Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental psychiatric condition characterized by attention deficits, hyperactivity and impulsivity not considered appropriate for a person’s age.
ADHD affects approximately 6 to 7 percent of all children and is about three times more common in boys than girls. About 30 to 50 percent of people diagnosed with ADHD in childhood continue to have symptoms in adulthood.
Common symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, restlessness, impulsivity and disruptive behavior. Many ADHD patients experience academic and relationship difficulties. Symptoms may be difficult to define as these traits also tend to appear — to a lesser extent — in children without ADHD. Knowing where to draw the line between normal and unhealthy behavior can be a difficult task for parents, teachers and doctors.
In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms must be observed for at least six months and must surpass those of typically developing children of the same age. Symptoms must also interfere with the person’s academic, work or social life.
Based on a person’s most prominent symptoms, ADHD may be divided into three subtypes: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive and combined type.
The inattentive subtype features all or many of the following symptoms: easily distracted, forgets things, misses details, has difficulty focusing on one task, daydreams often, easily confused, has listening difficulties, struggles to follow instructions, easily loses things, etc.
The hyperactive subtype features all or many of the following symptoms: excessive fidgeting or squirming, nonstop talking, dashing around and touching everything in sight, unable to engage in quiet activities, etc.
People with all subtypes of ADHD tend to have social difficulties and experience a harder time maintaining friendships. About half of children and teens with ADHD experience social rejection by their peers compared to 10–15% of non-ADHD children and adolescents. People with inattentive ADHD may have difficulties processing verbal and nonverbal language which can negatively affect social interaction. They may drift off during conversations or miss social cues.
There is strong evidence that behavioral therapy helps relieve ADHD symptoms, and it is recommended as the first-line treatment for preschool children and for those with only mild symptoms. Regular exercise has also been linked to better behavior and stronger motor skills in people with ADHD. As for pharmaceutical drugs, stimulant medication is the treatment of choice.
ADHD and its treatment have been considered controversial for decades now. There are many disagreements regarding the causes of ADHD and the use of stimulant medication.
Example: Josiah has a hard time sitting still and paying attention in class. After school, his mother takes him to the park to let him run off his extra energy.