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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).

An estimated 5 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults have ADHD.1,2 ADHD is often first identified in school-aged children when it leads to disruption in the classroom or problems with schoolwork. It can also affect adults. It is more common among boys than girls.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

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; misses deadlines).

  • 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 psychological/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.

  • has a great AD/HD column written by Keath Low. Keath posts new content each week that is full of information, support and ideas you can use. Her past columns provide an excellent on-line resource for nearly any ADHD related topic you can think of. ( is owned by the New York Times Company.)

  • ADDitude Magazine: The online version of ADDitude Magazine is a comprehensive resource for adults and children with ADHD, as well as parents and family members of such individuals. ADDitude Magazine provides information about medication, dietary tips, and tools for educating and parenting ADHD children. Site visitors are able to share personal stories, connect with others through support groups, and receive bimonthly e-newsletters with recent news and information.

  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA): The Attention Deficit Disorder Association advocates for public policy and legislative change and coordinates ADHD Awareness Week to increase public recognition and understanding. Site visitors can find scholarly articles about ADHD, coping tools, and support groups in their area. ADDA also holds an Annual Community Health Conference and webinars for ADDA members.

  • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a national nonprofit dedicated to supporting individuals with ADHD. CHADD is a membership organization that offers benefits for families, educators, professionals, students, and organizations. In addition to information and educational resources about ADHD, CHADD has more than 200 chapters in the United States and provides a directory of professionals offering support services for individuals and families living with ADHD.

  • National Resource Center on ADHD: The National Resource Center on ADHD is a program of CHADD. This program is focused on the science of ADHD, and offers extensive information and resources about medication, symptoms, and the behavior of ADHD. The National Resource Center on ADHD provides live assistance for site visitors and a guide to insurance issues, the legal system, and public benefits programs for individuals living with ADHD.

  • Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Forums: The Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Forums are a highly active resource for individuals living with ADHD. The forums have more than 70,000 members and offer a safe place for site visitors to share personal experiences, connect with others, and gain valuable, personalized support from others.

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