Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. ADHD also affects many adults. Symptoms of ADHD include inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought).
Many ADHD symptoms, such as high activity levels, difficulty remaining still for long periods of time and limited attention spans, are common to young children in general. The difference in children with ADHD is that their hyperactivity and inattention are noticeably greater than expected for their age and cause distress and/or problems functioning at home, at school or with friends.
ADHD is diagnosed as one of three types: inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type or combined type. A diagnosis is based on the symptoms that have occurred over the past six months.
Inattentive type – six (or five for people over 17 years) of the following symptoms occur frequently:
-Doesn't pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school or job tasks.
-Has problems staying focused on tasks or activities, such as during lectures, conversations or long reading.
-Does not seem to listen when spoken to (i.e., seems to be elsewhere).
-Does not follow through on instructions and doesn't complete schoolwork, chores or job duties (may start tasks but
quickly loses focus).
-Has problems organizing tasks and work (for instance, does not manage time well; has messy, disorganized work;
-Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as preparing reports and completing forms.
-Often loses things needed for tasks or daily life, such as school papers, books, keys, wallet, cell phone and eyeglasses.
-Is easily distracted.
-Forgets daily tasks, such as doing chores and running errands. Older teens and adults may forget to return phone
calls, pay bills and keep appointments.
Hyperactive/impulsive type – six (or five for people over 17 years) of the following symptoms occur frequently:
-Fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
-Not able to stay seated (in classroom, workplace).
-Runs about or climbs where it is inappropriate.
-Unable to play or do leisure activities quietly.
-Always "on the go," as if driven by a motor.
-Talks too much.
-Blurts out an answer before a question has been finished (for instance may finish people's sentences, can't wait to
speak in conversations).
-Has difficulty waiting his or her turn, such as while waiting in line.
-Interrupts or intrudes on others (for instance, cuts into conversations, games or activities, or starts using other
people's things without permission). Older teens and adults may take over what others are doing.
There is no lab test to diagnose ADHD. Diagnosis involves gathering information from parents, teachers and others, filling out checklists and having a medical evaluation (including vision and hearing screening) to rule out other medical problems. The symptoms are not the result of person being defiant or hostile or unable to understand a task or instructions.