In this Article

What is ADHD/ADD?

ADHD/ADD is a biological condition that typically impacts children at a young age and can persist into adulthood.

Children with the disorder typically:

  • Are overly active or restless most of the time
  • Struggle to focus and are easily distracted, especially at school
  • Are impatient and impulsive, doing sometimes risky things without thinking about what might happen
  • Have difficulty making and keeping friends

For adults, ADHD/ADD typically impacts the ability to plan and organize tasks, stay focused on work, and maintain healthy relationships. Those with ADHD/ADD may also struggle to learn from past mistakes or predict how their choices will affect the future.

When to See a Doctor

Call your doctor if you or your child have ADHD/ADD symptoms that:

  • Started at age 12 or earlier
  • Interfere with performance in two or more settings — for example, at school, home, work, or in personal relationships
  • Have lasted six months or longer


While there are many theories, scientists don’t know exactly what causes ADHD. They do know that ADHD runs in families — many people with ADHD have a parent or other relative with the disorder.

Diagnosis and Tests

There’s no blood test or brain scan to find out if you have ADHD. Doctors diagnose ADHD by gathering different kinds of information and comparing it to an accepted medical definition. The tools they use are:

  • Questionnaires. To check for anxiety and other mental health problems, your doctor may ask you or your child questions about symptoms in different settings as well as stress levels and coping styles. For a school-aged child, questionnaires will also be used to gather information about the child’s classroom behavior and academic performance.
  • Medical history. Your doctor asks about your past and present illnesses and your family history.
  • Physical exam. A thorough exam helps a doctor know if symptoms come from a condition other than ADHD. (Some conditions can also make ADHD worse.)


ADHD/ADD treatment focuses on reducing symptoms, while giving people with ADHD and their families new behaviors and skills to help manage ADHD and live well with the condition. Treatment strategies typically include:

  • Medicines. ADHD medicines help the brain’s chemical message carriers (neurotransmitters) function better. This allows people to focus their thoughts and actions better. ADHD medicines DO NOT cure the disorder or teach new behaviors or skills.
  • Counseling. People with ADHD may need counseling to improve their self-esteem and help them express their feelings better. One type of counseling, behavioral therapy, helps the person focus on current behaviors and learn more effective habits, skills, and responses.
  • Education. The more you and those around you know about ADHD/ADD, the more you can manage the condition. There are community education classes, websites, books, and parent training available (see resources).
  • Support Groups. Connecting with and learning from people who share your concerns about ADHD/ADD or parenting someone with the disorder can help everyone better manage the condition.


Because what causes ADHD is unknown, there is no prevention steps you can take. However, early diagnosis and treatment can help with successfully managing the disorder.


ADHD/ADD symptoms reflect patterns of behavior (especially in children) that are divided into three types:

  1. Inattentive type. People with this type of ADHD consistently:
    • Are easily distracted and make careless mistakes
    • Have trouble focusing and organizing
    • Don’t follow through with tasks
    • Often forget and lose things
  2. Hyperactive-impulsive type. People with this type are too active (hyperactive) and tend to act without much thought or control (impulsive). They typically:
    • Fidget or squirm, seem or feel restless much of the time
    • Run about or climb too much, seem “driven by a motor”
    • Have trouble being quiet
    • Interrupt others
    • Have trouble taking turns or waiting in line
    • Blurt out answers before hearing the whole question
  3. Combined type. People with this type of ADHD show all 3 types of symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. This type is the most common — 50% to 75% of people with ADHD have the combined type.

Symptoms of ADHD in adults typically involve:

  • Difficulty concentrating or sticking with tasks
  • Trouble with memory, organization, or planning
  • Making rash decisions