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Introduction to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D. Updated: Mar 28th 2017

child in the airWhat is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder - ADHD?

There are very few people in the United States who have not heard about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Sometimes it is called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). It seems more and more people are diagnosed with this disorder. There are many reasons for this. We'll discuss those reasons in a moment. For now, let's begin by defining ADHD. What is it? Although we've heard the term Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), what exactly does it mean? Is it a normal variation of behavior: Or, is it disorder that significantly affects people's lives? A brief example may help clarify the term's meaning.

Adrian's story: A boy with ADHD

Adrian is a 7-year-old boy. He is making his second attempt to pass the first grade. He is halfway through the school year, but still hasn't improved very much. His teacher, Ms. Carter, taught Adrian in her classroom last year and now again this year. Ms. Carter is a young, enthusiastic teacher. She has actively worked with Adrian to improve his ability to pay attention in class. However, she is now asking for help because she has seen little progress for her efforts.

Adrian is an energetic boy who talks almost constantly. He talks over other children. He forgets to raise his hand. He interrupts his teachers during classroom lessons. He has trouble sitting in his seat and frequently wanders around the classroom. He is unable to read or to complete his math problems. These difficulties occur because he can't stay on task long enough to benefit from the lesson. His unruly behavior is taking a great deal of Ms. Carter's time. Meanwhile, his need for extra attention is interfering with other students' learning opportunities. Adrian is a kind boy, who often engages other children in a friendly manner. However, Ms. Carter has noticed the other children are becoming annoyed by his disruptive behavior. They have begun to avoid him. Ms. Carter is deeply concerned about Adrian. She knows that if these behaviors continue, Adrian's self-image will plummet as the other children reject him, and school failure continues.

Adrian's parents are similarly discouraged. They have two other children at home who don't get into trouble and make good grades at school. His parents work hard to provide a supportive environment for Adrian and try to help him with his homework. They have tried many different strategies. However, nothing seems to work. They are becoming increasingly frustrated and worried. They care deeply about Adrian and want him to succeed. Unfortunately, his out-of-control behavior and his inability to pay attention, have created a chaotic home life that is disruptive and unpleasant for the entire family. Both parents acknowledge that at times the situation seems hopeless. Although they feel protective of Adrian, they are also desperate to find help for him.

As a result of Ms. Carter's request, the school called a meeting to bring all the adults together to discuss Adrian's situation. They agreed to ask a psychologist to conduct an evaluation of Adrian and discussed the need for an Individual Education Plan. The psychologist met with Adrian, his parents, his teachers, and his physician. Adrian was evaluated in each of his typical environments. During this process, the psychologist worked diligently to obtain input from the adults involved with Adrian's education and care. The purpose of this thorough evaluation was to obtain as much information as possible from many different perspectives (caregivers, teachers, doctors, etc.). This enabled the psychologist to develop a diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment plan. Based on this evaluation, Adrian was diagnosed with ADHD. Then, the psychologist helped the adults work together to develop an individualized plan to meet Adrian's special needs. This type of plan is commonly called an Individual Educational Plan (IEP).

The IEP had many different elements. The parents took Adrian to his pediatrician. Adrian's doctor prescribed stimulant medication to help improve his attention skills. Adrian's parents were initially reluctant to use medication. However, the situation had deteriorated so much they were willing to give it a try. They also took a parenting class to learn behavior management skills. These new skills enabled them to create a more structured and consistent home environment. Furthermore, these skills allowed Adrian's parents to work more calmly with him. They learned to reward positive behaviors, while attempting to ignore (not reward) the negative ones.

Adrian did his part as well. He participated in group therapy with other kids who had similar problems. Adrian and the other children in his therapy group learned about ADHD and how it affects them. They also learned new skills. Some of these skills helped Adrian to develop greater self-regulation. Adrian also learned social skills so he could enjoy more rewarding relationships with his peers.

As part of the IEP, the psychologist developed a plan for Adrian's teachers. This plan helped to create a more structured classroom environment for Adrian. This structured approach made classroom expectations clear, and rewarded positive behavior. The IEP stipulated the teacher should be provided an additional classroom aide. The specially trained aide worked with Adrian to help him learn new skills while limiting behaviors that interfered with other children's learning experiences. The overall goal of the IEP was to provide Adrian the support he needed to develop important academic skills. It also helped him to use greater self-control at home, and in the classroom.

