What is ADHD?

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition marked by symptoms of easy distractibility, inattention to present tasks, hyperactive or impulsive behavior, or a combination of the above and other characteristics.  This condition was previously called simply attention deficit disorder (ADD), but recognizing the association of hyperactivity with attention problems led physicians to reassess the nature of the disease.  As such, ADHD is now divided into three sub-types based on the most prominent symptoms: (1) predominantly hyperactive / impulsive type, (2) predominantly inattentive type, and (3) combined type.  In the United States, an estimated 3-7% of school-aged children suffer from ADHD.

ADHD has traditionally been considered a disease of childhood – in fact, onset of symptoms before the age of seven is necessary for the diagnosis.  By adulthood, some individuals will have “outgrown” their symptoms or at least regressed to a milder form of the disorder.  In reality, this change likely does not represent a disappearance of symptoms; rather, these individuals may over the years develop better coping strategies or find themselves in jobs or other situations where their symptoms do not conflict as much with their task requirements.  However, up to 70% of children with ADHD will continue to experience significant ADHD symptoms and require treatment in adulthood.

Many children with ADHD lack the attention
necessary to complete schoolwork and are
more likely not to graduate from high school.  Treated
they may be as happy and successful as their peers.

So, why is ADHD a problem?  For untreated children with ADHD, the combination of frequent misbehavior at school, inattention during class, and failure to complete homework assignments results in significant disruption of the learning environment.  If this disruption continues for an extended period of time, the child will get behind and may miss out on an important part of his or her education.  It is not surprising, then, that children with ADHD are more likely to fail grades in school, more likely to drop out of school before graduation, and less likely to be successful in post-secondary education (such as college).  The impulsive nature of ADHD makes affected adolescents and adults more likely to abuse alcohol and illicit drugs.  Adults with ADHD tend to have more speeding tickets, other legal problems, and difficulty managing finances.  Clearly, early treatment aimed at stopping this downward slide is vital to improving quality of life and long-term happiness in those affected children.

Email Icon Print Icon Print This| Newsletter Icon Free Newsletter| Add to