Clinical Reference Guide:
What We Diagnose, How We Diagnose and Treatment Options
Articles & Publications Library
Access relevant BMI articles and publications here.
Disorders We Diagnose and Treat
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Adults
Disorder (ADHD) in Children
Autism and Pervasive Developmental
Digital EEG and Evoked Potentials
for High Achievers
and Language Disorders
(ADHD) in Adults
What is ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that
begins in early childhood and may continue into adulthood. Being restless
and very easily distracted are the most common features of the adult
disorder. It is often called by an older name, attention deficit disorder
(ADD). Between 3% and 7% of all school age children have ADHD. Some
children with ADHD will carry symptoms into their adult years.
How does it occur?
The cause of this disorder is unknown. Both genetics and factors in
the environment may play a role. Research suggests that it may have
a biological cause. People with ADHD have several small differences
in their brain structure. These differences are in the front part of
the brain (an area involved in self-control) and in some parts in the
center of the brain.
ADHD runs in families, especially through the males in the family line.
Research continues in an effort to find out why it occurs in those without
a family history.
What are the symptoms?
There are 3 main symptoms of ADHD:
- Trouble focusing and short attention
span. If you have ADHD, you are very
easily distracted by things you see or hear around you. You will often
begin a task but then become distracted before the task is completed.
Distractibility is the main problem for many adults with ADHD.
- Poor impulse control,
or impulsiveness (having a hard time with patience and waiting). With
this symptom, you often react to things quickly and without thinking
of the outcome. You may tend to interrupt others in conversations,
begin tasks without enough planning, and be impatient. Impulse buying,
impatience in driving, starting too many projects, and being very
quick to anger are common. You may have social problems caused by
being aggressive, loud, or impatient in groups and conversations.
- Hyperactivity (excessive movement).
If you are hyperactive, you are always on the go and constantly restless.
You seldom sit still, and even when sitting, usually fidget or play
with things. You may dislike activities such as watching movies or
playing a quiet game of cards. You also tend to become bored very
quickly. You may have difficulty slowing down at night to get to sleep.
Symptoms may change from childhood to adulthood.
The most common changes occur during adolescence and are a reduction
in hyperactivity and better self-control. Difficulties with attention
change the least between childhood and the adult years.
For many people, childhood ADHD leads to other difficulties during adolescence
and adulthood. Children who are hyperactive and have poor impulse control
may be more likely to develop other mental health problems than those
whose only symptom is being easily distracted. The most common problem
for adults with ADHD is depression. Other problems include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance abuse
- Learning disorders
- Manic-depression (bipolar disorder)
- Personality disorders (such as borderline
personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder)
- Impulse control disorders (such as gambling
- Explosive anger
About half of children with ADHD also have serious behavioral problems
such as defiance or aggression. Many adults who have ADHD continue to
have behavior problems.
About one-third of children with ADHD have trouble learning to read
or do math. Some adults with ADHD continue to have problems with reading,
writing, or math.