Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Also known as ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurobehavioral condition that is usually first diagnosed during childhood. More than six million children between the ages of two and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. It is characterized by patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that make it difficult for people to pay attention and control their behaviors.

ADHD is a lifelong condition. While symptoms do change with time, they can still interfere with an adult's functioning. Relationships, health, work, and finances are just a few areas that may be impacted. There are treatment options, including medications and therapies, as well as coping strategies that can help you to live well with ADHD.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes ADHD?

    The exact causes of ADHD are not known but experts believe there are a number of factors at play. Genetics are thought to play a significant role in causing ADHD, but environmental factors also contribute and often interact with genetic predispositions. Factors that can increase the risk of ADHD include certain illnesses such as meningitis, exposure to toxins such as lead, and poor nutrition or substance use during pregnancy.

  • How is ADHD diagnosed?

    There is no simple lab test or questionnaire that can determine if a person has ADHD. Mental health professionals conduct an evaluation and can use a variety of tools including IQ tests, interviews, measures of attention, rating scales, and other assessments to evaluate symptoms and determine if they meet the criteria for diagnosis.

  • Is ADHD a mental illness?

    ADHD is classified as a mental illness, but can also be described as a neurodevelopmental disorder. It is important to recognize that mental illness is a broad term that refers to any type of condition that impacts a person's thoughts, moods, or behaviors. Because the three primary symptoms of ADHD—inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity—all impact these areas, ADHD is considered a form of mental illness.

  • Is ADHD genetic?

    There is a strong genetic component to ADHD. Estimates suggest that the genetic heritability of the condition is over 70%. However, having a genetic predisposition does not necessarily mean that you will develop ADHD. Research has found that there are several genes that play a role and it is the interaction of these genes along with environmental influences that may cause the disorder.

  • Is ADHD considered a disability?

    ADHD may be considered a disability according to the guidelines established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if you have impairments that limit one or more major life activities (such as work or school). There must be a record of this impairment or others must be able to perceive these challenges. This means some people who have ADHD may request accommodations at work or school.

  • What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?

    ADHD has gone through several name changes over the years and one of these former names was attention deficit disorder (ADD). While the term no longer represents an official diagnosis, it is still sometimes used to describe the inattentive presentation of the condition without hyperactivity. People with this presentation of the condition have trouble staying on task.

Key Terms

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What Is Echolalia in ADHD?
What to Know About the 7 Types of ADHD
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Symptoms of ADHD in Toddlers
How Does ADHD Appear in Boys?
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9 Types of Toys That Are Good for ADHD
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ADHD Diet for Kids: Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid
Essential Oils That May Be Help ADHD Symptoms
What Is ADHD Inattentive Type?
I Think I Have ADHD: What to Do and Where to Go
Comparing Borderline Personality Disorder With ADHD
Signs of ADHD in Teens
4 Disorders That Can Be Misdiagnosed ADHD
How to Find an ADHD Specialist
What to Know About Stimming in ADHD
Why ADHD Is Often Untreated in Adults
ADHD Symptom Spotlight: Forgetfulness
ADHD and Insomnia: What You Need to Know
Is There An ADHD Test for Adults?
Does ADHD Get Worse With Age?
ADHD Symptom Spotlight: Decision Fatigue
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How Medicating ADHD Has Changed Over Time
Do Kids With ADHD Become Adults With ADHD?
How to Deal With Boredom When You Have ADHD
Will Your Child Inherit ADHD?
Symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder Without Hyperactivity
Noticing the Small Differences of Children With ADHD or High Energy
How People With ADHD Can Cope With Hypersensitivity in Situations
How the ADHD Brain Biologically Differs From the Non-ADHD Brain
Is ADD the Same Thing as ADHD?
The Relationship Between Hyperfocus and ADHD
What Are the Effects of Impaired Executive Functions?
Why ADHD Awareness Is Important
How Do I Use an ADHD Self-Report Scale?
Recognizing the Different Types of ADHD
What Is the Conners 3?
What's Next After Being Diagnosed With ADHD
Do You Have ADHD, Depression, or Both?
Telling ADHD and Bipolar Disorder Apart
How ADHD Combined Type Has Both Inattention and Hyperactivity
How to Help Your Child Understand Their ADHD Diagnosis
How People With ADHD Can Deal With Imposter Syndrome at Work
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ADD Medication for Adults
Can L-Tyrosine Help With ADHD Symptoms?
L-Theanine for ADHD
Page Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). National prevalence of ADHD and treatment: information on children and adolescents, 2016. Reviewed September 9, 2020.

  2. Zasler ND, Martelli MF, Jacobs HE. Neurobehavioral disorders. Handb Clin Neurol. 2013;110:377-88. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-52901-5.00032-0

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Inattentive type in adults. Updated September 25, 2019.

  4. Magnus W, Nazir S, Anilkumar AC, et al. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Updated June 29, 2020.