Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with completing daily activities or development. Many children and adults are affected by ADHD. People with a diagnosis of ADHD may have trouble at home, school, work, or socially.

Children with ADHD may be much more active and/or impulsive than what is usual for their age. These behaviors contribute to significant problems in relationships, learning and behavior.

For this reason, children who have ADHD are sometimes seen as being "difficult" or as having behavior problems. ADHD is more common in boys than in girls.

Symptoms

The child with ADHD who is inattentive will have six or more of the following symptoms:

  • Has difficulty following instructions.
  • Has difficulty keeping attention on work or play activities at school and at home.
  • Loses things needed for activities at school and at home.
  • Appears not to listen.
  • Doesn't pay close attention to details.
  • Seems disorganized.
  • Has trouble with tasks that require planning ahead.
  • Forgets things.
  • Is easily distracted.

The child with ADHD who is hyperactive/impulsive will have at least six of the following symptoms:

  • Fidgety.
  • Runs or climbs inappropriately.
  • Can't play quietly.
  • Blurts out answers.
  • Interrupts people.
  • Can't stay in seat.
  • Talks too much.
  • Is always on the go.
  • Has trouble waiting his or her turn.

Symptoms and Disease Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

Treatments

What should I do if I think my child has ADHD?

Talk with your child's doctor.

Your doctor will ask you questions and may want to get information from your child's teachers or anyone else who is familiar with your child's behavior.

Your doctor may have forms or checklists that you and your child's teacher can fill out. This will help you and your doctor compare your child's behavior with other children's behavior.

Your doctor will probably want to test your child’s vision and hearing if these tests haven't been done recently. Your doctor may recommend trying medicine to see if it helps control your child's hyperactive behavior.

A trial of medicine alone cannot be the basis for diagnosing ADHD. However, it can be an important part of evaluating your child if ADHD is suspected. Meeting with a mental health therapist can help you and your child find ways to cope with the symptoms of ADHD.

It might be hard for your doctor to tell if your child has ADHD.

Many children who have ADHD aren't hyperactive in the doctor's office. Your doctor may want your child to see someone who specializes in helping children who have behavior problems, such as a psychologist.

A diagnosis of ADHD can be made only by getting information about your child's behavior from several people who know your child. There are many resources available to help you and your child.

Helpful Documents

View and print these helpful ADHD handouts

ADHD: Symptoms In Adults
ADHD: Should My Child Take Medication For ADHD?
ADHD In Adults: Behavioral Strategies
ADHD: Impulsivity and Inattention
ADHD: Helping Your Child Get Things Done
ADHD: Helping Your Child Get The Most From School
ADHD: Help Your Child To Succeed
ADHD And Hyperactivity
ADHD: Social Skills Training

Compiled from the following sources:

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition TR (2000) American Psychiatric Association.
AAFP Treatment & Management of ADHD in Adults (2021)
American Academy of Pediatrics, ADHD Clinical Practice Guidelines (2019)
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Practice Parameter for the Use of Stimulant Medication (2002)
NIMH, A 14 month Randomized, Clinical Trial (1999)
NIMH Treatment Study Follow-Up: 24 month outcomes (2004)
RA Barkley & KR Murphy (2006) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Clinical Workbook (3rd ed). New York: Guilford Publications