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ADHD: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and More

ADHD affects millions of children and adults throughout the world. The prevalence of ADHD has increased by 42 percent in children between 2003 and 2011.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and, much like its name, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is known to cause extreme levels of compulsive or hyperactive behaviors and may also cause trouble focusing on a single task.

There is a common misconception that ADHD only occurs in children, but adults can develop ADHD later in life, too. It is also much more common for males to develop this neurodevelopmental disorder in both children and adults. They are three times more likely to develop ADHD. (1) And, although developing ADHD is most common from ages 3-6 years old, 4.4 percent of adults develop ADHD after age 18. (2) The average diagnosis age for ADHD is seven years old.

This neurodevelopmental disorder may affect a person’s quality of life, depending on the needs of that individual. How someone manages an ADHD disorder may interrupt how that person succeeds in their career, relationships, or family dynamics. Those who are not diagnosed with ADHD as children may tend to resort to alcohol or drugs to cope with unresolved feelings or troubles. Anxiety or mood disorders are also sometimes more common in those who have a diagnosis of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But, symptoms can also have their advantages at times. Adults who can manage symptoms of their condition often show great promise in creative fields and imaginative capabilities. From a career standpoint, new ways of working are being developed to better help those who suffer from ADHD.

People who suffer from ADHD may have trouble focusing on one single task for long periods, as their minds are often cluttered with too many thoughts at once. Those with ADHD may also suffer from a lack of self-control in certain situations. Children with ADHD suffer from proper development due to a lack of focus and an inability to concentrate.

Children from primarily English-speaking households are at an increased risk of 4 times those who speak multiple languages. (3) It affects children of all ages, with Latinos at the lowest percentage to blacks and whites. (4) ADHD is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as a common diagnosis, affecting 6.4 million children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Within ADHD, there are a few different types to know, along with many signs and symptoms that can often vary from person to person. There are no exact causes of ADHD, but many theories around what could factor into this common disorder are available.

Types of ADHD

There are three different types of ADHD. ADHD is sometimes referred to as ADD, but that is now an outdated term. ADHD is the proper acknowledgment for this neurodevelopmental disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

The types of ADHD include inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, and combined.

  • Inattentive ADHD: Inattentive ADHD is when a child or adult cannot focus but does not show any signs of hyperactivity or impulsivity. That is also most likely when people refer to it as ADD.
  • Hyperactive or impulsive ADHD: Hyperactive or impulsive ADHD is when the person shows symptoms of those two behaviors but does not have an issue with a lack of attention or focus.
  • Combined ADHD: Combined ADHD is when a child or adult shows all three symptoms, including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

There are many signs and symptoms of ADHD, and these signs often depend on the type and in children vs. adults. Having a behavioral disorder can often cause low self-esteem, especially in kids. That may manifest in anxiety or depression later on in life as well.

  • Trouble Concentrating or Focusing: That comes out as trouble concentrating on one task for long periods. For children, this can show up as not finishing a project or assignment and going on the next thing.
  • Easily Distracted: This is one of the most common symptoms for children and adults with ADHD.
  • Forgetfulness: This is especially true for specific daily tasks.
  • Trouble Sitting Still: Restlessness or feeling the need to move are common symptoms.
  • Interrupting People While Talking: This may also include talking over people frequently.

Common Symptoms in Boys Include

  • Acting out
  • Lack of focus
  • Running and jumping as their hyperactivity

Common Symptoms in Girls Include

  • Low self-esteem or anxiety
  • Tendency to daydream
  • Verbal aggression like teasing or taunting

Girls may exhibit these and more, and they may not be as obvious as boys’ symptoms. Also, there are some variations in signs and symptoms depending on the type of ADHD.

Inattentive ADHD Symptoms in Children

  • Unable to focus on school tasks
  • Ignores those speaking, even when spoken to directly
  • Neglects instructions
  • Fails to finish chores
  • Trouble organizing
  • Long tasks become too hard to complete

Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD Symptoms

  • Ready to go at any given moment
  • Extremely talkative
  • Blurts out whatever they are feeling
  • Runs around or climbs when inappropriate
  • Quiet play is difficult
  • Often unable to take turns

There are some differences when it comes to adults with ADHD vs. children. Read on to learn more about adult ADHD, fast facts, signs, and symptoms.

