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Key Information About Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder that affects both children and adults.

Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) reports that an estimated 129 million children worldwide live with ADHD.



Experts aren’t completely sure what causes this common mental health disorder; however, research studies suggest that heredity is the most common cause of ADHD.

One research study found that more than 25% of relatives of families with a child with ADHD also had the condition, a much higher rate than in families without a child with ADHD.

Also, twin studies have demonstrated that there is an 82% chance that identical twins will both have ADHD if at least one of them has the condition, compared to a 38% chance among fraternal twins.

Clinical and epidemiological associations show a consistent association and dose–response relationship between prenatal exposure to maternal cigarette smoking (maternal reports and urinary cotinine levels) and offspring ADHD.

Half of the adults who report symptoms of ADHD also report co-existing substance-abuse disorders, including alcoholism.

Prenatal maternal stress is a risk factor for both autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

A research study conducted in April 2022, led by researchers from the University of Michigan in collaboration with Florida Atlantic University, Temple University, and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health, used genetically engineered mice to examine the neural and behavioral effects of Val89, a choline transporter variant.

Prior work by the team had indicated that the variant associated with heightened distractibility in humans.

Results of the study were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Among children born at term (37-41 weeks), those born before 39 weeks are more likely to experience symptoms associated with ADHD, says a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in August 2022.

Another factor that may contribute to the development of ADHD is brain injury.



Inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity are the core symptoms of ADHD. A person with this condition:

  • makes careless mistakes
  • finds it difficult to pay attention
  • is unable to follow through on instructions
  • finds it difficult to organize tasks
  • loses things
  • performs inappropriate actions
  • is forgetful
  • is unable to play quietly
  • talks excessively.

People with ADHD are notoriously poor sleepers.

“I got diagnosed at 25, and every little thing started to make sense. You finally realise why you did the things you did,” said Sai Priya, a 27-year-old sales professional.

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“It’s easy for a partner with ADHD to stare you straight in the face as you’re talking to them and even mutter an acknowledgment of understanding without actually having heard, or rather absorbed, a word that you said,” explained Alena Scigliano, a licensed psychotherapist, author, and speaker in Virginia Beach.. “So, when they neglect to take the trash out that evening or pick the kids up from soccer the next day, you not only feel frustrated but also as though your partner doesn’t care enough about you to help.”

Researchers from King's College London and the University of Pavia in Italy consulted historical evidence, including accounts from Leonardo da Vinci's contemporaries, and concluded that his issues with time management, concentration and procrastination could be attributed to ADHD.




Healthcare providers in the US use the guidelines in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5)1, to help diagnose ADHD.

In 2021, research scientists at the University of California-Davis Health in the US developed a novel technique, using a smartphone-app called 'iBehavior'.

This technique helps people and caregivers for ADHD help accurately identify symptoms related to intellectual disbility and other related signs.

"A lot of people ask this question: Are we overdiagnosing ADHD or are we underdiagnosing ADHD?” said Margaret Sibley, PhD. “I think the answer to this question is that we're actually often misdiagnosing ADHD. There's both false positive and false negative diagnoses.”


Treating ADHD usually requires medical, educational, behavioral and psychological intervention.

This comprehensive approach to treatment is sometimes known as “multimodal”; and, depending on the age of the individual with ADHD, may include:

  • parent training
  • medication
  • skills training
  • counseling
  • behavioral therapy
  • educational supports
  • education regarding ADHD

"For some children with ADHD, if behavioral interventions are not sufficient or if there are significant concerns – maybe safety concerns or (they’re) not able to learn because of such significant ADHD symptoms, the medication could be considered,” said Dr. Elizabeth Harstad, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Stimulant drugs (e.g., methylphenidate, amphetamine) are the most commonly prescribed medications for treatment of ADHD.

Adderall helps people with ADHD by enhancing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which increases activity in the central nervous system.

Most effective ADHD brain exercises are those administered by medical professionals.

These include:

  • eye exercises
  • interactive metronome (IM) exercises
  • neurofeedback exercises.

Body doubling may help people with ADHD work around their difficulties.

While there is not much research on the method yet, some people with this condition say having someone nearby while they are working can help them focus until they complete tasks.

In the past, ADHD treatment has typically focused on medications. The specific class of medication most commonly prescribed for ADHD is stimulants. These stimulant medications — like Ritalin (methylphenidate) or Adderall (an amphetamine) — are commonly prescribed, well-tolerated, act quickly (usually soon after a person takes them), and in most people, have few side effects.

— James Haggerty, MD


Though there is no way to prevent ADHD , there are ways to reduce the risk. Pregnant women should stay healthy throughout their pregnancy.

Healthy diet and regular doctor visits are important; so are avoiding the use of alcohol and drugs.

Results of a research study (conducted in July 2022) published in the JAMA Network Open indicated that higher meternal milk intake during the neonatal hospitalization is associated with fewer ADHD symptoms.

Medical science has not yet found a way to prevent ADHD. ADHD is one of the most commonly inherited disorders of the human race, transmitted from parent to child genetically, and present in 10-15% of all children. As in most conditions, the symptoms of ADHD range from mild to severe, with the majority of individuals falling in the moderate range.

— Norris S. Payne, MD

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

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