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ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — it’s a neurobiological condition affecting 5.9% – 7.1% of children and adolescents, and at least 5% of adults (Willcutt, 2012). It’s defined in the DSM-5 as a Neurodevelopmental Disorder (APA, 2013).

The condition is characterised by a consistent pattern of developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. These characteristics often interfere with functions or development, and commonly present as difficulty sitting still, paying attention, or controlling impulsive behaviour. For some, ADHD is pervasive and persistent to the point of interfering with everyday life in home, academic, social, and work environments.

Even if not diagnosed in childhood, ADHD symptoms will have been present from this period.

ADHD subtypes

ADHD may be considered mild, moderate, or severe depending on the number of symptoms and the extent of functional, social, or occupational impairment. Diagnosis will fall into one of three subtypes — defining it for each person is a crucial step in the diagnosis process, and helps form an appropriate treatment plan.

Primarily Inattentive (PI)

Inattention manifests behaviourally as wandering off task, lacking persistence, having difficulty sustaining focus, or being disorganised. In recognising this subtype, these characteristics are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.

Primarily Hyperactive Impulsive (HI)

Hyperactivity refers to excessive motor activity at an inappropriate time, such as excessive fidgeting, tapping, or talkativeness. Impulsivity refers to hasty actions that occur in the moment without forethought, and have high potential for harm to the individual. Impulsiveness may also reflect a desire for immediate rewards or an inability to delay gratification. Impulsive behaviours may again manifest in social intrusiveness such as interrupting others or making decisions without adequate consideration of the consequences.

Combined Type (CT)

Individuals with this subtype experience PI and HI symptoms.

References

(2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Willcutt, E. G. (2012). The Prevalence of DSM-IV Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Meta-Analytic Review. Neurotherapeutics, 9(3), 490–499. http://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-012-0135-8

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You’ll find additional, detailed information on our FAQs page. Here, you can read answers to some of our most common questions like, “what about ADD?”, and, “Can you tell me more about ADHD symptoms?”.

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