Examining Adult ADHD

The majority of children, around 60 percent, who are diagnosed with ADHD often bring it into adulthood, too. However, there are some chances that the severity of the disorder becomes less bothersome or intrusive with age.

It is crucial to seek treatment as adults with ADHD because it can affect many areas of everyday life, such as time management, forgetfulness, and inattention with relationships, career, and much more. See if any of these adult signs and symptoms sound familiar to you.

Signs and Symptoms of Adult ADHD

  • Disorganization: Does keeping everything in the right place seem like a real challenge? That can be a frequent sign.
  • Issues with Time Management: Maybe you show up late often, ignore vital tasks, or procrastinate more than you’d like.
  • Impulsivity: Perhaps you are always in a rush or acting without empathy around essential conversations or events.
  • Forgetfulness: When forgetfulness gets to a point where it is causing harm in you or another’s life, that is when ADHD can become a problem.
  • Hyperfocus or Lack of Focus: It can be either or for adults with ADHD.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety can manifest as an inability to stay still or becoming fidgety, and this is another way ADHD can present in adults.
  • Lack of Motivation: This is common in children and adults.
  • Fatigue: Sleep concerns and even medication side effects from ADHD may often present in adults.
  • Substance Misuse: While this may not affect everyone with ADHD, some theories show people use it to improve focus and inattention.
  • Relationship Concerns: This can be for any relationship, platonic or romantic, and show up as boredom or inattentiveness.

While there are some similarities in adults and children with ADHD, adults with ADHD can affect many other areas of life and make it harder to carry out everyday tasks. Be sure to speak to your doctor if you experience many of these symptoms.

Is There a Cause for ADHD?

There are no exact known causes of ADHD, but many theories and studies are surrounding possible causes. There has been a steep increase in the cases of ADHD from 2003 to 2011. Because of that, there are many theories around why. The United States has the highest rates of ADHD among any other developed nation, affecting 1 in 20 children in the U.S. (3) Plus, of the 80 percent of children who develop ADHD as children, they may carry it into adulthood.

Many theories may point to ADHD as a primarily American disorder of concern. However, many other children in different countries may develop ADHD too. They do not often get diagnosed as much as in America, however. Rates of ADHD were similar in America compared to many other countries, but some countries may have fewer cases of ADHD, such as Iceland, Australia, Italy, and Sweden. (4) In America, there is a vast difference in the prevalence of ADHD cases among states, too. For example, Nevada has the lowest rate at 4.2 percent, and Kentucky has the highest at 14.8 percent. (5)

One theory of the higher rate of ADHD diagnosis in children in the U.S is in the quality of America’s food supply. The main question that comes up is regarding food additives, such as preservatives and artificial colorings, in many children’s food in the U.S. Eliminating food colorings, dyes, preservatives, and additives show a statistically significant benefit for children. (6) (7) (8) Many of these foods are banned in other developed countries as well, or they must have warning labels that can create hyperactivity in children. (7)

Potential Causes of ADHD

  • Excess Sugar Consumption & Lack of Balanced Diet (8)
  • Environmental Factors
  • Cigarette Smoking and Alcohol Consumption
  • Food Coloring, Additive, and Artificial Preservatives in Food
  • Neurophysiology or Genetics: Differences in brain anatomy and metabolism
  • Certain Drugs: Mother having used nicotine or cocaine during pregnancy (9) (10)
  • Chronic Exposure to Lead (11)
  • Lack of Early Attachment to Parent of Caregiver: This can lead to traumatic experiences and eventually ADHD later in life (12)

Treatment for ADHD

There are many treatment options available for ADHD, including medications and alternative therapies (psychotherapy and behavioral therapies). Everyone is different in what works for their unique physiology, so be sure to see what works best for you or your children. It’s best not to resort to a one size fits all approach.

ADHD Medications

Stimulants, as well as non-stimulants, are used to treat ADHD. Stimulants called Central nervous system (CNS) stimulants are often used for ADHD treatment. They increase dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, two “happiness” hormones. A few examples of these drugs are methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta) and amphetamine-based stimulants (like Adderall).

There are also non-stimulant medications such as atomoxetine (Strattera), should you want to avoid unnecessary common side effects from stimulant medications like Ritalin. Medications like atomoxetine (Strattera) have a similar reaction in the brain, increasing norepinephrine levels. Non-stimulant medications can pose many other benefits as they are not as addictive as stimulant medications.

