Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)

What Is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a clinical condition that describes certain children, adolescents and adults who are inattentive, easily distracted, hyperactive and impulsive in their behavior. It occurs in approximately 9% of children and 4.4% of adults. It is typically more common in males but females may get missed at times as they tend to present with inattentive symptoms. Some children have primarily inattentive symptoms (categorized as the predominantly inattentive presentation), others have more hyperactive or impulsive symptoms (categorized as the predominantly hyperactive/impulsive presentation) and some demonstrate symptoms in both categories (categorized as the combined presentation). 

What Causes ADHD? 

There is no specific cause of ADHD. However, it can be inherited and immediate family members, such as parents and siblings, often also have ADHD. Maternal smoking, premature birth and lead exposure have been associated with ADHD, as well.

What Are Signs Symptoms of ADHD? 

Individuals with ADHD often have difficulty with: 

  • Sustaining attention in classwork and homework
  • Listening and following directions
  • Staying organized
  • Finishing tasks

Those with impulsive and hyperactive presentations may have difficulty with:

  • Staying seated in the classroom
  • Playing quietly
  • Waiting their turn in line
  • Raising their hand in the classroom before answering

How Is ADHD Diagnosed? 

ADHD is diagnosed by a qualified physician or mental health professional who is trained in recognizing the symptoms of ADHD. Neuropsychological testing is not required for the diagnosis. The evaluating clinician will obtain information from caregivers, teachers, and the child or adolescent before making the diagnosis and will rule out other conditions that can present with symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity and impulsivity. 

How Is ADHD Treated? 

The first-line treatment for ADHD is medication treatment. This can include stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamine products and non-stimulant medications such as guanfacine, clonidine, atomoxetine or bupropion. Medications can produce significant improvement in the core symptoms of ADHD.

Behavioral therapy and parent guidance can be helpful for addressing behavioral concerns that arise in children with ADHD and can give parents effective parenting strategies in providing a structured home environment for their children. Children with co-existing conditions such as anxiety or depression may need additional individual therapy to target those conditions. Clinicians may also recommend specific accommodations to be made within the school setting that can promote a child’s likelihood of academic success.

What Are Long-Term Effects of ADHD?

If untreated, children with ADHD are at risk for developing many long-term negative outcomes, including an increased risk of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, poor academic performance, poor work performance, motor vehicle accidents, relationship difficulties, unwanted pregnancy, and even criminal behavior. Treatment can be highly effective and allow children and adolescents to achieve their full potential.

What Treatment Does Lurie Children's Provide? 

Services for evaluating and treating children and adolescents with ADHD within the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health include group therapy using the evidence-based Incredible Years curriculum, individual therapy with social workers and psychologists, and medication evaluations and treatment with child and adolescent psychiatrists.

Make an Appointment 

If you are interested in having your child seen in the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, call 1.800.543.7362 (1.800.KIDS.DOC) to schedule an intake evaluation.

Additional Resources