Attention Deficit Disorder: Definition, Symptoms, Causes and More

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder of the neurodevelopmental; it is characterized by trouble paying attention, overactivity, or difficulty controlling behavior that is appropriate for a person’s age.

It is a brain disorder marked by a continuous pattern of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.

Symptoms appear before a person is twelve years old and can be present for more than six months, causing problems in at least two settings (such as school, home, or recreational activities).In children, problems paying attention can result in poor school performance.

Despite being the most studied and diagnosed mental disorder in children and adolescents, the exact cause is unknown in most cases, affecting 5-7% of children using DSM-IV criteria and 1-2% when diagnosed according to ICD-10 standards. The condition can be challenging to differentiate from other states, as well as to distinguish from high levels of activity that are still within the range of normative behaviors.

History of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Hyperactivity has long been part of the human condition, although hyperactive behavior has not always been problematic.

The terminology used to describe the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD has undergone many changes throughout history, including minimal brain damage, minimal brain dysfunction, learning / behavioral disabilities, and hyperactivity.

In the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as DSM-II (1968), the condition was called “Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood.” In the 1980 DSM-III, “ADD (attention deficit disorder) with or without hyperactivity” was introduced. In 1987, this label was further refined to “ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)” in the DSM-III-R and later editions, including the current DSM-5.

Attention Deficit Disorder

Signs and Symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder

Inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. Some people have problems with only one of the behaviors, while others have inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. Most children have the combined type.

In preschool, the most common symptom is hyperactivity. It is normal to have some inattention, unfocused motor activity, and impulsivity, but for people with this type of disorder, the behaviors:

  • They are more severe.
  • They happen more often.
  • They interfere with the quality of how they function socially, at school, or a job.

Symptoms in children

Lack of attention

Inattention means that a person is distracted from the task, lacks persistence, has difficulty maintaining focus, and is disorganized; these problems are not due to defiance or understanding.

People with symptoms of inattention can often:

  • Overlooking or missing details, making careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  • I have trouble staying focused on homework or play, including long conversations, lectures, or reading.
  • He does not seem to listen when speaking directly.
  • They do not follow instructions and do not finish school, household, or homework assignments, quickly lose focus, and easily get sidetracked.
  • They have trouble organizing tasks and activities.
  • Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as homework or schoolwork, or for teens and older adults, by preparing reports, filling out forms, or reviewing lengthy documents.
  • They lose necessary things, such as school supplies, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, glasses, and cell phones, among others …
  • They are easily distracted.


Hyperactivity means that a person seems to be constantly moving, even in situations where it is not appropriate, or excessively restless.

On the other hand, Impulsivity means that a person performs hasty actions that occur at the moment without first thinking about them and may have a high potential for harm, a desire for immediate rewards, or an inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person can be a social intruder and excessively interrupt others, making important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.

People with symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity can often:

  • They are restless all the time.
  • It is running in situations where it is not appropriate.
  • They cannot play or participate in hobbies in silence.
  • Be constantly on the go.
  • They talk nonstop.
  • You have trouble waiting your turn.
  • They interrupt or intrude, for example, in conversations, games, or activities.

Symptoms of ADHD can appear as early as between the ages of 3 and 6 and can continue into adolescence and adulthood; it may be mistaken for emotional or disciplinary problems or go undetected in quiet, well-behaved children, which leads to a delay in diagnosis.

Adults with undiagnosed ADHD may have a history of poor academic performance, problems at work, or difficult or failed relationships.

The symptoms of attention deficit disorder can change over time as a person ages. In young children with ADHD, hyperactivity-impulsivity is the most predominant symptom; when a child reaches elementary school, the sign of inattention can become more prominent and cause the child to have academic difficulties.

In adolescence, hyperactivity appears to decrease and may show up more often as a feeling of restlessness, but inattention and impulsivity may remain. Many teens also struggle with relationships and antisocial behaviors; inattention, restlessness, and Impulsivity tend to persist into adulthood.

Symptoms in adults

The symptoms of ADHD can change as a person ages. They include:

  • Chronic tardiness and forgetfulness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Low self-esteem. (Required items)
  • Problems at work.
  • Trouble controlling anger. (Required items)
  • Impulsiveness. (Required items)
  • Substance abuse or addiction.
  • Unorganized.
  • Delay.
  • Easily frustrated.
  • Chronic boredom
  • Trouble concentrating while reading.
  • Humor changes.
  • Depression.
  • Relationship problems.

Causes of attention deficit disorder

Most cases of ADHD are of unknown causes, believed to involve interactions between genetics, environment, and social factors. Certain circumstances are related to a previous infection or trauma to the brain.


Twin studies indicate that the disorder is often inherited from parents, with genetics determining approximately 75% of cases. Siblings of children with ADHD are three to four times more likely to develop the disorder than siblings of children without this disorder. Genetic factors are also involved in determining whether ADHD persists into adulthood.


