Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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Table of contents
OverviewWhat is the definition and Subtypes of ADHD?What are the symptoms of hyperactivity & ADHD?What is the causes and risk factors of ADHD?What are the diagnostic criteria for ADHD?What are the associated types of ADHD and Co-morbidities for ADHD?How is ADHD assessed and diagnosed?What are the ADHD treatment options?What medications are used in ADHD?What ADHD Management and Support Strategies are there available to me?Impact of ADHDWhat ADHD support organizations are there available to support me in the UK?What ADHD support organizations are there available to support me in the US?Summary
Stefano Mirabello NowPatientGreen tick
Medically reviewed by Stefano Mirabello, BPharm and written by Rajive Patel, BPharm - Updated on 18 Jan 2024
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What is the definition and Subtypes of ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Here, we aim to provide you with an in-depth understanding of ADHD by exploring its definition, prevalence, subtypes, etiology, diagnostic criteria, associated features, co-morbidities, and treatment approaches. Additionally, we will examine the impact of ADHD on individuals, families, and society, and discuss strategies for managing and supporting individuals with ADHD. It is common in school-aged children and young children.  ADHD can be classified into three subtypes:

  • predominantly inattentive
  • predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
  • combined presentation

What are the symptoms of hyperactivity & ADHD?

  • short attention span
  • impulsive behaviors
  • difficulty with social skills
  • being easily distracted
  • making careless mistakes for example in schoolwork
  • being forgetful and losing things
  • unable to listen to or carry out instructions
  • fidgeting
  • acting without thinking
  • risk of developing substance use disorder or substance abuse
  • possible co-existance with Tourette syndrome

What is the causes and risk factors of ADHD?

The etiology of ADHD is multifactorial, involving a combination of genetic, environmental factors, and neurobiological factors. Genetic studies, prenatal and perinatal factors, brain structure and function, neurotransmitter imbalances, and psychosocial influences are discussed in this section.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a frequent cause for hospitalization in young children and teenagers. It is associated with developing mental conditions, including secondary ADHD which is a form of ADHD that develops following an injury.

What are the diagnostic criteria for ADHD?

The diagnosis of ADHD is based on specific criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

What are the associated types of ADHD and Co-morbidities for ADHD?

There are three major types of ADHD:

  • ADHD, combined type. This, the most common type of ADHD. It is characterized by impulsive and hyperactive behaviors as well as inattention and distractibility
  • ADHD, impulsive/hyperactive type
  • ADHD, inattentive and distractible type

ADHD often co-occurs with other mental health conditions and learning disorders. Common co-morbidities include oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and learning disabilities.

How is ADHD assessed and diagnosed?

The assessment and diagnosis of ADHD involve a comprehensive evaluation that includes clinical interviews, rating scales, behavioral observations, and collaboration with parents, teachers, and other relevant individuals. This section outlines the assessment process and the importance of obtaining a thorough developmental and medical history.

What are the ADHD treatment options?

ADHD management typically involves a multimodal approach that includes:

  • behavioral therapy
  • behavior management
  • pharmacological interventions
  • psychotherapy
  • psycho-education
  • school-based support

Behavioral Interventions

Behavioral interventions, such as parent training, behavior modification techniques, and classroom management strategies aim to improve self-control, organizational skills, and adaptive behaviors.

Pharmacological Interventions

Stimulant medications (e.g., methylphenidate, amphetamines) and non-stimulant medications (e.g., atomoxetine, guanfacine) are commonly prescribed to manage ADHD symptoms. This section discusses the mechanisms of action, benefits, side effects, and considerations for medication use.

Psycho-education and Parent Training

Psycho-education provides individuals and their families with information about ADHD, its impact, and strategies for managing symptoms. Parent training programs empower parents with knowledge and skills to support their child with ADHD effectively.

School-Based Interventions

Collaborating with schools and implementing classroom accommodations, specialized instruction, and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 Plans can support academic performance and address the specific needs of students with ADHD.

Multimodal Treatment

Combining different treatment modalities, such as behavioral interventions and medication, has been found to be more effective in managing ADHD symptoms than using a single approach alone.

What medications are used in ADHD?

Stimulant ADHD Medications


  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Metadate
  • Daytrana (patch)
  • Quillivant XR (extended-release liquid)
  • Aptensio XR


  • Adderall
  • Vyvanse
  • Dexedrine
  • Adzenys XR-ODT (orally disintegrating tablet)
  • Mydayis

Non-Stimulant Medications


  • Strattera


  • Intuniv
  • Tenex


  • Kapvay

Wellbutrin/Zyban (United States)

Bupropion is an FDA approved atypical antidepressant that acts as a norepinephrine–dopamine reuptake inhibitor. That means it helps increase levels of both dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain which can help with inattention, hyperactivity, and other symptoms of ADHD

What ADHD Management and Support Strategies are there available to me?

