Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most frequently diagnosed behavioral disorder in the world. While the condition is highly controversial, it is recognized by most medical authorities as a disorder characterized by the inability to focus and impulsive or hyperactive behavior. ADHD is most often found in children under the age of seven, though symptoms of ADHD are sometimes difficult to distinguish from normal child behavior.
Symptoms of ADHD are divided into three parts in the main diagnostic text used by the American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-IV. According to this reference guide, patients with ADHD will typically present as inattentive, hyperactive, or have combined symptoms. Although these symptoms often manifest in early childhood, it is not uncommon for teens and even adults to be diagnosed with ADHD as well.
Inattentiveness associated with the condition can show itself in a multitude of ways. Patients may be unable to sustain conversations on one topic for more than a few minutes, or be easily distracted from tasks. They may have serious difficulty finishing schoolwork, or be continually forgetful. Symptoms of ADHD related to inattentiveness may not appear until a child has started school, as their ability to function in a heavily structured environment is likely untested to that point.
Hyperactive symptoms typically appear much earlier, and can be extremely destructive. Children may talk incessantly, be unable to sit still, or be uncomfortable with quiet or relaxed activities. Hyperactive symptoms are also characterized by impulsive actions, such as constantly answering questions before they are finished or frequently interrupting conversation. Symptoms of ADHD related to impulsiveness can also be extremely dangerous, as children are subject to acting without thinking of possible dangers.
Unfortunately for parents and children, symptoms of ADHD are rarely clear-cut and are sometimes simply the result of the boundless energy of being a child. As diagnosis levels began to skyrocket in the 1980s, many experts wondered if the condition was simply an result of busy and exhausted parents being unprepared or unable to deal with the normal behavior of children. Complicating the issue is the fact that there is no clear genetic evidence of the disorder, and no simple test to determine if symptoms of ADHD should result in an ADHD diagnosis and treatment. The decision of when and how to treat potential ADHD patients is entirely up to the parents and the attending mental health professional, with only a few vague guidelines to recommend diagnosis.
In serious cases, however, symptoms of ADHD can be dangerous and hurtful to the development of the child, and should be treated with utmost seriousness. The condition can be related to other related mental issues, such as anxiety disorders and depression. Children may also feel severe personal frustration at their inability to focus, and may have difficulty fitting in with other kids. If a child is exhibiting serious or continual symptoms of ADHD, a mental evaluation may be necessary to get them any help deemed necessary.