What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

ADHD is also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperkinetic disorder. It is a fairly common condition that mainly affects a child's behaviour. There may also be problems with the child's intellectual, social and psychological development as a result of the behaviour.
What are the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
Children with ADHD show persistent restlessness, impulsiveness and/or inattention. These features are seen in more than one setting - for example, at school and at home. They are also seen in more than one activity - for example, in schoolwork and in relationships. They occur at a level greater than expected for their age and cause significant disruption to the child's daily life.
There are three subtypes of ADHD:

  • Hyperactive-impulsive subtype. Some features of this type of ADHD are that a child may:
    • Fidget a lot.
    • Run around in inappropriate situations.
    • Have difficulty playing quietly.
    • Talk excessively.
    • Interrupt others.
    • Have trouble waiting their turn in games, in conversations and also in queues.
  • Inattention subtype. In this subtype, a child may:
    • Have trouble concentrating and paying attention.
    • Make careless mistakes and not listen to, or follow through on, instructions.
    • Be easily distracted.
    • Be forgetful in daily activities and lose essential items such as school books or toys.
    • Have trouble organising activities.
  • Combined subtype. If a child has this subtype, they have features of both of the other subtypes.

Children with ADHD are also more likely than average to have other problems such as anxiety and depression, conduct disorders and co-ordination difficulties. Some children with ADHD also have reading difficulties and dyslexia.
Note: many children, especially those under the age of 5, are inattentive and restless. This does not necessarily mean that they have ADHD.