What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder which means a person has trouble focusing, is impulsive, and really active to the point that it interferes with daily life. Find out about ADHD symptoms, and what to do if you think it might be a problem for you.


Signs this might be a problem:

  • You have trouble concentrating most of the time
  • You can’t sit still
  • You’re concerned by how often you feel really impulsive and impatient
  • You find it difficult to fit in to social settings because of these issues
stripey socks and shoes on wooden floor

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (also known as ADHD) is a condition which involves a person being  easily distracted by things in the environment their feelings, or other thoughts. This means that they often:

  • Aren’t able to focus on an activity (any activity) for long periods of time
  • Are over-active and unable to keep still or stop talking
  • Act  impulsively without any thought of the consequences
Everyone struggles to focus and gets frustrated at different times, especially when we find ourselves in a situation that doesn’t really grab our interest. However having attention deficit disorder is different to being bored and getting restless while you’re studying or in class. When you have an attention deficit disorder, your distraction completely interferes with your ability to learn and complete other activities and to get on with everyday life. Keep in mind that it’s not just about performance at school or at work, but the distraction affects all aspects of life.

ADHD usually develops in childhood, but its exact cause hasn’t been figured out yet. Research so far has indicated it could be caused by some structural and chemical differences in the brain. Specifically, researchers think a type of brain chemical called monoamines probably play a part in why people develop ADHD, but there could also be other factors involved.

Signs and symptoms of ADHD

Signs a person might have ADHD include: 

  • Unpredictable mood swings
  • Being impatient
  • Not being able to maintain focus or pay attention 
  • Making careless mistakes in work or study
  • Not being able to follow instructions or finish tasks
  • Appearing not to listen when someone’s speaking to them
  • Getting easily distracted
  • Not being able to stay still
  • Talking a lot
  • Not able to do anything quietly
  • Butting into other people’s conversations
Because these symptoms could occur if someone has a number of other conditions, diagnosing ADHD and other attention deficit disorders is not straightforward. A variety of other potential causes, including learning problems, drugs, alcohol and other psychological disorders need to be ruled out before a person can be diagnosed with ADHD. 

What to do about it

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of ADHD it’s a great idea to go and see your doctor. Diagnosing ADHD can be a little complicated, because a few other possible issues with similar symptoms need to be ruled out first. ADHD is able to be treated, usually using medication (such as Ritalin) often combined with a range of psychological therapies to help a person manage and adapt to their symptoms. Treating the symptoms of ADHD can be much easier and faster when you seek professional help.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 06 August, 2015
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