Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder occurs when a person experiences difficulty with maintaining attention or controlling physical energy and movement.
In the United States, approximately 8.4% of children have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder ADHD Around 2.5 % of adults have ADHD.
In some children, ADHD symptoms begin as early as 3yo, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
However, many different life events, psychological disorders, and medical conditions can lead to certain characteristics of ADHD. Even if the individual receives a diagnosis, ADHD is manageable, and treatment can be highly effective.
While the actual cause of ADHD remains elusive, a person with ADHD experiences a variety of impairments, including difficulty maintaining attention or focusing on a task.
Some people with ADHD might have difficulty sitting still, and others may display a combination of different symptoms.
While all people may struggle with paying attention to things, they find disinteresting from time to time, those with ADHD may face consistent challenges with maintaining attention and could be quick to follow through on impulses or become easily distracted.
A person with ADHD experiences impulsivity and distraction beyond a level that would be typical for a person’s age.
There are three different specifiers a doctor will add to an ADHD diagnosis to identify its characteristics, including predominantly inattentive ADHD, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive ADHD, and combined ADHD.
Doctors divide the presentation of ADHD into three categories: inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and combined presentation. Each is described in more detail below.
These do not qualify as different diagnoses. They simply provide additional information on a particular presentation of ADHD to assist the practitioner in managing its effects.
A person with inattentive ADHD is more likely to demonstrate the following characteristics in a way that disrupt:
An apparent inability to pay close attention to a task or a tendency to make careless mistakes
difficulties with holding focus on activities or tasks
giving the appearance of not listening while other people are talking
experiencing difficulty with time management and task organization
frequently losing items or accessories necessary for daily function
becoming distracted easily
forgetting to complete tasks and fulfill obligations
an avoidance or intense dislike of tasks that require prolonged focus and thought
difficulties with following instructions to complete tasks
This specifier means that an individual shows more signs of hyperactivity than inattention, including:
seeming to be constantly “on-the-go”
an inability to remain seated
bouts of inappropriate running or climbing
difficulties waiting for their turn in a conversation, often finishing other people’s sentences or answering before the end of a question
frequently intruding on others, including conversations, activities, or games
persistent fidgeting, tapping of the hands and feet, or squirming
finding it difficult to play or engage in activities without creating excessive noise
reluctance to wait for their turn, such as in a line or a turn-based game
A person with a combined ADHD shows characteristics from both specifiers.
These characteristics interfere with daily life, relationships with others, and success in school or work.
Even if a doctor adds a specifier to a presentation of ADHD, this can change over time. Women are more likely to experience difficulty with inattentive characteristics, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
This could be why females do not often receive a diagnosis. Educators would not describe their symptoms in class as disruptive, as hyperactive characteristics often do not have as much of a presence in female presentations of ADHD.