Attention -Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder: ADHD Basics

 In Health Library

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental and behavioral disorder that affects 3% to 5% of all school-age children.

Although the condition usually manifests in childhood, it can persist into adulthood, causing difficulties at home, at school and at work if not recognized and treated.

In fact, experts now estimate that ADHD affects about 60% of adults who had ADHD in childhood.

Childhood ADHD is diagnosed after a child has shown six or more specific symptoms of inactivity and/or hyperactivity on a regular basis for more than six months in more than two settings. There is no single test for ADHD.

A physician can diagnose ADHD with the help of standard guidelines. The diagnosis of ADHD involves the gathering of information from several sources, including school, caregivers, and parents. The doctor will consider how a child’s behavior compares with that of other children the same age.

Symptoms of Childhood ADHD

Children with ADHD show signs of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity in specific ways.

These children:

  • Are in constant motion
  • Squirm and fidget
  • Do not seem to listen
  • Have difficulty playing quietly


Inattention may not become apparent until a child enters the challenging environment of elementary school. In adults, symptoms may manifest in work or in social situations.

A person with ADHD may have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty paying attention to details or prone to making careless mistakes in school or other activities.
  • Work is often messy and careless.
  • Easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli and frequently interrupt ongoing tasks to attend to trivial noises or events that are usually ignored by others.
  • Inability to sustain attention on tasks or activities.
  • Difficulty finishing schoolwork or paperwork or performing tasks that requires concentration.
  • Frequent shifts from one uncompleted activity to another.
  • Procrastination
  • Forgetful in daily activities (for example. forgetting to bring lunch)
  • Failure to complete tasks like homework or chores
  • Frequent shifts in conversation, not listening to others, not keeping ones mind on conversations and not following details or rules of activities in social situations


The symptoms of hyperactivity may be apparent in very young preschoolers and are nearly always present before the age of seven.

Symptoms include:

  • Fidgeting, squirming when seated
  • Having to get up frequently to walk or run around
  • Running or climbing excessively when its inappropriate (in teens this may appear as restlessness)
  • Difficulty playing quietly or engaging in quiet leisure activities
  • Always on the go
  • Often talks excessively

Hyperactivity may vary with age and developmental stage Toddlers and preschoolers with ADHD tend to be constantly in motion, jumping on furniture and having difficulty participating in sedentary group activities (such as listening to a story) School-age children display similar behavior, but with less frequency They are unable to remain seated, squirm a lot, fidget or talk excessively In adolescents, hyperactivity may manifest itself as feelings of restlessness and difficulty engaging in quiet sedentary activities.


Symptoms of impulsivity include:

  • Impatience
  • Difficulty delaying responses
  • Blurting out answers before questions have been completed
  • Difficulty awaiting one’s turn
  • Frequently interrupting or intruding on others to the point of causing problems in social settings
  • Initiating conversations at inappropriate times

Impulsivity may lead to accidents (knocking over objects, banging into people, etc) Children with ADHD may also engage in potentially dangerous activities without consideration for the consequences (climbing to precarious positions).

Many of these symptoms occur from time to time in normal youngsters However, in children with ADHD they occur frequently, at home and at school, or when visiting with friends, and they interfere with the child’s ability to function normally.

ADHD is diagnosed after children consistently display some or all of these behaviors in at least two settings, such as at home and in school, for at least six months.

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