Besides genetics, some environmental factors can play a role in causing ADHD. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, including ADHD or similar symptoms. Children exposed to certain toxic substances, such as lead or PCBs, can develop similar problems.

Exposure to the organophosphate insecticides chlorpyrifos and dialkyl phosphate is associated with an increased risk; however, the evidence is inconclusive. Exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy can cause central nervous system development problems and increase the risk of ADHD.

Extreme preterm birth, light birth weight, and extreme neglect, abuse, or social deprivation also increased risk, as do certain infections during pregnancy, delivery, and early childhood. These infections include but are not limited to various viruses (measles, varicella-zoster encephalitis, rubella).


In some cases, the ADHD diagnosis may reflect a dysfunctional family or poor educational system rather than problems with the individuals themselves. In other cases, it can be explained by the increase in academic expectations, with a diagnosis that is a method for parents in some countries to obtain additional financial and educational support for their children.

Younger children in a class are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, possibly because they are behind the development of their older classmates. Typical AD / HD behaviors commonly occur in children who have experienced violence and emotional abuse.

Treatment and therapies for attention deficit disorder

While there is no cure for ADHD, currently available treatments can help reduce symptoms and improve functioning. Treatments include medication, psychotherapy, education or training, or medicines.


For many people, medications reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve their ability to concentrate, work, and learn; it can also improve physical coordination. Sometimes several different medications or dosages must be tried before finding the right one that works for a particular person; their prescribing physician should closely and carefully monitor anyone taking medications.


The most common type of medicine used to treat attention deficit disorder is called ‘a stimulant’;. However, it may seem unusual to treat ADHD with a treatment that is considered a stimulant; it works by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which play essential roles in thinking and attention.

Under medical supervision, stimulant medications are considered safe. However, there are risks and side effects, especially when misused or taken more than prescribed.

For example, stimulants can raise blood pressure and heart rate and increase anxiety. Therefore, a person with other health problems, including high blood pressure, seizures, heart disease, glaucoma, liver or kidney disease, or an anxiety disorder, should inform their doctor before taking a stimulant.

Talk to a doctor if you notice any of these side effects of taking stimulants:

  • Decreased appetite
  • trouble sleeping
  • Tics (sudden and repetitive movements or sounds).
  • personality changes
  • increased anxiety and irritability
  • stomach aches
  • Headaches.

Not stimulants.

Some other ADHD medications are non-stimulants, they take longer to start working than stimulants, but they can also improve focus, attention, and Impulsivity in a person with ADHD. Doctors may prescribe a non-stimulant medication when a person has bothersome side effects from stimulants when it is not practical or a push to increase effectiveness.

Although not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for treating ADHD, some antidepressants are sometimes used alone or in combination with a stimulant to treat it. Antidepressants can help with all symptoms and can be prescribed if a patient has bothersome side effects from stimulants; they can be helpful in combination with stimulants if a patient also has another condition, such as an anxiety disorder, or depression, or another condition disorder of spirit.


Adding psychotherapy to treat ADHD can help patients, and their families better cope with everyday problems.

Behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that aims to help a person change their behavior; it may include practical assistance, such as helping organize tasks or completing homework or work during emotionally tricky events.

Behavioral therapy also teaches the person to:

  • Control your behavior.
  • Give yourself praise or rewards for acting the way you want, such as controlling anger or thinking before you work.
  • Parents, teachers, and family members can also give positive or negative feedback on specific behaviors and help establish clear rules, to-do lists, and other structured routines to help a person control their behavior.
  • Family therapy and marriage can help family members and spouses to find better ways to manage disruptive behavior and behavior change and improve interactions with patients.

Tips to help children and adults with attention deficit disorder.

For children

Parents and teachers can help children stay organized and follow directions with tools such as:

  • Maintain a routine and schedule for yourself. Maintain the same way every day from waking to bedtime, including plans for homework, outdoor games, and indoor activities. Keeping the program on the refrigerator or a bulletin board in the kitchen, write changes to the schedule as far in advance as possible.
  • Organization of articles of daily use. Have a place for everything and keep everything in its place; this includes clothes, backpacks, and toys.
  • Use homework and notebook organizers, use organizers for school supplies and supplies and emphasize with your child the importance of writing down assignments and taking needed books home.
  • Be clear and consistent. Children with ADHD need consistent rules that they can understand and follow.
  • Give praise or rewards when the rules are followed, as they often receive and expect criticism, look for good behavior and praise them.

For adults

A professional counselor or therapist can help an adult with ADHD learn how to organize his life with tools such as:

  • We are maintaining routines.
  • Make lists for different tasks and activities.
  • I am using a calendar to schedule events.
  • Use of reminder notes.
  • Assignment of a special place for keys, invoices, and documentation.
  • It breaks large tasks down into smaller, more manageable steps to complete each part of the task that provides a sense of accomplishment.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.