Table of Contents:
- An Introduction to ADHD
- Symptoms of ADHD
- Problems Related to ADHD
- Causes of ADHD
- How is ADHD diagnosed?
- Treatment of ADHD
- Additional Treatments for ADHD
- ADHD in Adults
- Getting Help for ADHD
- Future Directions in ADHD
- Resources for ADHD
The main features of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (or ADHD) are inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. But because most young children display these behaviors from time to time, it is important not to assume that every child you see with these symptoms has ADHD.
Symptoms of attention deficit disorder usually develop over several months. In general, impulsiveness and hyperactivity are observed before one notices the lack of attention, which often appears later.
It also may go unnoticed because the “inattentive daydreamer” may be overlooked when the person who “can’t sit still” at school or work or is otherwise disruptive will be noticed first. The observable symptoms of ADHD will therefore vary a great deal depending on the situation and the specific demands it makes on an individual’s self-control.
Different forms of ADHD may result in a person being labeled differently — especially in children. For example, an impulsive child may be labeled a “discipline problem.” A passive child may be described as “unmotivated.” But ADHD could be the cause of both behavior patterns. It may only be suspected once the child’s hyperactivity, distractibility, lack of concentration, or impulsivity start affecting school performance, friendships, or behavior at home.
There are three subtypes of ADHD generally recognized by professionals, called “presentations”:
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation — If symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity but not symptoms of inattention have been shown for at least 6 months.
- Predominantly Inattentive Presentation — If symptoms of inattention but not symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been shown for at least 6 months.
- Combined Presentation — If symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity have been shown for at least 6 months.
A person must have symptoms of ADHD present before age 12 in order to be diagnosed (even if an adult at first diagnosis).
There must also be evidence that the ADHD behaviors are present in two or more settings — e.g., at home, school or work; with friends and family; and in other activities. Someone who can pay attention at work but is inattentive only at home usually wouldn’t qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD.
Hyperactive/Impulsive Type of ADHD
A person who is hyperactive always seem to be “on the go” or constantly in motion. The person may dash around touching or playing with whatever is in sight, or talk incessantly. Sitting still at dinner or during a school lesson or at work can be difficult. They squirm and fidget in their seats or roam around the room. Or they may wiggle their feet, touch everything, or noisily tap their pencil.
Hyperactive teenagers or adults may feel internally restless. They often feel the need to stay busy and may try to do several things at once.
People who are impulsive seem unable to control their immediate reactions or think before they act. They will often blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without considering the consequences. They may find it hard to wait for things they want, or to take their turn in games. They may grab a toy from another child or hit out when upset.
As teenagers or adults, impulsive people may choose to do things that have an instant reward instead of seeing through activities which take more effort but would lead to greater but delayed rewards.
Specific diagnostic symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are:
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected (e.g., leaving seat in classroom or in their workplace)
- Running or climbing in situations where it is inappropriate
- Blurting out answers before hearing the whole question
- Talking excessively
- Interrupting or intruding on others
- Having difficulty waiting in line or taking turns
- Unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly
- Feeling very restless, as if “driven by a motor”, and talk excessively.
A person must meet 5 or more (6 or more for children and teens) of the above symptoms for at least 6 months to qualify for this component of the ADHD diagnosis. As with all diagnoses, these behaviors must also have a direct, negative impact on the person’s social and academic/occupational functioning.
Grohol, J. (2007). Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Psych Central. Retrieved on March 10, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/symptoms-of-attention-deficit-disorder-adhd/0001200
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Jun 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.