ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. ADHD is the most common childhood mental disorder according to the NIMH and can continue through adulthood. People with ADHD usually cannot stay focused, are described as “hyperactive” and have poor impulse control. The causes of ADHD are unknown, although it is believed to have a biological/ genetic component since it tends to run in families. ADHD should be diagnosed only by a trained professional such as a pediatrician, child psychologist, or child psychiatrist. There is no direct test to determine if a child had ADHD. The diagnosis is made based on the observation of ADHD symptoms on multiple occasions and in multiple settings.
ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) are often times used interchangeably. ADD is used to refer to those people who have ADHD but do not have the hyperactive piece of it. ADHD is the official term accepted by the American Psychiactric Association. The APA recongnizes three different types of ADHD: ADHD predominantly inattentive, ADHD predominantly hyperactive/ impulsive, and ADHD combined type. ADD refers to the predominantly inattentive type.
Children with ADHD have trouble staying focused, are usually described as being “hyperactive”, and have trouble controlling their impulses. Symptoms can arise as early as 3 years old. For example, a child who has trouble staying focused might have difficulty following instructions, might frequently lose their belongings, or may be easily distracted- going from one activity to the next without finishing. Hyperactive behaviors might include an inability to sit still during class or non-stop talking. Examples of poor impulse control are an inability to wait his/her turn, or yelling out in class. It is important to note that most children at one point or another display some of these behaviors. The diagnosis of ADHD is made through the observation of these behaviors in multiple settings and situations over time by a trained professional and after other possible causes (such as learning disabilities or thyroid disorders) are ruled out.
Symptoms of ADHD can be seen as early as 3 years of age. The earlier the diagnosis is made, the earlier treatment can start. Parents who note worrisome behaviors in their children should discuss them with their pediatrician or family doctor who can help rule out any possible causes and make referrals if needed. There is no specific age to test for ADHD, nor is there a specific test. Typically, ADHD is diagnosed in school age children when teachers note characteristic behaviors. Generally speaking, once symptoms are noted by parents or teachers, evaluations should be started to either rule out or diagnose ADHD. The sooner treatments begin, the better for the child.
There is no “cure” for ADHD. The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms and improve functioning. Treatments include medication and or psychotherapy.
The causes of ADHD are unknown, although it is believed that there is a genetic/ biological component to it.