With treatment, people with ADHD can be successful in school, work and lead productive lives. Researchers are using new tools such as brain imaging to better understand the condition and to find more effective ways to treat and prevent ADHD.

What is ADHD?

The essential feature of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a persistent pattern of inattention and / or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.

From the DSM-5

What causes ADHD?

While the exact cause of ADHD is not clear, research efforts continue.

Risk Factors

Factors that may be involved in the development of ADHD include:

  • Genetics. ADHD can run in families, and studies indicate that genes may play a role.
  • Environment. Certain environmental factors also may increase risk, such as lead exposure as a child.
  • Problems during development. Problems with the central nervous system at key moments in development may play a role.

Risk of ADHD may increase if:

  • You have blood relatives, such as a parent or sibling, with ADHD or another mental health disorder.
  • Your mother smoked, drank alcohol or used drugs during pregnancy.
  • As a child, you were exposed to environmental toxins — such as lead, found mainly in paint and pipes in older buildings.
  • You were born prematurely.

How to Recognize ADHD

While some behaviors associated with ADHD are "normal" and not a cause for concern to most people, someone with ADHD will have trouble controlling these behaviors and will show them much more frequently and for longer than 6 months.

Signs of inattention include:
Becoming easily distracted, and jumping from activity to activity.
Becoming bored with a task quickly
Difficulty focusing attention or completing a single task or activity.
Trouble completing or turning in homework assignments.
Losing things such as school supplies or toys.
Not listening or paying attention when spoken to.
Daydreaming or wandering with lack of motivation.
Difficulty processing information quickly.
Struggling to follow directions.
Signs of hyperactivity include:
Fidgeting and squirming, having trouble sitting still.
Non-stop talking.
Touching or playing with everything.
Difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.
Signs of impulsivity include:
Fidgeting and squirming, having trouble sitting still.
Non-stop talking.
Touching or playing with everything.
Difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.

Know the Facts


An estimated 8.8% of children aged 4-17 have ADHD. While ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, it does not only affect children. An estimated 4.4% of adults aged 18-44 have ADHD.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that the estimated number of children ever diagnosed with ADHD, 1 in 6.1 million (9.4% with 8.8% of those being aged 4-17)
Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls (12.9% compared to 5.6%).

1 in 6 million

National Institute of Mental Health reports the following statistics:

  • Males are almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females.
  • During their lifetimes, 13 percent of men and 4.2 of women will be diagnosed with ADHD. 
  • The average age of ADHD diagnosis is 7 years old.
  • Symptoms of ADHD typically first appear between the ages of 3 and 6. 
  • ADHD isn’t just a childhood disorder. About 4 percent of American adults over the age of 18 deal with ADHD on a daily basis.

Common Co-occurring Disorders

Learning Disabilities

People with ADHD may score lower on academic testing than would be expected for their age, intelligence and education. Learning disabilities can include problems with understanding and communicating.

Mood Disorder

Many adults with ADHD also have depression, bipolar disorder or another mood disorder.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders occur fairly often in adults with ADHD. Anxiety disorders may cause overwhelming worry, nervousness and other symptoms.

Treatment Options

Standard treatments for ADHD in adults typically involve medication, education, skills training and psychological counseling. A combination of these is often the most effective treatment. These treatments can help manage many symptoms of ADHD, but they don't cure it. It may take some time to determine what works best for you.

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Medications, including stimulants, nonstimulants and antidepressants
  • Self-management, education programs and assistance through schools or work or alternative treatment approaches

Lifestyle Changes

While most people with anxiety disorders need psychotherapy or medications to get anxiety under control, lifestyle changes also can make a difference. Here's what you can do:

From the Mayo Clinic

Make a list of tasks to accomplish each day. Prioritize the items. Make sure you're not trying to do too much.

Break down tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Consider using checklists.

Use sticky pads to write notes to yourself. Put them on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, in the car or in other places where you'll see the reminders.

Keep an appointment book or electronic calendar to track appointments and deadlines.

Carry a notebook or electronic device with you so that you can note ideas or things you'll need to remember.

Take time to set up systems to file and organize information, both on your electronic devices and for paper documents. Get in the habit of using these systems consistently.

Follow a routine that's consistent from day to day and keep items, such as your keys and your wallet, in the same place.

Ask for help from family members or other loved ones.

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