Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of people in the United States and throughout the world. Individuals with this condition often have difficulty managing their emotions and have impaired executive function, the set of cognitive processes responsible for controlling behavior and making decisions.
The condition, which generally first manifests in early childhood, can cause excessive activity, impulsivity, and make it difficult if not impossible for a person to pay attention, focus, or stay on task. These symptoms can make it difficult for people to function in their everyday lives, especially in the context or work and school.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is not the same as inattention or having high energy, which are both states of mind that affect just about everyone at times. Rather, people with ADHD experience these symptoms to such a severe degree that they often struggle to complete daily tasks. Many develop unhealthy coping skills to make up for their impaired attention.
Contemporary research on ADHD suggests that some people with the condition, especially adults, are sometimes able to enter a state known as “hyperfocus,” during which every other concern fades into the background. These focused states occur most commonly during activities that provide constant neurochemical rewards, including video games, online chatting, and drug and alcohol abuse. As such, both the inattention and the hyperfocus that characterize ADHD can cause significant problems in a person’s life.
ADHD affects people of all ages, classes, and ethnic backgrounds. It is most commonly diagnosed in children, and statistics suggest that it may be more common in boys. However, some analysts believe that the condition may simply be more noticeable and therefore more frequently diagnosed in boys, since they tend on average to engage in more violent and antisocial behaviors.
The symptoms of ADHD are generally divided into two different subcategories, inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. The most common signs and symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder include:
- Difficulty holding attention on tasks
- Difficulty paying close attention to details
- Losing things that are necessary for tasks
- Trouble organizing tasks and activities
- Shorter attention span and being easily distracted
- Appearing forgetful during daily activities
- Problems completing tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
- Problems with structured work or schoolwork
- Fidgeting, squirming in seat
- Difficulty sitting still
- Leaving seat or walking around in inappropriate situations
- Feeling “on the go” or driven constantly
- Taking risks with no consideration of the dangers
- Answering questions rapidly
- Talking more than other people
- Interrupting or intruding on conversations
- Difficulty waiting ones turn, general impatience