What Is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention Deficit / Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD) affects 3 to 5 percent of children in America. Children with ADHD have difficulty staying focused on important tasks. They may also be too active. If left untreated, the disorder may cause a child to do poorly in school and hurt relationships with friends and family.

What Are the Signs of ADHD?

Children with ADHD have some or all of the following symptoms:

Inattention (cannot focus well.) Some signs are:

  • Easily distracted.
  • Loses books, homework, toys
  • Quickly bored
  • Difficulty in following instructions

Hyperactivity (overly active) and Impulsivity (acts recklessly or without thinking). Some signs are:

  • Often in motion
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Blurts out the answer before the question is finished
  • Can't wait in line or for a turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others' conversations or games

All children show these signs at some time as they grow. Children who have ADHD have them more frequently and severely than other children of the same age.

What Are the Causes of ADHD?

The precise cause of most mental disorders is not fully understood. In general, mental disorders result from a combination of genetic and other biological factors, and nurturing and other environmental factors.

Many popular beliefs are false. For example, studies show that sugar and food additives do not cause ADHD. There are probably many different causes for ADHD, but most experts believe the cause is biological.

How Do I know if My Child Has ADHD?

There are other health and mental health conditions that have symptoms similar to those of ADHD. And it is also possible that a child may have ADHD and another disorder, such as depression, anxiety disorder or learning disabilities. Therefore, it is important to have a thorough evaluation by a specialist for accurate diagnosis.

The evaluation process usually consists of gathering information from several sources: child, parents, teachers, and pediatricians, and may include observation and testing.

How Is ADHD Treated?

ADHD can be treated with therapy, medication or both. In addition educators may help with school problems.

Physicians and psychiatrists prescribe stimulant medications to manage and reduce the ADHD symptoms. These medications can dramatically improve a child's concentration and self-control.

There are many "myths" about these medications. It is important that you have reliable, up-to-date information. However, most experts believe medication, used properly, is a safe and effective part of treatment for ADHD.

Therapy and education teach children and families skills that help them reduce and manage symptoms associated with ADHD. In therapy, children learn behaviors, such as waiting for a turn, asking for help, or sharing toys. And children learn to manage their emotions, such as anger, and to be more organized. Family therapy or parent education helps the family gain skills that teach and encourage the child's positive behavior.

A child who has difficulties in school may be eligible for special education services

How Can I Get Help?

First, consult your child's doctor. Ask for a complete health examination of your child. Tell the doctor about the behaviors that concern you. Ask your doctor if further evaluation or treatment by a specialist in child behavioral problems is needed.

You may also want to contact your child's school. Teachers and school counselors may also be able to help.

Your child may be eligible to receive mental health services from the County Mental Health Plan. The County has a toll free number available 24 hours a day. They will be able to talk with you in your own language, and answer questions about your child's behavior. Their services and phone numbers are listed in the county government pages of your local phone book.

Where Can I Get More Information?

National Institute of Mental Health
(301) 443-4513

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
(800) 233-4050