Frequently asked questions

What is ADHD?

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a common behavioural disorder in children and young people. It usually starts in early childhood with the core behaviours of ADHD typically present from before the age of 7 years and symptoms sometimes persisting into adulthood.

What are the key symptoms of ADHD?

The symptoms of ADHD include:

Inattentiveness – inability to concentrate for a long time or finish tasks, disorganisation and forgetfulness.

Hyperactivity – fidgetiness, inability to stay still or restlessness.

Impulsivity – speaking and doing things without thinking about consequences, interrupting other people, inability to wait or take turns.

Who does ADHD affect and how common is the condition?

ADHD affects all sexes but is more common in boys (3.6%) than girls (0.85%) in the UK. Because of increasing recognition of ADHD, 3 out of every 1000 children were found to be receiving medication for the condition in the late 1990s compared to 0.5 for every 1000 children 30 years ago.

Can ADHD exist with other conditions?

Children and young people with ADHD may also experience sleep difficulties, academic under achievement, clumsiness (dyspraxia), temper tantrums, anger outbursts, mood swings and find it hard to socialise. They may also have co-existing conditions (co-morbidity) such as anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions, conduct disorder, oppositional defiance disorder and learning difficulties.

Impact of ADHD on family life and relationships

ADHD can have a significant impact upon family life and relationships with friends (World Federation for Mental Health, 2005.) Parents of children with ADHD need a great deal of support to help them manage their child’s problems. Parents/carers have to manage the day-to-day challenges of living
with a child/young person with ADHD.

Parents also have to deal with school problems which are common in these children, with many requiring a statement of special educational needs. Children with ADHD require much more support and guidance than their peers in most of their everyday lives. ADHD is a full-time disorder, requiring full-time care. Professionals need to understand the stress and exhaustion that many parents experience.

Useful definitions-international classification of ADHD

DSM-IV: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition. This describes three subtypes of ADHD according to the mixture of symptoms of hyperactivity with inattention, hyperactivity with impulsivity or predominantly inattentive subtype (ADD).

ICD-10: International Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders 10th revision.  Severe ADHD corresponds to the ICD-10 diagnosis of hyperkinetic disorder (HKD). This is when all three symptoms of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity are present in multiple settings;
impairment is severe and affects multiple domains of the person’s life. This severe subgroup affects approximately 1.5% of primary school age boys.

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