What Is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a neurobehavioral disorder characterized by a combination of inattentiveness, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Five to seven percent of children are diagnosed with this developmental disorder. Some simply cannot concentrate; some become disruptive, defiant and have trouble getting along with parents, peers, or teachers.

ADHD is controversial: Is it a disorder at all or a collection of behaviors normally occurring in the population but less tolerated in today’s high-demand world? There are competing theories about what, if anything, goes wrong in the brain, although executive functioning (attention, emotion regulation, and decision-making) is invariably affected. Up to 50 percent of children eventually outgrow the condition, but even if they do, earlier developmental delays may create enduring learning problems.

Experts disagree whether treatment should be behavioral (training of attention, more play, more structure) or pharmacological (stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall), although a combination of both may work best.

Work, school, and managing household tasks can be very challenging for people with ADD and ADHD. Fortunately, sufferers can learn coping skills to work around shortcomings and harness talents — as many successful people with ADD and ADHD have done.

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