attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Related to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: ADD

attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder



A persistent pattern of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, or both, occurring more frequently and severely than is typical in those at a comparable level of development. ADHD is the most commonly reported neurobehavioral disorder of childhood. The illness may begin in early childhood but may not be diagnosed until after the symptoms have been present for many years. The prevalence is estimated to be 3% to 5% in children; 4% in adults.


Signs may be minimal or absent when the person is under strict control or is engaged in esp. interesting or challenging situations. They are more likely to occur in group situations. Although behaviors vary widely, affected people typically exhibit motor restlessness, impulsivity, and difficulty concentrating on a single task or chore. They tend to do more poorly in school than one might predict based on assessments of their intelligence alone. While characteristics of ADHD are found in many people at one time or another, a key feature of ADHD is the excessive or unusual pattern of behavior outside normal bounds of exuberance or excitement. The findings must be severe enough to be maladaptive and inconsistent with specified levels of development, and last at least six months.



ADHD may sometimes be confused with other disorders.

The disorder is difficult to diagnose in children under age 5. It is important to distinguish ADHD from age-appropriate behavior in active children and from disorders such as mental retardation, primary learning disabilities, alteration of mood, anxiety, petit mal seizures, or personality changes caused by illness, family stress, or drugs. The criteria determined by the American Psychiatric Association include specific limits concerning the duration and severity of symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. The findings must be severe enough to be maladaptive and inconsistent with specified levels of development.


In both children and adults, the domestic, school, social, and occupational environments are evaluated to determine contributing factors and their relative importance. Standard treatment includes behavioral and psychological therapy, environmental changes, and medication. Medications commonly used to treat ADHD include methylphenidate, dextroamphetamine, atomoxetine, and pemoline. These agents, with the exception of atomoxetine, are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. Adverse reactions to CNS stimulants include decreased appetite, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, stomach ache, headache, jitteriness, and social withdrawal (the latter in children).

Behavior therapy for patients with ADHD includes positive reinforcement, time-out, response cost (loss of rewards or privileges for problem behaviors) and token economy (a combination of positive reinforcement and response cost). Combinations of drug therapy and behavioral therapies, or drug therapies alone, appear to have a more beneficial effect than behavioral therapy, psychotherapy, or parent skills training alone.

Medical Dictionary, © 2009 Farlex and Partners

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

A condition in which a person (usually a child) has an unusually high activity level and a short attention span. People with the disorder may act impulsively and may have learning and behavioral problems.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In 2018, the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder segment had a significant market share, and this trend is expected to continue over the forecast period.
No association between attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and catechol-O-methyltransferase gene in Chinese.
The nonstimulant medication atomoxetine (Strattera) is the first drug to receive Food and Drug Administration approval for treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults as well as children, and is the first new type of drug approved for the disorder in 3 decades.
Depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder were the most common diagnoses, at 9.5 percent, and 9 percent, respectively, followed by anxiety disorder at 6 percent.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; a handbook for diagnosis and treatment, 3d ed.
Risperidone was associated with a greater reduction of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms compared with methylphenidate in children with moderate mental retardation, said Alceu Gomes Correia Filho, M.D., of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and colleagues.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and youth: a quantitative systematic review of the efficacy of different management strategies.
It's unclear whether anger attacks by children and teens represent initial symptoms of broader problems, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or mood disorders, adds psychiatrist William E.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder; a clinical workbook, 3d ed.
Children whose fathers had a history of substance disorders were more likely to show attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder, reported Dr.
A double-blind, crossover comparison of methylphenidate and placebo in adults with childhood-onset attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Arch Gen Psychiatry 1995; 52:434-443.

Full browser ?