Bupropion is another commonly used antidepressant drug used for adults with ADHD. This may be a doctor’s choice if you suffer from depression and drug addiction like nicotine.

Natural Remedies for ADHD

A healthy diet and lifestyle may come in handy in addition to or instead of medications when dealing with ADHD. Be sure to eat a healthy balanced diet, get adequate exercise of at least 60 minutes per day, get plenty of rest, and limit the use of screentime throughout the day. Limiting screentime from TVs, smartphones, and computers can also have a huge impact on how well you sleep.

Different types of exercises may also play a role in benefitting those who suffer from ADHD. These include exercises like tai chi, yoga, and even spending time in nature. Spending time outdoors naturally increases dopamine in the brain as well, promoting calmness and happiness. These types of activities may have a calming effect on the mind and body, naturally lowering high stress or hyperactive states.

Avoiding certain foods and allergens may also have an impact on reducing the symptoms of ADHD. As mentioned before, food additives and dyes may contribute to hyperactivity, especially in children.

It’s vital to get the proper education around your condition to learn the best way for you to live with ADHD. Cutting back on harmful lifestyle factors such as drinking and drug use may also improve symptoms of ADHD.

Psychotherapy is another natural remedy that may be extremely effective at reducing symptoms of this disorder. Uncovering the root cause of self-esteem, substance abuse, or family trauma may uncover powerful benefits to combat ADHD. Traditional therapy may also help to cope and handle anger management, social and organizational skills. Joining a support group or family therapy may be extremely helpful for those who have a loved one with ADHD, too.

Positive parenting strategies, the right support at school, counseling, and medications may help children who suffer from ADHD as well as their families.

Diagnosing ADHD Properly

ADHD has many similar symptoms to other neurological disorders and behaviors that can be the cause of many other problems. Unresolved family trauma, a lack of expression at school or home, and much more may contribute to similar symptoms as well. Anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses can seem like a diagnosis of ADHD, especially because they are often a subsequent cause of ADHD symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is no single biological test to determine if someone has ADHD. Instead, it is based on a rating from a subjective point of view on how that person behaves at school and/or home. It’s vital to understand that not all children and adults that exhibit the three main characteristics of ADHD, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and overactivity necessarily have ADHD.

The proper assessment of a child or adult with ADHD must be done by a doctor or psychologist. A doctor or psychologist will put together specific informative pieces to conclude.

Some things to look out for with an ADHD diagnosis include:

  • Interviewing people in the family such as parents, spouses, friends, and any others who can share the person’s behavioral characteristics
  • Rating the person’s current lifestyle determinants and behavior
  • Ruling out drug or alcohol abuse (Even though these can often be contributing symptoms of ADHD as well)
  • Checking in to see if the adult showed symptoms of ADHD as a child
  • Making sure the person does not have any neurological disorders such as depression or anxiety

A detailed assessment by a licensed professional, doctor or psychologist, must be made before determining if a child or adult indeed has ADHD. Extensive information often needs to be collected not only from a child’s home but from their school teachers and caregivers of any type. For ADHD to be diagnosed, symptoms and signs of the disorder must be obvious in all areas of the child’s life. A typical assessment may include essential information like childhood trauma, a history of behavior and noteworthy events, relationships with family members, and even illnesses they may have undergone. A variety of criteria, tools, and scales are often used when determining if a child or adult has ADHD.


ADHD is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that should not be ignored in children or adults. It can interrupt daily routine and development if ignored. While ADHD is extremely common, it does not mean those who have ADHD cannot live normal, fulfilling lives. Many people often tout the symptoms they have from ADHD as a help in their lives. Some symptoms such as hyperfocus are commended among artists or other types of creative individuals, for example. Some see more energy as a good thing to focus on work and school.

Everyone is unique in their abilities within ADHD, and there are treatments available to help children and adults cope with aggressive symptoms. If symptoms interrupt you or your child’s quality of life, seek medical help from a licensed professional. Your doctor can help you or your child determine if they do have ADHD and seek the best treatment option available for you or their individual needs. Children with ADHD require proper support from their families, teachers, and caregivers. Be sure you are researching and finding the best resources available for your children and their unique circumstances.