What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neuro-developmental disorder which interferes with the way a child develops in, and interacts with, his or her environment.   ADHD is a long term disorder which in most cases persists into adulthood.

ADHD is characterised by 3 groups of symptoms which, for a diagnosis, must be so severe that they lead to significant impairment in a person’s life and must have been present before the age of 12.  These are:

Inattention People with ADHD have a short attention span. They find it hard to concentrate and are easily distracted – they may be very sensitive to small sounds and sights which others wouldn’t notice.

They may quickly forget instructions, especially if given a lot to take in at once.   They also find it hard to organise themselves and often lose things.

Impulsiveness People with ADHD sometimes act without thinking through the consequences.  They find it hard to wait their turn and may interrupt others.    Children with ADHD are often described as fearless – but sometimes this means taking risks or doing things which are not wise.
Hyperactivity People with ADHD are restless and find it hard to sit still or do one thing for very long.  They need to move about and may fidget.  ADHD is associated with problems in getting to sleep and staying asleep.

ADHD is a complex disorder which results from differences in the way the brain develops and functions.   Although environment is thought to play a part in the development of ADHD – for example children who have experienced trauma in early childhood are more likely to develop ADHD – it is a strongly heritable, genetic condition.

ADHD is strongly associated with a number of other neurodevelopmental conditions and people with ADHD often have some of these other conditions as well.  These include autistic spectrum disorder, tic disorder or Tourette’s syndrome, dyslexia, dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder.

Although ADHD cannot be ‘cured’, its impact on an individual can be managed through carefully planned treatment programmes and the provision of appropriate support both at home and in school.  Early intervention can reduce the risks, and the costs, associated with anti-social or risky behaviour, academic under-performance and economic inactivity, and poor mental health.

With the right support, people with ADHD can enjoy successful careers and personal lives.   ADHD is associated with many strengths including creative thinking, energy, humour and willingness to take risks.  A number of well-known celebrities, entrepreneurs, sportsmen and women and public figures have achieved high levels of success because they have been able overcome difficulties during the early years and to then exploit the positive features of the condition.

There is more information about ADHD and the cost of untreated ADHD on the Pay Attention UK website.