What is ADHD?

ADHD is one of the most common disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood.

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A person with ADHD has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control. ADHD can affect a child at school, at home, and in friendships.

Signs & Symptoms

1. Daydreaming

2. Forgetfulness

3. Restlessness

4. Excessive talking

5. Making careless mistakes

6. Trouble resisting temptations

7. Taking unnecessary risks

8. Having difficulty getting along with others

9. Having trouble taking turns


Scientists are studying cause(s) and risk factors in an effort to find better ways to manage and reduce the chances of a person having ADHD. The cause(s) and risk factors for ADHD are unknown, but current research shows that genetics plays an important role. Recent studies of twins link genes with ADHD.

In addition to genetics, scientists are studying other possible causes and risk factors including:

  • Brain injury
  • Exposure to environmental (e.g., lead) during pregnancy or at a young age
  • Alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy
  • Premature delivery
  • Low birth weight

Research does not support the popularly held views that ADHD is caused by eating too much sugar, watching too much television, parenting, or social and environmental factors such as poverty or family chaos. Of course, many things, including these, might make symptoms worse, especially in certain people. But the evidence is not strong enough to conclude that they are the main causes of ADHD.


If you think your child has ADHD, make an appointment with your child’s doctor. He or she will give your child a check-up, including vision and hearing, to be sure something else isn’t causing the symptoms. The doctor can refer you to a child psychologist or psychiatrist if needed.

To diagnose ADHD, doctors start by asking about a child’s health, behavior, and activity. They talk with parents and kids about the things they have noticed. Your doctor might ask you to complete checklists about your child’s behavior, and might ask you to give your child’s teacher a checklist too.

After gathering this information, doctors diagnose ADHD if it’s clear that:

  • A child’s distractibility, hyperactivity, or impulsivity go beyond what’s usual for their age.
  • The behaviors have been going on since the child was young.
  • Distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity affect the child at school and at home.
  • A health check shows that another health or learning issue isn’t causing the problems.

Many kids with ADHD also have learning problems, oppositional and defiant behaviors, or mood and anxiety problems. Doctors usually treat these along with the ADHD.


Treatment for ADHD usually includes:

  • Medicine: This activates the brain’s ability to pay attention, slow down, and use more self-control.
  • Behavior therapy: Therapists can help kids develop the social, emotional, and planning skills that are lagging with ADHD.
  • Parent coaching: Through coaching, parents learn the best ways to respond to behavior difficulties that are part of ADHD.
  • School support: Teachers can help kids with ADHD do well and enjoy school more.

You can also manage symptoms by staying healthy.

Being healthy is important for all children and can be especially important for children with ADHD. In addition to behavioral therapy and medication, having a healthy lifestyle can make it easier for your child to deal with ADHD symptoms. Here are some healthy behaviors that may help:

  • Developing healthy eating habits such as eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and choosing lean protein sources.
  • Participating in daily physical activity based on age.
  • Limiting the amount of daily screen time from TVs, computers, phones, and other electronics.
  • Getting the recommended amount of sleep each night based on age.

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