Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity Disorder

What is attention deficit disorder?

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition usually seen in children who show inappropriate behavior and impaired ability to concentrate. A person is unable to focus their attention on a single thing, act without forethought (ADD) and in some cases patient is also abnormally active (ADHD). Patients with ADHD/ADD have problem in controlling their attention and hence concentrate on many things or everything around them.These patients lack focus and hence fail to differentiate between relevant and non-relevant acts. Both children and adult may have ADD although the hyperactivity component is more prevalent among children.

What causes attention deficit disorder?

The specific cause of ADD is not well defined, but many factors can be responsible for development of ADD. The potential underlying cause of ADD can be heredity and is aggravated by behavioral, physiological, social, neuronal and biochemical factors. There are various theories surrounding specific causes and contributing factors, not all of which have been conclusively identified. This may include :

  • Exposure of fetus brain during pregnancy to poor nutrition, alcohol, tobacco, and infections,
  • Exposure of toxin like lead.
  • Head trauma or brain injury/
  • Birth weight < 2.2 lbs.
  • Neuronal changes in areas of the brain that control attention.
  • An imbalance of chemicals in brain called neurotransmitters.

What are the symptoms of attention deficit disorder?

Children with ADD normally have difficulty in paying attention and fail to follow directions. Adults with ADD generally have problems with organizing things, management of time and setting a goal. However, this is a bit oversimplified. The common symptoms associated with severe ADD are complex and the common executive functions distorted with ADD/ADHD are commonly of three kinds :


  • Highly flexible and easily distracted.
  • Lack of focus, organization and planning.
  • Cannot follow direction or finish the given task.
  • Make careless mistakes.
  • Very short memory, forgets daily activities, loses things often and daydreaming.

Hyper activeness-impulsiveness

  • Makes noise and talks more when instructed to be silent.
  • Always moving, running or climbing on things (restlessness).
  • The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses is missing.
  • Problems waiting in queue or standing still.
  • Takes action or comes to conclusion without thinking, answer before question completed and interrupt others often.


  • Extreme forgetfulness, laziness, and boredom (procrastination).
  • Anxious, aggressiveness, low self-esteem, low frustration tolerance, mood swings, depression, sleep disturbances.
  • Difficulty to focus when doing act, employment and relationship problems, poor social skills.
  • Difficult to control anger, addiction.

What is the treatment for attention deficit disorder?

The diagnosis associated with ADD/ADHD does not involve any specific physical examination or laboratory tests. Attention deficit disorder is diagnosed mainly based on evaluation of complete medical and behavioral history. The psychological review of development, education, relationship and achievements of patients are also performed. The specific criteria for diagnosing the three subtypes of ADD/ADHD according the the DSM-IV guidelines should be undertaken by a psychiatric health professional.

It is difficult to completely cure ADD/ADHD condition. Treatment is primarily directed at control of symptoms that inhibit normal functioning and cause problems in daily life. The treatment of ADD/ADHD often consists of various behavioral or psychosocial therapy and a combination of medication.

Cognitive-behavioral or psychosocial therapies

Providing counseling and special education to improve social skills such as setting of goals, taking decisions, developing focus self-confidence and related behavior modification.


The major classes of medicines which are commonly used in the treatment of ADD/ADHD act by altering the brain chemicals. Some of these can be categorized as stimulants while others are antidepressants.

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