Overview of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a psychiatric disorder and, more specifically, a chronic neurobehavioral syndrome. ADHD manifests as inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. The term attention-deficit disorder (ADD) refers to the condition without hyperactivity.

 Boy on Jungle Gym Image

People with ADHD tend to overlook details and to miss information. Because of attention deficit, people with ADHD become averse to tasks that require concentration, decisiveness, and organizational skills and may avoid situations where they are expected to perform or to take responsibility for their effort.

Incidence and Prevalence of ADHD

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6.4 million people between the ages of 4 and 17—11 percent of the population—in the United States were diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. The CDC reports that 7.8 percent had an ADHD in 2003, 9.5 percent in 2007, and 11 percent in 2011—indicating about a 5 percent increase in each of those years.

The average age of diagnosis is 7 years. It's estimated that about 2–4 percent of adults in the United States are affected. The occurrence of ADHD is reported worldwide; statistical variations may be due to cultural perceptions of behavior.

Most studies show that in children with ADHD, boys are affected approximately five times more often than girls. Other studies suggest that the condition may not be diagnosed as often in girls because girls with ADHD present their symptoms differently.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 27 Aug 2015