Managing ADHD involves not only formal treatment interventions but also implementing strategies in everyday life. This section explores various strategies that can help individuals with ADHD, their families, and educators support their academic, social, and emotional well-being.

Structured Routines and Organization

Establishing structured routines, setting clear expectations, and creating organized environments can help individuals with ADHD manage their time, tasks, and responsibilities effectively.

Behavioral Modification Techniques

Implementing behavioral modification techniques, such as positive reinforcement, token economies, and self-monitoring, can promote desired behaviors and reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity.

Classroom Accommodations and Support

Modifying the classroom environment, providing preferential seating, offering extended time for assignments, and using assistive technologies can support students with ADHD in the educational setting.

Parent and Teacher Collaboration

Collaboration between parents and teachers is essential in understanding and addressing the unique needs of students with ADHD. Open communication, sharing of information, and joint problem-solving can contribute to effective support.

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and 504 Plans (United States)

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and 504 Plans provide legal protections and accommodations for students with ADHD in the educational setting. This section explores the purpose and components of these plans.

Impact of ADHD

ADHD can have wide-ranging impacts on individuals, families, and society. This section examines the academic challenges, social and emotional difficulties, family dynamics, and long-term outcomes associated with ADHD.

Academic Challenges

ADHD can significantly impact academic performance, including difficulties with organization, time management, attention, and impulsivity. This section explores the educational implications of ADHD and strategies to support academic success.

Social and Emotional Difficulties

Individuals with ADHD may face challenges in social interactions, impulse control, emotional regulation, and self-esteem. This section examines the social and emotional impact of ADHD and discusses strategies for fostering positive relationships and emotional well-being.

Family Dynamics and Relationships

The presence of ADHD can affect family dynamics, parental stress levels, sibling relationships, and overall family functioning. This section explores the impact of ADHD on families and provides recommendations for support and coping strategies.

Long-Term Outcomes

ADHD can have long-term implications that extend into adulthood, including academic underachievement, occupational difficulties, and increased risk for mental health disorders. This section discusses the potential long-term outcomes and the importance of early intervention and ongoing support.

What ADHD support organizations are there available to support me in the UK?

  • ADHD Foundation: The ADHD Foundation is a leading UK charity that supports individuals with ADHD, their families, and professionals working with ADHD. They provide information, resources, training, support groups, and awareness campaigns
  • ADDISS – The National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service: ADDISS is a charity organization that offers support and resources for individuals with ADHD, their families, and professionals. They provide helplines, information leaflets, support groups, training, and conferences
  • UK Adult ADHD Network (UKAAN): UKAAN is a network that focuses on supporting adults with ADHD. They provide resources, information, and conferences specifically addressing adult ADHD
  • YoungMinds: YoungMinds is a leading UK charity that supports the mental health and well-being of children and young people, including those with ADHD. They offer resources, advice, helplines, and campaigns for children, young people, parents, and professionals
  • National Autistic Society (NAS): Although primarily focused on autism, NAS provides resources and support for individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions, including ADHD. They offer information, support networks, helplines, and campaigns
  • Mind: Mind is a mental health charity in the UK that provides information, resources, and support for a range of mental health conditions, including ADHD. They offer helplines, local services, and advice on managing mental health and well-being

What ADHD support organizations are there available to support me in the US?

  • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): CHADD is a national non-profit organization that provides support and resources for individuals with ADHD and their families. They offer information, educational materials, support groups, webinars, conferences, and advocacy initiatives
  • National Resource Center on ADHD: The National Resource Center on ADHD is a program of CHADD funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They provide evidence-based information, resources, and tools for individuals with ADHD, parents, educators, and healthcare professionals
  • Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA): ADDA is a non-profit organization that supports adults with ADHD. They provide resources, webinars, support groups, a virtual peer support community, and a directory of ADHD professionals
  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP): AACAP is a professional medical association that focuses on children’s mental health, including ADHD. Their website provides information on ADHD diagnosis, treatment, and resources for families and professionals
  • Understood: Understood is an organization dedicated to supporting individuals with learning and attention issues, including ADHD. They offer information, resources, personalized support, and a community for parents, educators, and individuals with ADHD
  • The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provides a comprehensive overview of ADHD including the signs and symptoms, how it is diagnosed, and the available treatments options


ADHD is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that requires a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach for effective management and support. By understanding the various aspects of ADHD, including its definition, subtypes, etiology, diagnostic criteria, treatment approaches, and impact, individuals, families, educators, and healthcare professionals can work together to improve the lives of those affected by ADHD. Enhanced awareness, early intervention, and ongoing support are essential for individuals with ADHD to reach their full potential and thrive in various domains of life.

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The information provided here about medications is subject to change and is not meant to include all uses, precautions, warnings, directions, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or negative effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a particular medication does not imply that the medication or medication combination is appropriate for all patients or for all possible purposes.

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