What is it?

ADHD stands for Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is often picked up when children are young and are struggling to:

  • pay attention for extended periods of time
  • stay focused or concentrate (this may be impacting on their learning at school)
  • sit still without fidgeting or becoming restless (hyperactivity)
  • think before they do things (also known as impulsive behaviour)
  • maintain a regular sleeping pattern or sleep all evening

How does it affect children?

Some people can have problems with inattentiveness only, therefore not have problems with hyperactivity or impulsiveness. This form of ADHD is known as Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and the symptoms of this can be less obvious.

Many of us go through phases where we are fidgety or find it hard to pay attention. This can be completely normal and does not mean you have ADHD. It becomes a problem when these characteristics are exaggerated, compared to other children of the same age, and when the behaviour affects your child’s social and school life.

Things normally get better as children get older, but some adults are affected all their lives. ADHD typically affects more boys than girls.

What causes ADHD?

The exact cause of ADHD is unknown, but the condition has been shown to run in families.

Research has also identified several possible differences in the brains of people with ADHD when compared with those without the condition.

Other factors suggested as potentially having a role in ADHD include:

  • being born prematurely (before the 37th week of pregnancy)
  • having a low birthweight
  • smoking or alcohol or drug abuse during pregnancy

ADHD can occur in people of any intellectual ability, although it’s more common in people with learning difficulties.

Page last reviewed: 12 August, 2021