Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a psychiatric disorder of the neuro-developmental type in which there are significant problems of attention, hyperactivity or acting impulsively that are not appropriate for a person’s age. These symptoms must begin by age six to twelve and persist for more than six months for a diagnosis to be made. In school-aged individuals inattention symptoms often result in poor school performance. Despite being the most commonly studied and diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children and adolescents, the cause in the majority of cases is unknown. It affects about 6–7% of children.
ADHD is diagnosed approximately three times more in boys than in girls. About 30–50% of people diagnosed in childhood continue to have symptoms into adulthood and between 2–5% of adults have the condition. The condition can be difficult to tell apart from other disorders as well as that of high normal activity. ADHD management usually involves some combination of counselling, lifestyle changes, and medications. Medications are only recommended as a first-line treatment in children who have severe symptoms and may be considered for those with moderate symptoms who either refuse or fail to improve with counselling. Long-term effects of medications are not clear and they are not recommended in preschool-aged children. Adolescents and adults tend to develop coping skills which make up for some or all of their impairments. Children with ADHD more often have difficulties with social skills, such as social interaction and forming and maintaining friendships. This is true for all subtypes. About half of children and adolescents with ADHD experience social rejection by their peers compared to 10–15% of non-ADHD children and adolescents. People with ADHD have attention deficits which cause difficulty processing verbal and nonverbal language which can negatively affect social interaction. They also may drift off during conversations, and miss social cues.
Difficulties managing anger are more common in children with ADHD as are poor handwriting and delays in speech, language and motor development. Although it causes significant impairment, particularly in modern society, many children with ADHD have a good attention span for tasks they find interesting.