What Is ADHD?

Definition of ADHD

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

Definition of ADHD: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects approximately 5% of children and adolescents. It is diagnosed two to four times more frequently in boys than in girls though some studies suggest this discrepancy may be due to subjective bias of referring teachers.

ADHD is one of the most controversial psychiatric diagnoses and continues to be hotly debated among clinicians, researchers, teachers, policymakers, and parents. Controversies are primarily around whether the condition actually exists, and if it does, what the causes are (genetic or environmental), what the best treatments are, and the appropriateness of using drugs in children. Many people also argue that ADHD is over diagnosed and as a result, many children are unnecessarily placed on ‘mind-altering’ drugs.

It is my opinion (and experience) that ‘the symptoms’ of ADHD do exist, however, it is poorly diagnosed and is often treated inappropriately through the sole use of stimulant medication. The key to successful treatment is to find out WHY the symptoms are presenting in a person and treating the cause(s) of the symptoms. While medication may be necessary for some children, there are a range of treatments that can help overcome the symptoms of ADHD.

Definition of ADHD- Diagnosing ADHD

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed. (DSM-IV), points A to E below must be met.

  1. Criteria 1 or 2 (or both) must be met.
  1. Six (or more) of the following symptoms of inattention have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:


  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
  • Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (eg, toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
  • Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities


  1. Six (or more) of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:


  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
  • Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
  • Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
  • Often talks excessively


  • Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Often has difficulty awaiting turn
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (eg, butts into conversations or games)


  1. Some hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms that caused impairment were present before 7 years of age.
  2. Some impairment from the symptoms is present in 2 or more settings (eg, at school [or work] or at home).
  3. There must be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.
  4. The symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of a pervasive developmental disorder, schizophrenia, or other psychotic disorder and are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (eg, mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or personality disorder).


Definition of ADHD- ADHD Subtypes

ADHD can then be broken into subtypes outlined below:

  1. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Type- when both criteria A1 and A2 are met for the past 6 months
  2. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Type- whencriterion A1 is met but criterion A2 is not met for the past 6 months
  3. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Hyperactive, Impulsive Type- when criterion A2 is met but criterion A1 is not met for the past 6 months

This page provides a definition of ADHD, and some of the signs symptoms of ADHD in children and adults. While having knowledge of this is important, ultimately effective treatment of this condition will only occur if the cause(s) of the symptoms are identified.

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