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ADHD and How To Recognize it In Children & Adults


ttention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that makes it hard for children and adults to focus and/or control their behavior. It affects two million children in the United States and often continues into adulthood. In the past ADHD was known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but in 1994 it was renamed to ADHD so hyperactivity could be included as part of the disorder.

Characteristics of ADHD

The main characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Before the age of seven, most children display these symptoms. So, as a result, parents often wrongly conclude that their child has ADHD. However children with ADHD have these characteristics on a more extreme level than other children; they need to be monitored carefully and should receive a complete examination and diagnosis from a primary care doctor.

Criteria for Diagnosing ADHD

The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual Symptoms for Mental Disorders provides a criterion for diagnosing ADHD. The section is divided into two parts: inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. If six or more of the symptoms in each section are consistently observed in a child for a period of six months or longer in different environments - mostly at home and school- and is disruptive to and is negatively affecting their developmental process, then the child may have ADHD. Some children are diagnosed as being the Inattention Type, some as being the Hyperactivity-Impulsivity Type and others are diagnosed as being the Combined Type. Children who are diagnosed as being the Hyperactivity-Impulsivity Type are usually boys while girls are usually the Inattention Type. The symptoms of the Hyperactivity-Impulsivity Type are easier to see and that type is usually diagnosed more readily than the Inattention Type.

The symptoms for each characteristic are outlined below:


  • Often moves around or fidgets and squirms when seated
  • Runs around and climbs on things when it is not appropriate
  • Can not quietly and obediently enjoy activities
  • Is often "on the move" or "wired"
  • Often talks too fast or too much


  • Often blurts out answers before the question has been fully asked
  • Often has trouble waiting for his/her turn
  • Often interrupts when someone is talking or intrudes on others
  • Makes rash decisions


  • Does not pay attention to detail and make careless and unnecessary mistakes
  • Can not focus on the tasks and activities at hand
  • Does not appear to be listening when someone is talking to him/her
  • Avoids or dislikes anything that requires focus for a long period of time
  • Is forgetful
  • Is easily distracted or has a short attention span
  • Does not follow instruction or fails to finish anything he/she has started - not because he/she does not want to or because he/she does not understand - but because he/she can not concentrate on anything for too long

ADHD in Adults

ADHD begins in childhood, but can continue into adulthood. Adults with ADHD have the same main symptoms of ADHD -inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity- but they are expressed or seen in a different way. The symptoms are not as obvious and apparent in adults as they are in children. Seen in adults the symptoms of ADHD are:

  • Little or no concentration
  • Inability to stay focused so that tasks can be completed
  • Mood swings
  • Hot temper
  • Inability to deal with stress
  • Failure to control impulses
  • A feeling of restlessness with the inability to relax
  • Can not organize or prioritize tasks so it can be finished in a timely manner
  • Impatience
  • Extreme outbursts of anger or rude remarks
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Trouble remembering information
  • Procrastination


  • Guest October 22, 2009 at 8:12 PM

    Usually related to the lack of a positive or mature role model in their past, their coping strategies range from ineffective to actually making their situation worse.

    • Derek April 29, 2016 at 3:19 PM

      I was raised in a Golden child family structure, where father was narcassist. mother was enabler and controller , brother was golden child. knowing this family design or dynamics has given me relief that i am not defective. its easier to source solutions for diagnosis with some reverence. adhd had made a great cook. it is an emotional job which i was very intuitive too. bad role models was key in though. thanks for having this site.

  • Guest October 22, 2009 at 8:12 PM

    Usually related to the lack of a positive or mature role model in their past, their coping strategies range from ineffective to actually making their situation worse.

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