Working together, Adrian's team helped him to improve his behavior so he could succeed in school and enjoy rewarding relationships. It was a challenging process that required the commitment of many people. At first it was difficult. Nonetheless, with perseverance, the coordinated efforts of everyone involved allowed Adrian to gradually improve.

Adrian may continue to face challenges related to ADHD for most of his life. Nonetheless, his ability to function well in different environments enabled him to adopt a positive outlook. This increased his confidence in his ability to overcome challenges. The success of this case study highlights the importance of early diagnosis and treatment with a team approach. Early diagnosis is made possible by recognizing the signs and symptoms. This is covered in the next section.


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Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

my little sister...... - Britany - Apr 2nd 2012

my little sister may have adhd, however the teachers at her school can not reconize it, she can pay somewhat iattention at school, but when she gets home or at church, she can barley stay still, listen, and when she gets mad she hits, cries, and throws things frantically. Im not sure if she is adhd but it does conern me. She is 7 years old and i expect at first she's just natually hyper to an extend, but i do believe she may be adhd. any ideas?

ADHD can be treated naturally - Dr. Bob DeMaria - Aug 17th 2011

It is possible for ADHD symptoms to be treated naturally.  I have been a doctor in the natural health field for over thirty years and in my practice I have seen patients who were previously diagnosed with ADHD see improvements in as little as three weeks by making simple diet changes and adding basic nutrition.  In my book Dr. Bob's Guide to Stop ADHD in 18 Days I explain just what I recommend and why it works.  I have more on this topic posted at 

Therapies for add based on sounds - Mark Steven - Dec 14th 2010


I found a promising therapy for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder based on sounds. I tried with my son and it worked.

You can try sample sessions here:


Regarding Adhd - Keenan - Dec 11th 2010

In early 2005 i was diagnosed with adhd, in 2008 i discharged myself because i dont class my self as having adhd, nor do i with anyone else. i think adhd is just an excuse for troubled minors/teens to actually fool around. the medication litterly made me ill, and it was actually bringing more anger out in me, making me sweat alot, gain vast amounts of weight then lose alot, and the help i received regarding counselling, relationship, and other types of guiding sessions did not help, i actually had one mentor that helped her name was Kath Armstong? (Blackpool, UK) her methods were phernomanal and i havent been able to actually thank her, i have not seen her in 2 years, and now im starting to have troubles again, i think she would be great assitance as i have a lot of stress on my mind at the momment, i'm only 17 also.

