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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a problem caused by the presence of 1 or more of these findings: not being able to focus, being overactive, or not being able control behavior.


ADHD often begins in childhood. But it may continue into the adult years. ADHD is diagnosed more often in boys than in girls.

It is not clear what causes ADHD. It may be linked to genes and home or social factors. Experts have found that the brains of children with ADHD are different from those of children without ADHD. Brain chemicals are also different.


ADHD symptoms fall into three groups:

  • Not being able to focus (inattentiveness)
  • Being extremely active (hyperactivity)
  • Not being able to control behavior (impulsivity)

Some people with ADHD have mainly inattentive symptoms. Some have mainly hyperactive and impulsive symptoms. Others have a combination of these behaviors.


  • Doesn't pay attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork
  • Has problems focusing during tasks or play
  • Doesn't listen when spoken to directly
  • Doesn't follow through on instructions and doesn't finish schoolwork or chores
  • Has problems organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids or doesn't like tasks that require mental effort (such as schoolwork)
  • Often loses things, such as homework or toys
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful


  • Fidgets or squirms in seat
  • Leaves their seat when they should stay in their seat
  • Runs about or climbs when they shouldn't be doing so
  • Has problems playing or working quietly
  • Is often "on the go," acts as if "driven by a motor"
  • Talks all the time


  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Has problems awaiting their turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others (butts into conversations or games)

Many of the above findings are present in children as they grow. For these problems to be diagnosed as ADHD, they must be out of the normal range for a person's age and development.


American Academy of Pediatrics, Subcommittee on Attention-Deficity/Hyperactivity Disorder, Steering Committee on Quality Improvement and Management. ADHD: Clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128:1007-1022. PMID: 22003063

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