What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The diagnosis of ADHD is made based on a combination of behaviors including in inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. These behaviors can interfere with a child's ability to learn at school and socialize with friends and family. ADHD tends to run in families and often parents realize they have it when their children are diagnosed.

It's important for parents to know that almost all children have times when their behavior gets a little out of control, they seem to daydream, fail to pay attention or don't finish what they start. However, for some children, these kinds of behaviors are more than an occasional problem. Children with ADHD have behavior problems that are so frequent and severe that they interfere with their ability to succeed in school and life. Fortunately, with appropriate diagnosis and treatment, most children with ADHD can learn to control their behavior, do well in school and succeed in life.

Dr. Sohrab Zahedi, MD

I spend my weekday mornings in a high-turnover jail. As a part-time correctional psychiatrist, I have first-hand experience with the devastating consequences of ADHD. Think Alvin and the Chipmunks on caffeine (though this is an oversimplification). Though often associated with children, the data is clear that many adults suffer from it as well. The good news is that there is treatment and that if caught early and properly addressed, the prognosis, in terms of functioning (read staying away from drugs and criminal trouble) can be very good.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a genetic condition and generally develops gradually in early childhood by age 7. It is not caused by life experience or a lack of parental supervision. It occurs more frequently in boys than girls.

Dr. Jonathan I. Scheinman, MD

ADHD should be viewed as an alternative wiring of the brain, not necessarily a "disorder". Anyone seriously interested in this issue should first read Hallowell and Ratey's "Driven to Distraction", and Hallowell's succeeding books. Diagnosis requires considerable training, and "treatment" should be undertaken cautiously. It is most often referred by teachers, experiencing "disruptive" children, but the professional is best qualified to evaluate.

What’s most important about attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is that it directly impacts your child’s ability to function at home and at school, because it is characterized by inattentiveness, overactivity, impulsivity, or a combination of these.

Sure, at times all kids have trouble focusing, act without thinking, and can be hyperactive. The difference with ADHD is that symptoms last for at least six months, are more severe than in other kids the same age, and occur in two areas of the child’s life, usually at home and in school. A child with ADHD may understand what’s expected of him, but he has trouble following through because he can’t pay attention, sit still, or listen to details. To be officially diagnosed, the disruptive behaviors cannot be linked to upsetting events such as a divorce, a move, a severe illness, or a change in schools, because those stressors may cause your child to act out for an extended period of time. There are actually three types of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined, which is the most common.

From The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents by Jennifer Trachtenberg.

The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents

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Dr. Iris M. Rodriguez-Ocasio, MD

There are 3 types of ADHD:

  1. The Inattentive type - makes careless mistakes, has difficulty maintaining attention, does not seem to listen, does not follow through on tasks, is not organized, avoids sustained mental effort, loses things, easily distracted, and is forgetful
  2. Primarily Hyperactive-Impuisive Type - often fidgets or squirms, inappropriately leaves seat, inappropriately runs or climbs, has difficulty playing quietly, often is "on the go", talks excessively, blurts out answers, has difficultly waiting for turn, and often interrupts or intrudes on others. For the symptoms to be diagnosed they must be present for at least 6 months
  3. Combined type.
Dr. Janetta Kelly, MD

ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a syndrome that affects a person's ability to stay focused and on task. The person will exhibit behaviors of inattention, easy distractibility, impulsiveness, and restless over activity. A child or adult may exhibit behaviors of difficulty initiating and completing tasks or assignments; not paying attention when spoken to; being easily distracted by other activities, people or noises in one's environment; often losing needed items for everyday tasks at home, school, and work; fidgeting of the hands or feet, or inability to be still while seated;  appearing to need to be in motion, climbing, running; excessive talking; interrupting others without regard to what that person might be doing or saying; difficulty waiting for one's turn; avoidance of activities that require sustained or prolonged mental focus or effort. The person might often say that s/he did not intend to do or say what was done or said, appear genuinely remorseful, and/or express "I couldn't help it".

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.