ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The condition has also been known as attention deficit disorder (ADD), though this is now considered to be an outdated term. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011, making it one of the most common childhood disorders. While it is common, the way the condition manifests itself can vary from person to person.
Here we will explore some of the types and symptoms most commonly associated with ADHD

There are three types of ADHD: Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined. When someone uses the term ADD, they are typically referring to Inattentive ADHD. This means a person is showing enough symptoms of inattention and is easily distracted, but isn’t necessarily hyperactive or impulsive. In contrast to this is the Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD, which occurs when a person has symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness but not inattention. A person with Combined ADHD shows enough symptoms of impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness.

Most children at some point display behaviors similar to those explained here. Almost all children are fidgety at some point, become distracted easily, and have trouble paying attention at times. The difference to note here is that a child with ADHD has these symptoms to such an extent that they can become a distraction at home or in the classroom. In order to be diagnosed, symptoms have to be present for at least six months and must be inappropriate for a child's developmental level. Additionally, with each symptom type, there are a number of criteria that a child's behavior will need to meet in order to be diagnosed.

The first symptom type is inattention. A child can be diagnosed as inattentive if they are easily distracted, forgetful in daily activities, or have trouble organizing. Inattentive ADHD children tend to have trouble focusing on tasks or activities that require long periods of mental focus, such as homework. They tend to make careless mistakes in their schoolwork, and become easily sidetracked. Inattentive ADHD children ignore speakers, even when being directly spoken to, and may not follow instructions.

The other symptom types are Hyperactivity and Impulsivity, which tend to be clumped together. A child may be diagnosed as hyperactive or impulsive if they talk excessively, constantly interrupt others, have trouble engaging in quiet time activities, and blurt out answers before the question has been finished. Children with hyperactive or impulsive ADHD also appear to be always on the go, they may squirm in their seats, tap their hands or feet, run around and climb when inappropriate, and have severe problems waiting their turn.

Though it is typically diagnosed in childhood, there are many adults with ADHD. While it may have only been diagnosed later in life, most adults with ADHD have shown symptoms since childhood. An evaluation in any case is usually done at the request of a family member, teacher, or peer who notices behaviors which significantly effect their work or relationships. Adults can be diagnosed with any of the three types of ADHD as well, though the symptoms may differ due to the relative maturity of adults as well as physical differences.

The symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending upon environment and physiology. Some people are mildly inattentive with tasks they don't enjoy, yet excel at those that they do enjoy. Others may have an inability to focus on all tasks, whether they enjoy them or not. This can have a drastically negative impact on them in social situations, at work or in school. There is a tendency for symptoms to be more severe in unstructured environments, such as playing on the playground. Symptoms are typically less severe in controlled environments where rewards are given for good behavior, such as in a classroom. Having other conditions, such as depression or a learning disability, may worsen the symptoms of ADHD. Some people report symptoms of ADHD go away with age, especially those of hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

To be diagnosed with ADHD, a child must do more than exhibit the signs of hyperactivity, impulsivity, or inattention. In order to be considered for diagnosis, they must display several symptoms before the age of twelve. They must also display symptoms in multiple settings, such as at school, at home, with friends, or in public. There must be clear evidence that these behaviors interfere with their ability to properly function in school or work, or have a negative impact on them in social settings. Additionally, these symptoms must not be explainable by any other conditions, such as mood or anxiety disorders.

Before you diagnose yourself or others with ADD or ADHD, discuss all symptoms with your doctor. Include length of time with these symptoms as well as severity, and remember that other disabilities may play a role into the behaviors you are noticing. Being well informed is the first step towards treatment.

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Author's Bio: 

Brian Wu graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology and Neurobiology. Currently, he holds a PhD and is an MD candidate (KSOM, USC) in integrative biology and disease. He is also an experienced writer and editor for many prestigious web pages. Brian values the ability of all ages to learn from the power of stories. His mission is to write about health conditions, educational topics and life situations in an entertaining way in order to help children understand their own life conditions and daily circumstances.