Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been debated since it first started being diagnosed in the 1970's, but it is widely accepted that the disorder exists and ADHD has identifiable symptoms. ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children, affecting 3 to 5% of children worldwide. 1 It's widely accepted that ADHD symptoms will manifest before the age of seven. 2
Symptoms of ADHD are varied but clinicians and the medical establishment widely agree that the presence of core symptoms should result in a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The predominant behaviour markers of ADHD are low attention span, hyperactivity, and impulsivity affecting communication and normal relations. While these behaviours are typical of children (and indeed everyone), a diagnosis results from the observation of ADHD symptoms in at least two different settings over six months or more, to a degree that is measurably greater than other children the same age. 3
ADD & ADHD Unified
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and ADHD were originally considered separate disorders but the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) unified the definition in 2000. The DSM is the authoritative, de facto Bible of the psychiatric profession.
ADHD symptoms list
According to the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the symptoms of ADHD are as follows4:
Inattention may manifest in the following symptoms in children:
Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
Have difficulty focusing on one thing
Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
Not seem to listen when spoken to
Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
Struggle to follow instructions.
Hyperactivity in children with ADHD may be manifest as the following symptoms:
Fidget and squirm in their seats
Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
Be constantly in motion
Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.
ADHD children with impulsivity may exhibit the following symptoms:
Be very impatient
Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
Often interrupt conversations or others' activities.
In Canada, if you are concerned about your child, you should have him or her diagnosed by a doctor or medical specialist. The diagnosis consists of an initial screen a physical exam and at least one interview with the child. You can view the standards for diagnosis at the website for the Canadian Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Resource Alliance.
1nimh.nih.gov. 2 Biederman J (1998). "Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a life-span perspective". The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 59 Suppl 7: 4–16. PMID 9680048. 3health.google.com 4nimh.nih.gov
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