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Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or attention deficit disorder (ADD), is a condition affecting the brain. It affects how people think and act. People with ADHD usually have problems with focusing and remembering what is said or done around them. They may also have extra trouble sitting still or being quiet.

Because ADHD affects how people's nerves develop, it is called a neurological developmental disorder.

Experts think that throughout the entire world, about one in twenty children (5%) has ADHD. Some countries have more people with ADHD than others, and not everyone uses the same tests. Psychologists have found more people with ADHD in North America than in Africa and the Middle East. In the United States, about one in every fourteen children has ADHD (7%), including one in every ten boys (10%) and one in every twenty-five girls (4%). This could be because more boys get ADHD, or because fewer girls take ADHD tests.

ADHD is most common in children, but many adults have ADHD, too. A little less than half of children with ADHD get better when they become adults.

Signs and symptoms

People with ADHD can have trouble paying attention, be overly active, or be impulsive. There are three types of ADHD, based on which of the three symptoms is most common. Someone who usually has trouble paying attention may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • They can get distracted easily when listening
  • They can have difficulty when focusing
  • They can get bored after a few minutes unless it's something they enjoy
  • They can have difficulty when organizing or completing a task, homework, assignments, and by handing in tasks
  • They can often lose items or forget about them
  • They do not seem to listen when they are spoken to
  • They can daydream, become confused easily, and not move fast
  • They have difficulty taking information quickly or correctly
  • They seem to struggle when following instructions

Someone who usually is overly active may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • They may move around a lot when sitting.
  • They may talk without stopping.
  • They may run around touching or playing with anything they see.
  • They may have trouble sitting without moving while trying to eat, do homework, or pay attention in class.
  • They may move constantly.
  • They may have trouble doing things quietly.

People who are overly active usually lose these symptoms as they get older.

Someone who usually is impulsive may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • They may be very impatient.
  • They may say things that are not nice or correct or do things without thinking about what will happen.
  • They may have trouble waiting for things they want to have or do.
  • They may often interrupt other people.

People with ADHD may have trouble making and keeping friends. They may also have trouble controlling their anger. While children with ADHD may have trouble doing some things, many children with ADHD will not have trouble paying attention to something they enjoy or think are interesting.


Research of twins has shown that about three in four cases of ADHD are caused by one or both parents having ADHD. Siblings of children with ADHD are three to four times more likely to develop the disorder than siblings of children without the disorder. Genetic factors are also believed to be involved in determining whether ADHD persists into adulthood. Some scientists think that ADHD is common because it was good to be overly active when humans were first developing.

Managing ADHD

There is no cure for ADHD. People with ADHD can be helped with therapy or medication. Therapy is recommended for children who do not have bad symptoms or are very young. Therapy for people with ADHD helps with attention and behavior. There is also education for parents and teachers to help children with ADHD. Some physical exercise has been shown to help people with ADHD.

The most common medication for ADHD is a stimulant. Stimulants increase the amount of a chemical called dopamine in the brain, which helps with paying attention or being overly active. These medications should not be given to young children.

Society and culture

People do not agree about the diagnosis of ADHD. The number of people with ADHD has increased in the last several years. Some people think this is because doctors are diagnosing too many people. Others think it is because doctors are getting better at finding people with ADHD. Some people think that ADHD is made-up and not a real illness. Most studies suggest that ADHD is mostly caused by problems with genes.

Several famous people have spoken about the rise in ADHD diagnoses. Actor Tom Cruise said that the medicines usually given to people with ADHD were like illegal drugs. Others disagreed with him because the amount of medicine given to people with ADHD does not cause addiction. There have been many studies about the effectiveness of the medicines used with ADHD. One certain study found that the medicine did help over a long time, but did not help more than other types of treatment.

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