What is ADHD?

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

ADD/ADHD or Attention Deficit Disorder is a common neurobiological disorder. The acronym of ADHD is frequently used whether or not hyperactivity is present, even though some people still use ADD to refer to without hyperactivity and ADHD to refer to with hyperactivity.

It is estimated that between 3% and 5% of all children have ADD. Boys are diagnosed with ADD more often than girls, although ADD is considered to be as prevalent is girls as it is in boys. One theory for this is that ADD (Inattentive type) may be more prevalent in girls and is harder to diagnose than ADD with hyperactivity. Symptoms of ADHD can continue into adulthood and continue to cause problems with inattention, difficulty focusing, feelings of restlessness and impulsivity.

For more information on the differences between ADD and ADHD:

ADD or ADHD: Which is Correct?

Differentiating ADD and ADHD: Diagnosis, Symptoms and Treatment

ADD vs. ADHD: Is One Better (or Worse) than the Other?

ADD is characterized by symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness, distractibility and difficulty sustaining attention for periods of time. Symptoms may be different in each person with ADD. Some may have more of a problem with inability to focus, while others may have the most difficult time with impulsiveness. Yet another may struggle with hyperactivity. All symptoms of ADD need not be present in order to have a diagnosis of ADD.

For more information on the symptoms of ADHD:

Symptoms of Adult ADHD

How ADHD Affects the Daily Life of a Child




Children with ADD are often diagnosed after beginning school. This occurs because school may be the first environment where a child is expected to sit still for extended periods of time and sustain attention and focus. This does not mean that ADD occurs when a child reaches school age. ADD is present at birth and continues into adulthood. However, at home, or in environments where there is more flexibility, the symptoms of ADD may not be as prevalent or may be accepted by caregivers and therefore not seen as impairment. Most parents of children with ADD, however, have noticed differences in their child from a very early age, even if not diagnosed until later. In addition, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) criteria for diagnosing ADD indicates that symptoms must be present in at least 2 environments.

For more information on the diagnostic process:

Diagnosing ADHD in Children

Diagnosing ADHD in Adults - ADHD

Children with ADD/ADHD - When to See a Doctor

When to See a Doctor for your School Age Child with ADD/ADHD

Teens with ADD/ADHD - When to See a Doctor

When to See a Doctor About ADHD

A primary physician most often completes diagnosis of ADD. They will gather information from parents, teachers and care-givers as well as an evaluation of the child to determine if ADD is present. There are a number of physical illnesses that can cause similar symptoms. The physician should rule out these as a cause of symptoms, as well as determine if behaviors are a result of psychological factors such as a move or a divorce in the family. There are currently no medical tests that will show whether ADD is present or not. The diagnosis is made based on the information the physician gathers, as well as their personal evaluation.

For more information:

Who Can Diagnose and Treat ADHD? - ADHD

The People you Meet - Medical Professionals

10 Medical Conditions That Share Symptoms with ADD/ADHD

Related Conditions

Although the biological origins of ADD have not yet been determined, there is a strong suggestion of heredity. There are a great many children with ADD who have a close family member with ADD as well. There are theories that link smoking during pregnancy, low birth rate, and premature birth to ADD but there has been no definitive proof to substantiate these theories.
Research on the brain has shown that some areas of the brain can be up to 10% smaller in individuals with ADD, however ADD does not affect intelligence.

For more information:

ADHD and Heredity

Is ADHD Overdiagnosed?

Why is ADHD a Syndrome?

The Effects of Continuously Changing Diagnostic Criteria

Once a diagnosis is made, your doctor should work with you on developing a treatment plan. ADD is not curable, but with treatment those with ADD can live normal and productive lives. Treatment usually involves behavioral therapy and, if needed, Your doctor will help you determine what course of treatment is best for you.

For more information:

ADHD - Creating a Treatment Plan

Behavior Modification for ADHD

The Role of Medication in ADHD Treatment

Treatment Guidelines for Children with ADHD

Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Beginning Medication

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.