Life of confusion - Lana - Nov 20th 2010

Hi, I was just reading everyones stories an though that I should share mine, I started showing signs at a very young age, like a toddler, My father would take me to his mothers, and I would just keep walking , even after he had called my name several times, also I alsmost walked off of a pier and went into the water at 3, my father had to catch me, I was very fast, and could not stay still for a moment, even as a baby, my mom would go to change my diaper, turn to grab the new one, really quick, then would turn to see me gone, and I was out the front door in the yard naked. She had to buy a leash for me, but then I just figured out how to take it off. I also suffered from a lot of Trauma growing up, I lived in a dysfunctional home, my mom was an alcoholic, and gambleaholic. She had six kids, but 5 lived with her the longest, so she would find friends  and relatives to watch them, but noone would want to watch me, so she would take me with her to go bar hopping, I was four years old, One night she was drunk, and called a cab to come get us, while we were in the cab she hit on the driver, and he refused her and while I was in the back seat with no seat belt on, she grabed the steering wheel in a drunken rage, and turned the cab into on coming traffic, we crashed onto someones lawn and I hit the sealing of the cab, I was hurt in the back crying, and she just ignored me to fight with him. This driver (after my dad left) became my step dad. We did not get along at all, we fought all the time, and this dysfuntion went on for years, I was always called a lieing little bitch, I will only end up being a whore, that I was evil and sick and there was nothing anyone could do for me, My teachers, family, other kids, relatives always told my mom, in front of me, that there was something wrong with, I was wierd, different, stupid, e.t.c, I couldn't learn my times tables, and my step father tried to help me once, and ended up screaming at me, that I can;t be that stupid, and that was the last time he helped me with homework. All my life I just barely got by in school, I always thought I was stupid, I had 2 addministrative passes, I spent 3 years in grade nine. At the age of 6 I started to detach myself, I was distant, I had no conscious, I did not regret or feel bad for what I did, even if it hurt others, I was very impulsive, I wanted to die, (at six years old) my mom took me to see a specialist in the mental health field, I had to do this till I was a teenager. She took me everywhere to see everyone, and nothing helped, my mom thought I was deppressed. I was sexually molested, and I ended up losing my verginity to some random 17 year old when I was 12, because I thought that if I wasn't a vergin anymore then maybe it would stop, I felt discusting and dirty. and I was verbally, and mentally , and physically abused growing up, I was also neglected, I was a wild child, doing whatever popped into my head at random times, I remember convincing my friend to climb a traffic sign with me, I made her believe it would be fun, and then when we got up there she stoped and started freaking out, cuz she looked down and I told her not too, then I couldn,t get down, because she was in my way, so the fire departemnt had to get us down. I had a hard time keeping friends, people were always scared of me, or there parents were, I started hanging with other kids that I would get into to trouble with, so I ended up in the criminal system, I had a bad temper, so it was all violence, I was crazy, I put holes in the walls, I tried to kill myself, I thought if I took my life it would save my sisters, cuz she was dying of cancer at the time. but my mom caught me, and tried to commit me to the mental health part of the hospital, put this one specialist I saw, he diagnosed me with ADD, but my mom did not like that answer, she thought I was deppressed, my mom was diagnosed clinicaly depressed, and has a anxiety disorder, she takes constant medication for, she is addicted to it. So when she tried to admit me, they called him and he said do not admit her, she suffers from ADD,so after he said that she ended the services with him, and had my file closed. I was going nuts in there, they had me in this room, and were interogating me, my mom did not like it when the doctors said they can't admit me, so she said I'm not taking her back, and left me there, so the only thing they could do with me was send me to jail for the weekend. Eventually after awhile of all the teachers pleading with my mom to put me on ritalin, she finally caved, I took it for a minute, but I didn't notice a change, I perferd self medication, so I did drugs too, like weed, valium, alcohol, coke, crack, LSD my personal fave, and exstacy. I grew up to have many dysfunctional relationships myself, and no one wanted to put up with me. I'am now in this wierd state with 2 children. I feel as though I have border line personality.

I was made to believ all my life that my name was Lana Vance, but my mom told me when I was 17 that my real name is Lana Brown. I was taught to wright Lana Vance since pre school. it was around then I started to change, and relized that what I was living in was not normal, I went from not having a care in the world, being loud, and being insane, to very suddenly calm and confused. I used to be aggrresive, and assertive, and now I'am passive, and quiet, I don't have any friends or family that come around, and I'am always home taking care of two very small children all alone, I feel like I forced myself inside of myself, I feel really strange. I'am a zombie, I don't want confrontation, I want to just be alone. I don't trust people. I stay isolated, I push others away. I find myself cracking up, and then bearing down on myself. I want to be ok for my children. I'am very alone. I'am scared for my children. I fear that if something happends to me, what would happen to them? my mind races. The fathers parents want nothing more then to see me fall apart and take the kids from me, they wont step in to help, they just stand back and wait. I don't know what to do. I want to stay strong. But I don't know if I can make it all alone.

CORRECTION - to comment - Orlando - Oct 5th 2010

should be:

"I finally realized that I was not crazy and that my ex does have ADD and/or ADHD."


Abrupt End To Our Relationship Too - cont. - Orlando - Oct 5th 2010

Thank you for you kind words.  I've been reading a lot about ADD/ADHD since the end of my relationship with my ex and found a lot of similar situations.  I finally found realized that I was not crazy and that my ex does not ADD or ADHD.  I am learning to let her go.  Since our break up, I saw her a couple of times driving around our city (last time was this pm) and realized that I did not feel bad by seeing her; so I must be healing from the break up.  I know that she will come back, but I already know that it is already too late for any future together; she did it once, she will do it again, besides, she is already with another guy and I'm sure that she is on her hyperfocus on him, so I am not in her world anymore.  I'm taking it day by day.  Thank you.

feed back to...ubrumpt end relationship too- orlando - Alisha Alta - Sep 21st 2010

