ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a childhood-onset behavior disorder characterized by abnormal levels of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattentiveness. While many children display some degree of hyperactivity or inattentiveness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms are significant enough to adversely affect the ADHD child’s daily life. ADHD usually appears in children by the age of seven.
ADHD: Number of Children Affected
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder affects approximately four percent of all children in the United States, or approximately two million children.
Although once thought to be a childhood behavior disorder that dissipated in adulthood, researchers now know that ADHD continues to affect many people throughout their lives. In fact, 2 to 4 percent of adults in the United States exhibit signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, all cases of ADHD do begin in childhood. Adults cannot develop the condition later in life.
ADD or ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has been called a number of things over the years. Not so long ago, ADHD was called ADD (attention deficit disorder), or ADD with hyperactivity.
ADD is still used occasionally to describe attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity symptoms. However, ADHD is currently the accepted medical term for the behavior disorder. Attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity is now usually known as ADHD, Predominately Inattentive Type.
Signs and symptoms of ADHD most often fall into two categories:
- hyperactivity/impulsive behavior
- inattentive behavior.
In each category, there are many different symptoms associated with the condition. To be classified as ADHD, a person generally needs to have approximately six symptoms from each category. Symptoms must persist over a period of many months and must impact the sufferer’s life in at least two areas (for most children, school and home are the two areas).
Hyperactivity/impulsive behavior symptoms include:
- constantly feeling restless
- constantly moving
- difficulty playing quietly
- difficulty waiting for his turn
- frequent fidgeting or being unable to sit still
- getting up frequently or running and climbing during inappropriate times
- interrupting others’ conversations
- intruding on the activities of others
- trying to answer questions before they are completed.
Inattentive behavior symptoms include:
- being easily distracted
- difficulty following through on directions or any tasks
- dislike for activities that require focus
- forgetting many things
- having trouble maintaining attention during schoolwork or playtime activities
- losing items frequently
- making simple mistakes in schoolwork
- not listening even when being spoken to directly
- not paying attention to detail.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Life
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can severely affect a child’s schoolwork, home life and social interactions. Hyperactivity and inattentiveness can prevent ADHD/ADD children from fulfilling their educational potential. The impulsivity common to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can lead to substance abuse and other dangerous behavior.
With treatment, children can learn to cope with attention deficit hyperactivity symptoms. ADHD medication can also help to relieve symptoms, and counseling can help many people with ADHD to modify and adapt their behavior.
Mayo Clinic (2007). Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved July 30, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://mayoclinic.com/health/adhd/DS00275/DSECTION=2.