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As its name implies, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by two distinct sets of symptoms: inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. Although these problems usually occur together, one may be present without the other to qualify for a diagnosis. Inattention or attention deficit may not become apparent until a child enters the challenging environment of elementary school. Such children then have difficulty paying attention to details and are easily distracted by other events that are occurring at the same time; they find it difficult and unpleasant to finish their schoolwork; they put off anything that requires a sustained mental effort; they are prone to make careless mistakes, and are disorganized, losing their school books and assignments; they appear not to listen when spoken to and often fail to follow through on tasks.

The symptoms of hyperactivity may be apparent in very young preschoolers and are nearly always present before the age of 7. Such symptoms include fidgeting, squirming around when seated, and having to get up frequently to walk or run around. Hyperactive children have difficulty playing quietly, and they may talk excessively. They often behave in an inappropriate and uninhibited way, blurting out answers in class before the teacher's question has been completed, not waiting their turn, and interrupting often or intruding on others' conversations or games.

Many of these symptoms occur from time to time in normal children. However, in children with ADHD they occur very frequently and in several settings, at home and at school, or when visiting with friends, and they interfere with the child's functioning. Children suffering from ADHD may perform poorly at school; they may be unpopular with their peers, if other children perceive them as being unusual or a nuisance; and their behavior can present significant challenges for parents, leading some to be overly harsh.

Learn more about ADHD. Click on one of the topics below.

  Is it Called ADD or ADHD?  

  What are the Causes of ADHD?  

  What are the Symptoms of ADHD?  

  Diagnosis of ADHD  

  Treatments for ADHD  

  What is the Prognosis for ADHD?  

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Date of Last Update: 07/27/12