Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD or AD/HD or ADD) is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder. It is primarily characterized by “the co-existence of attentional problems and hyperactivity, with each behavior occurring infrequently alone” and symptoms starting before seven years of age.
ADHD is the most commonly studied and diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children, affecting about 3% to 5% of children globally and diagnosed in about 2% to 16% of school aged children. It is a chronic disorder with 30% to 50% of those individuals diagnosed in childhood continuing to have symptoms into adulthood. Adolescents and adults with ADHD tend to develop coping mechanisms to compensate for some or all of their impairments. 4.7% of American adults are estimated to live with ADHD.
ADHD is diagnosed two to four times as frequently in boys as in girls, though studies suggest this discrepancy may be due to subjective bias of referring teachers. ADHD management usually involves some combination of medications, behavior modifications, lifestyle changes, and counseling. Its symptoms can be difficult to differentiate from other disorders, increasing the likelihood that the diagnosis of ADHD will be missed. Additionally, most clinicians have not received formal training in the assessment and treatment of ADHD, particularly in adult patients.
ADHD and its diagnosis and treatment have been considered controversial since the 1970s. The controversies have involved clinicians, teachers, policymakers, parents and the media. Topics include the actuality of the disorder, its causes, and the use of stimulant medications in its treatment. Most healthcare providers accept that ADHD is a genuine disorder with debate in the scientific community centering mainly around how it is diagnosed and treated. The American Medical Association concluded in 1998 that the diagnostic criteria for ADHD are based on extensive research and, if applied appropriately, lead to the diagnosis with high reliability.