homework or, for older adults and teens, completing forms or reviewing long papers.

You may lose things that are necessary to complete a task or activity, such as pencils, books and tools, wallets, glasses, paperwork, keys, wallets.

You are easily distracted by thoughts or stimuli that are unrelated.

Forget daily tasks such as chores and errands. Also, forget to return calls or keep appointments.


People with symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity may often:

Sit down and fidget or squirm.

In situations where it is expected that you remain seated, such as the classroom or office

Teenagers and adults may feel restless or run, dash, or climb inappropriately or at inappropriate times.

Be unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly

Act as if you are being driven by a motor or in constant motion.

Talk excessively

Finish sentences of others or answer questions before they have been asked.

Can’t wait to be called upon?

Intrude or interrupt others in conversation, games or activities

Primary care providers diagnose and treat ADHD. You may be referred to a mental healthcare professional such as a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist who can perform a thorough assessment and diagnose ADHD.

For a person to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, the symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity must be chronic or long-lasting, impair the person’s functioning, and cause the person to fall behind typical development for their age. Stress, anxiety, depression and sleep disorders can all cause symptoms similar to ADHD. To determine the cause, it is important to conduct a thorough assessment.

The majority of children diagnosed with ADHD are in elementary school. The symptoms of ADHD must have been present in an adult or adolescent before the age of 12.

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ADHD symptoms may appear between the ages 3 and 6, and continue into adolescence or adulthood. Children with primarily inattention symptoms may mistakenly be diagnosed as having ADHD. Adults who are undiagnosed with ADHD can have a poor academic record, difficulties at work or a history of failed or difficult relationships.

ADHD symptoms may change as an individual ages. In young children with ADHD, hyperactivity-impulsivity is the most predominant symptom. Inattention can become more evident as a child enters elementary school and lead to academic struggles. Hyperactivity may lessen in adolescence and symptoms such as restlessness and fidgeting may be more common. However, inattention and impulsivity can still persist. In addition to their struggles with antisocial behavior and relationships, many adolescents with ADHD struggle with inattention. Inattention, restlessness and impulsivity are traits that tend to persist in adulthood.

What are the risk factor for ADHD?

Researchers do not know what causes ADHD. However, many studies indicate that genes may play a major role. ADHD is likely the result of a combination factors, just like many other disorders. Researchers are also looking for environmental factors which could increase the risk of ADHD. They are also studying brain injuries, nutrition and social environments.

ADHD is more prevalent in men than in women, and in females with ADHD the symptoms are primarily inattention. ADHD is often accompanied by other conditions such as learning difficulties, anxiety disorders, conduct disorders, depression and substance abuse disorder.

What is the treatment for ADHD?

There is no cure for ADHD. However, the treatments available today may help reduce symptoms and improve function. Treatments may include medication, psychotherapy or education or training.

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