I would say you  didnt have no fault to your relationship and your ex-girl was very lucky to have someone like you. I believe i may have some symptoms to hdd but still in a deniel coz when i read your comments i some what sound like your x-girl but not too extreme. I would get mad wiht my patner for no good reason just coz am frusterated about jelousy or anger or he might remend me of my past relationships unfortunately they were not kind enough to help me as you are trying to help your ex-girl i personaly wish to have someone to deeply understand me as you did with your girl. but am not loosing hope and so do you. now you know it wasnt your foult it doent mean you should not trust any woman again or woman should not remind you of your past and i hope to find a good husband to understand me as your ex-had and now that i know my faults i will let my patners know so i dont have to end my relationship by walking away from it without any reasons coz the only easy way for me to end a relationship withouth working on it is t walk away from it . thanks for sharing your story with us. you prove me wrong that there are nice man out there who are willing to put there time and heart for someone. Thank you and God bless and hope you find a nice person one day soon. and i would say in my own experience dont go back unless she is fully cured from inside out. goodluck!!!

Abrupt End To Our Relationship Too - Orlando - Sep 21st 2010

This is very difficult for me to write, because I am a very private person.  By writing this, I am not in any way trying to blame my ex for the way our relationship ended, I’m just trying to share my store.  She is 46 y.o. and is currently working on her Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology.  I am 43 y.o. and worked in the legal field.  We both have children from previous marriages.  She has two adult daughters (mid 20s) and one son, age 9.  I have one son, age 11.  We thought that destiny brought us together and that we were meant to be together.

This is my story:  I met NJ June 20, 2009.  We dated for 12 months – off and on.  The whole time, it was a big rollercoaster.  A week or two after we first, met, I saw her again at the pool in our apartment complex.  She started our relationship by telling me that she had to apologize to me because she had a sexual dream about me.  We ended up getting sexually involved and before you knew it, I was watching her son, during the nights that she had to work late due to her schedule as a Therapist.  The first 2-3 months were great.  Then, things started to go up and down.  She wrote me a 10 page hand written letter within the first 2-3 months, which was full of hate, resentment, offensive language, etc – she basically told me of what I was going to dye of.  She always found reasons to fight with me.  Granted, I have a temper too, but always chose to walk away or go back to my apartment – which she did not like, since she wanted me to stay and argue with me more.  She broke up with in so many times, that it’s hard to remember how many times exactly.  One day, NJ, her son and I were at a Cub Scouts meeting and she was not happy because I said hello to a lady that I knew, so at the end of meeting, when we were walking out to my truck, she started yelling at me and telling me all kinds of obscene things in front of her 9 y.o. son, because she was very angry and upset.  I did not know what she was angry about until I found out at a later day, when she was calm, because I asked her what happened.  I can go on and on about all the different arguments and break ups during our 12 months of dating.

I always tried to make it work, even after I got the first sign of trouble (the 10 page hand written letter), I called and apologized to her for what I had done and got back together.  I realized that she needed to vent, because may be her job as a counselor/therapist was demanding or perhaps, because she was sexually abused by her biological father when she was 5 y.o. or because her son also had ADHD and was also sexually abused her his own biological father and step brother when the child was 4 or 5 y.o., I don’t know what the real reason was, but I was tried to make the relationship work, over and over and over.

On many occasions, NJ and I made plants, for example, we were going to go on vacation last summer, but for whatever reason, she told me to hit the road and did not want to see me anymore.  One day, she brought up the fact that she wanted us to move in together and make a family for the boys, we then decided that we were going to buy a house together, based on my excellent credit, because she had just declared bankruptcy, but for some reason, she broke up with me again and told me that she did not want to see me again.  She could not manage her finances; she admitted on several occasions that she could not balance her check book and that in fact, she had never balanced her check book her whole life.

I always told her that she had two personalities.  One was the personally that I fell in love with and loved very much and the other personally, was the hurtful, mean, no care in world or did not care about other people’s feelings.  She always found reasons to start an argument, even though, I told her many times that I did not like to argue/fight.

Our relationship was mostly together because we both loved our sex life.  She is a very sexual person and so am I.  But, she requires masturbation all the time.  She explained to me that through out her life, she had had multiple sexual partners and that on previous relationships; her way of getting over other guys was to find another guy the same day and jumped in bed with the new guy that same night.  I initially thought that that behavior was due to her being sexually abused at age 5, but after reading the posting in this website or other books that I got from the library - sex drive increases due to ADHD.  I could never understand why she needed to masturbate so much, because she had me and because she always told me that I satisfied her, but I wanted to deal with it, because I am a sexual person myself.  Which, now looking back, that was the only time that we never argued – we were very comparable in the area.

