Primer to ADHD

Published on April 2, 2019

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder that includes symptoms such as inattention or hyperactivity and impulsiveness or a combination of both. Symptoms start at an early age but become prominent and noticeable when a child starts going to school. Most children are diagnosed with ADHD between the ages 6 to 12 years.

The symptoms of ADHD usually decline away with age, but many adults who were diagnosed with the condition at a young age continue to experience symptoms.

What causes ADHD?

Exactly what causes ADHD is unknown, but it runs within families. Other factors such as prematurely born babies (before 37 weeks of gestation), low birth weight, smoking, alcohol, drug abuse during pregnancy might have a role in causing ADHD.


The symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be categorized into 2 types of behavioral problems: inattention or hyperactivity, and impulsiveness or both.  

The inattention symptoms are:

  • Short attention span and getting easily distracted.
  • Making careless mistakes.
  • Appearing forgetful and losing things.
  • Inability to stick with tasks that are tedious or time-consuming.
  • Appearance of being unable to listen to or carry out instructions.
  • Constantly jumping between multiple activities or tasks.
  • Difficulty in organizing tasks and activities.

The hyperactivity and impulsiveness symptoms are:

  • Inability to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings.
  • Fidgeting with or taps hands or feet.
  • Leaving their seat in situations where remaining seated is expected.
  • Inability to play or engage in leisure activities quietly.
  • Excessive talking.
  • Inability to wait for their turn.
  • Acting without thinking.
  • Interrupting conversations.
  • Little or no sense of danger.

These symptoms can cause significant problems in a child’s life, such as poor academic performance at school, poor social interaction with other children and adults, and problems with discipline.

Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms are present in two or more settings (e.g., at home, school, or work, with friends or relatives; in other activities)

ADHD in adults:

In adults, the symptoms of ADHD are more difficult to define. This is largely due to a lack of research into adults with ADHD.

As ADHD is a developmental disorder, it is falsely believed that it cannot develop in adults without first appearing during childhood. But it is known that the symptoms of ADHD often persist from childhood into the teenage years and then into adulthood.

The symptoms of adult ADHD are:

  • Carelessness and a lack of attention to details.
  • Starting new tasks before finishing the task at hand.
  • Poor organizational skills.
  • Inability to focus or prioritize.
  • Continuously losing or misplacing things.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • Constantly restless or on edge.
  • Difficulty in keeping quiet, frequently speaking out of turn.
  • Blurting out responses and often interrupting others.
  • Having mood swings, irritability and a quick temper.
  • Inability to deal with stress.
  • Extreme impatience.
  • Taking risks in activities, often with little or no regard for personal safety or the safety of others.

If you notice any of the above symptoms, consult a child/adolescent psychiatrist or adult psychiatrist for adult ADHD.


Treatment includes drug therapy or non-drug therapy i.e., behaviour therapy, parent training and education programmes, social skills training and cognitive behaviour therapy.