Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – commonly referred to as ADHD – is a disorder that simply put, makes it hard to pay attention. While most think of ADHD as a disorder that affects children, it can affect adults as well, having an impact on their ability to stay focused, organized and control their impulses.
The symptoms of ADHD usually become visible in childhood, often in a school setting when teachers notice the child’s inability to sit still and pay attention. In fact, a formal diagnosis of ADHD can only be made if the behaviors associated with ADHD are seen in two or more settings – for example, both at home and at school. Additionally, a formal diagnosis is only made if the symptoms of ADHD are present for at least six months.
The disorder is typically visible in three types of symptoms: inattention (having a hard time paying attention), hyperactivity (being overactive) and impulsivity (acting without thinking first). Examples of specific behaviors include:
- Losing things that are needed for certain tasks or activities (like a child forgetting school supplies or an adult leaving a wallet or phone behind)
- Having problem staying attentive or focused in tasks or play (during games, conversations, or even while reading)
- Becoming distracted by unrelated thoughts or outside stimuli (as when a child is more focused on what he can see outside a classroom window than what is happening in the classroom)
- Avoiding tasks that demand sustained effort, like homework or a work project
- Forgetting about daily activities such as chores, appointments or errands
Behaviors that indicate hyperactivity and impulsivity include:
- An inability to sit still when seated, or to get up and move around when expected to stay seated (as a child is expected to sit still during classroom)
- Talking non-stop
- An inability to wait his or her turn
- Interrupting conversations or intruding on others when they are engaged in an activity
- An inability to play or practice hobbies quietly
There is no known cure for ADHD, but effective treatments are available to help manage the symptoms. The condition is typically treated with behavior modification, medication or a combination of the two.
If you see behaviors or signs that are consistent with ADHD in your child (or yourself), contact your family doctor for a diagnosis and referral to a program or therapist who can help.