Symptoms

The symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be categorised into 2 types of behavioural problems: inattentiveness, and hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Most people with ADHD have problems that fall into both these categories, but this is not always the case.

For example, some people with the condition may have problems with inattentiveness, but not with hyperactivity or impulsiveness.

This form of ADHD is also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD). ADD can sometimes go unnoticed because the symptoms may be less obvious.

What Are the Types of ADHD?

ADHD is a neurological condition defined by a consistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactive impulsivity that interferes with daily functioning in at least two settings – for example, at school and at home. It impacts children and adults, boys and girls, and people of all backgrounds. The symptoms above represent the broad range of symptoms associated with ADHD, though symptoms differ with each subtype.1 ADHD comprises three subtypes:

  • inattentive type
  • hyperactive or impulsive type
  • combined type

ADHD Symptoms: Inattentive ADD Checklist

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or failure to understand instructions)
  • Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
  • Loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
  • Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • Forgetful in daily activities

Treatment recommendations for ADHD

For children with ADHD younger than 6 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parent training in behavior management as the first line of treatment, before medication is tried. For children 6 years of age and older, the recommendations include medication and behavior therapy together — parent training in behavior management for children up to age 12 and other types of behavior therapy and training for adolescents.  Schools can be part of the treatment as well. AAP recommendations also include adding behavioral classroom intervention and school supports.

Medications

The number of medications available to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) is overwhelming at best, and the process for selecting the best ADHD medication for you or your child, or deciding to medicate at all, is incredibly personal.

The ADHD medications prescribed to both children (as young as age 6) and adults are broadly categorized as

  • Stimulants – considered the first-line treatment for ADHD. Amphetamines fall under this category, along with methylphenidate, the most widely used treatment for ADHD, and their derivatives.1
  • Nonstimulants – prescribed to patients who don’t tolerate or see benefits from stimulant medications (up to 30 percent of patients do not respond to stimulants2). Three nonstimulants are approved to treat ADHD: atomoxetine, guanfacine, and clonidine. Nonstimulants, may also be prescribed for use alongside stimulants to treat symptoms that the latter do not alleviate.

Selecting the “best” ADHD medication can be a lengthy trial-and-error process of dosage and timing that is often related to a patient’s history, genetics, experienced side effects, and unique metabolism. ADHD medication is also often accompanied by behavioral therapy and other non-pharmacological treatments.