She always borrowed money and/or told me to buy groceries and/or made all kinds of promises, but never paid me back the money that she owed me or never followed through with her promises.  She kept her house not that clean and I always excused it because I though that she was too busy due to her schooling, job and her ADHD son. 

On several occasions, I told her that I strongly believed that she had ADHD, because she exhibited the same types of behaviors as her son who was diagnosed with ADHD.  She dismissed it as saying that I did not know what I was talking about.  On other days, she did acknowledge that she could not balanced her check book, could not keep up with the house chores, was short tempered, could not handled a lot of stress, her mind raised and had a million thoughts, wondered why she chose a profession that deals with people when she does not real like or trust people, or how she is so depressed that she is unable to get out of bed.  She likes to go to Bingo, but did not do it as often as she wanted to.  She made several impulsive decisions, like buying a whole set of living stuff, just because she broke up with me in May 2010.  When I asked her about it, she dismissed it as something normal that she does when she is mad. 

In June 2010, we talked on the phone and she told me that she wanted to get back together and I told her that she needed to see a doctor to helper her with her ADHD and she responded that she was worried about the side affects of the medications and did not know how it would affect her personality.

I’ve suspected that she was either talking to some one online or by phone, but could not prove it, because I am not one of those people that like to snoop around.  I believe in trust in the relationship and trusting your partner.  I caught her in so many lies.  I found out that she liked to trash me to her friends and family.  She always blamed me to everything that went wrong in our relationship.  She never apologized for all the hurtful things that she said and did or all those empty promises.

Since we were unable to buy the house that we wanted (due to the fact that she changed her mind more than once), we were able to find a house out in the country and signed a lease agreement early May 2010.  However, on my son’s birthday weekend during which we were planning to celebrate his birthday at the new house, on May 29, 2010, NJ decided to break up with me for sure, so she told me to get out of the house or if I would not leave, then she should leave, but that we could not leave together at the house.  Obviously, I left.  We tried to be friends for the month of June, but I noticed that she started flirting with other guys more openly than before, in front of the boys and I.  Later I found out that she had another guy over to the house the same day that she broke up with me (5/29/10), but when I confronted her, she said that it was nothing.  Mid July 2010, we attended a Christian Church Camp together and I over heard her talking about me, so I decided to leave the camp (I do not like to make scenes) because when I confronted her in private, she denied the whole scenario.  Two days later, my son and I came back to the church camp because NJ’s son was going to be baptized; however, we were only there for about an hour, when NJ had us kicked out of the camp, because she did not want us there and made this whole scene in front of all the people at the camp. We did not talk for about 7-8 weeks, I tried emailing her, no reply; I called her cell the last week of August 2010 and told her how much I love/care/worry about her and ended up writing her a letter with all my questions as to how our relationship went from good to worse (closure letter).  Instead of answering or calling, she called the Sheriff Department.  On September 1, 2010, I received a call from a sheriff deputy telling me that NJ had filed a harassment complaint against because she did not want any contact me, because I was extremely controlling and told me to never contact her again, which I never did again.

I did not understand why she did all of these things and why she had to end it the way she did.  Why she made all those plants for our future and all of those empty promises, which she never followed through.  I was devastated.  I was heart broken.  I felt that I must have done something wrong or may be not enough.  So, I decided that since she did not want to give me an answer as to why our relationship ended the way it did; I went to the library and read books as well as articles online.  I found this site very helpful, because it made me realized that I did not do anything wrong and that she is not an evil person.  All that happened was just her un-diagnosed ADHD or her lack of desire to get help.  I remember that last letter that she wrote; it said that she tanked God that I am out of their lives!  She also said that I only brought her conflict and that as soon as I was not present, peace returned.

