Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (sometimes referred to as ADD when only inattentiveness and distractability are problematic) is, as indicated by research, a neurological disorder initially appearing in childhood which manifests itself with symptoms such as hyperactivity, forgetfulness, poor impulse control, and distractibility. In neurological pathology, ADHD is currently considered to be a persistent and chronic syndrome for which no medical cure is available. ADHD is believed to affect between 3-5% of the United States population, including both children and adults.

Within society, there is disagreement if a diagnosis denotes a genuine impairment/ disability or simply serves as a label for different but normal behaviour. Some believe that the disorder does not exist or that it need not be treated. According to a majority of medical research in the United States, as well as other countries, ADHD is today generally regarded to be a non-curable neurological disorder for which, however, a wide range of effective treatments are available. A wide body of evidence has shown that stimulant medication is the most effective way to treat the disorder. Methods of treatment usually involve some combination of medication, psychotherapy, and other techniques. Some patients are able to control their symptoms over time, without the use of medication. Other individuals who meet the diagnostic criteria of ADHD do not consider themselves to be handicapped by the disorder and therefore may remain undiagnosed or, after a positive diagnosis, untreated.

ADHD is most commonly diagnosed in children and, over the past decade, has been increasingly diagnosed in adults. It is believed that around 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD retain the disorder as adults.
The symptoms of ADHD fall into the following two broad categories:

  • Failure to pay close attention to details or making careless mistakes when doing schoolwork or other activities
  • Trouble keeping attention focused during play or tasks
  • Appearing not to listen when spoken to
  • Failure to follow instructions or finish tasks
  • Avoiding tasks that require a high amount of mental effort and organization, such as school projects
  • Frequently losing items required to facilitate tasks or activities, such as school supplies
  • Excessive distractibility
  • Forgetfulness
  • Procrastination, inability to begin an activity
  • Difficulties with household activities (cleaning, paying bills, etc.)
  • Difficulty falling asleep, may be due to too many thoughts at night
  • Frequent emotional outbursts
  • Easily frustrated
  • Easily distracted

Hyperactivity-impulsive behavior
  • Fidgeting with hands or feet or squirming in seat
  • Leaving seat often, even when inappropriate
  • Running or climbing at inappropriate times
  • Difficulty in quiet play
  • Frequently feeling restless
  • Excessive speech
  • Answering a question before the speaker has finished
  • Failure to await one's turn
  • Interrupting the activities of others at inappropriate times
  • Impulsive spending, leading to financial difficulties

A positive diagnosis is usually only made if the person has experienced six of the above symptoms for at least three months. Symptoms must appear consistently in varied environments (e.g., not only at home or only at school) and interfere with function. One of the difficulties in diagnosis is the incidence of co-morbid conditions, especially the presence of bipolar disorder which is being reported at earlier ages than previously described.
Children who grow up with ADHD often continue to have symptoms as they grow into adulthood. Adults face some of their greatest challenges in the areas of self-control and self-motivation, as well as executive functioning (also known as working memory). If the patient is not treated appropriately, co-morbid conditions, such as depression, anxiety and self-medicating substance abuse may present as well. If a patient presents with such conditions as well, the co-morbid condition may be treated first, or simultaneously.