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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

From MayoClinic.com

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Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of ADHD fall into two broad categories: inattention and hyperactivity-impulsive behavior. In general, children are said to have ADHD if they show six or more symptoms from each category for at least 6 months. These symptoms must affect a child's ability to function to a large degree in at least two social settings — typically at home and at school. This helps ensure that the problem isn't with a particular teacher or only with parents. Children who have problems in school but get along well at home are not considered to have ADHD. In most children, symptoms appear between 4 and 6 years of age, although they sometimes may occur earlier.

The signs and symptoms of ADHD include the following:


  • Often fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork or other activities

  • Often has trouble sustaining attention during tasks or play

  • Often doesn't seem to listen when spoken to directly

  • Often doesn't follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores or other tasks

  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks or activities

  • Often avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork or homework

  • Often loses things needed for tasks or activities, such as books, pencils, toys or tools

  • Is often easily distracted

  • Is often forgetful

Hyperactivity-impulsive behavior

  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.

  • Often leaves seat in the classroom or in other situations where remaining seated is expected.

  • Often runs or climbs excessively when it's not appropriate. Adolescents might not run or climb but may constantly feel restless.

  • Often has difficulty playing quietly.

  •  Is often "on the go" or acts as if "driven by a motor."

  • Often talks excessively.

  • Often blurts out the answers before questions have been completely asked.

  • Often has difficulty waiting his or her turn.

  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others by butting into conversations or games.

Most healthy children exhibit many of these behaviors at one time or another. For instance, parents may worry that a 3-year-old who can't listen to a story from beginning to end or finish a drawing may have ADHD. But preschoolers normally have a short attention span and aren't able to stick with one activity for long. This doesn't mean they're inattentive — it simply means they're normal preschoolers.

Even in older children and adolescents, attention span often depends on the level of interest in a particular activity. Most teenagers can listen to music or talk to their friends for hours but may be a lot less focused about homework.

The same is true of hyperactivity. Young children are naturally energetic — they often wear their parents out long before they're worn out themselves. And they may become even more active when they're tired, hungry, anxious or in a new environment. In addition, some children just naturally have a higher activity level than others.

When children have ADHD, however, they tend to be especially sensitive to stimuli such as sights, sounds and touch. When overstimulated, they can quickly get out of control, becoming giddy and sometimes aggressive or even physically or verbally abusive. Children with the inattentive form of ADHD may seem to drift away into their own thoughts or lose track of what's going on around them.

Most children with ADHD don't have all the signs and symptoms of the disorder. Furthermore, symptoms may be different in boys and girls. Boys are more likely to be hyperactive, and girls tend to be inattentive. In addition, girls who have trouble paying attention often daydream, but inattentive boys are more likely to play or fiddle aimlessly. Boys also tend to be less compliant with teachers and other adults, so their behavior is often more conspicuous.

Symptoms of ADHD in adults

ADHD always begins in childhood, but it may last into adult life. The core symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior are the same for adults as for children. Most adults have just one or two of the symptoms, not all three.

Adults who have problems with inattention may daydream during lectures or presentations at work and have trouble finishing tasks. Hyperactive adults aren't likely to be as physically active as hyperactive children, but they may find it hard to sit through movies or concerts or frequently shift positions or tap their fingers or feet. Impulsive adults often have trouble waiting in line and driving in heavy traffic, and they may be tempted to take unnecessary risks. Adults with ADHD also may have mood swings, a quick temper, a low tolerance for stress and problems with relationships.

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