Thank you for writing your stories, because it has helped me cope with the loss of the person that I thought was the love of my life and my best friend; and because I felt guilty that I did not do enough to help her and make this relationship last.  In my heart, I feel that she will come back into my life, but my head tells me that I would be a fool if I trust and believe her again.  I’m taking it one day at a time.  Thanks.

adhd - amy - Jul 15th 2010

my daughter went to the doctor because her teacher wanted me to test her. well i did. we were in the office about an hour and she was like your daughter has the attention part of the adhd. so they put her on adderall. I just had this feeling she did not have it. so i took her for counseling and they suggest a test  and to see a psychologist. well we did and completed the test. come to find out she did not have it at all! she had mild anxiety. so i say before you just put your child on meds , go and get a second opionion!! so glad i did

I have ADD - Andrea - May 6th 2010

HI! I'm 23 years old and I have ADHD.  I was diagnosed as a child.  I don't agree when people say that it affects the ability to pay attention, because I pay perfect attention to things that excite me, like driving my truck around or playing sports.  I love to watch funny or action movies, I hate reading at all , no books, magazines, letters, bills, or getting on the internet. I don't like to read because by the time I've finished a sentence, I have forgotten what the first part of the sentence was that i just read.  I can't do simple math in my head.  But I can make you a hat rack out of some metal coat hangers. I can do 3 front hand springs in a row on my front lawn. I'm a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and I gained the rand of World Champion in Sparring in 2002 when i was 13. 

So you see I do not have trouble focusing, I have problems with short term memory and I can't stand to be bored at all.  Please stop Medicating kids with ADHD and ADD.  Give them attention, give them sports, give them ARTS!!!

32 Father - Nate - Nov 25th 2009

I could tell at a young age that I was different. I was very active mentally and physically. My parents helped me by putting me on Ritalin. Which helped a lot but didn't change how my head worked. I have struggled though out my life to maintain what is considered normal. After going on home school in 9Th grade I graduated a year early from high school and moved out at 17. I began seeking help at age 20. Due to being miss labeled bipolar I was on several medications for all most 8 years from age 22 to 30. They made me slow down and appear to less symptoms but i could tell in my head that nothing was changing so I'd be on them for life. I have been in counseling for 6 years and have finally found a counselor who presents things in a fashion so that I understand. Once I became a father I knew I had to stop running from what I needed to change about my self and stopped the medications so I could face and change my " issue's " in order to help them with their road ahead. I'm happy to say that I'm making progress and getting my kids the assistants they need so that they aren't trying to change their mind, habits, and way of thinking as a adult. Thank you for reading my input and please remember. To each their own and thinking will not overcome fear, but action will.

Reply to ADHD article - Norm - Nov 15th 2009

After perusing this article, I offer this information: At least two countries, the U.K. and Australia, are moving to ban products containing synthetic food & beverage dyes from their shelves, thought to cause problems in children, including symptoms of ADHD, plus other health concerns in adolescents and adults.

One U.S. company, a Minnesota-based firm, has developed an all-natural, non-GM alternative to the petroleum-based dyes that for years have been used in foods, beverages, cosmetics and other products put on or in our bodies.

High in antioxidants, this new product, now catching the eye of large U.S. food/beverage manufacturers, is derived from a specially developed 'purple' corn hybrid. Once the natural dyes are extracted, the starches, proteins and oils in the corn are sustained for continued use along the food chain. To learn more, go to


They'd label my son if I let them - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Nov 15th 2009

Hello Mom,

I know that you mean well for your son but you really need to think more prudently than you are at this moment. Here is why:

1. The problem has nothing to do with "labeling" but with removing any obstacle to learning he may have. The fact that he is extremely bright has nothing to with ADHD. I have met medical doctors, lawyers, dentists and all types of professionals who have this problem.

2. Yes, love and nurturing are extremely important but parents sometimes need to do more. If your son does have ADHD then it would serve his interests and his future well if he got help now.

3. Help now for ADHD does NOT have to do with medication. There are psychologists who are expert in providing the kind and types of training that helps children and adults with this problem, learn to compensate so they can progress.

4. Are there dangers to doing nothing if he has ADHD? Yes. All the evidence shows that untreated children with ADHD run the risk of coming to feel alienate by adolescence and aligning themselves with delinquent types of kids. That brings with it drug abuse and other problems.

5. Finally, I have no way of knowing if your child has ADHD or not. However, if teachers are hinting at that I would suggest that you have him evaluated. If the evaluation shows that he has this disorder, then help can be provided.

Please know that medication is not the only or even the best treatment except in very, very severe cases where a child is uncontrollable and that does happen.

Please, keep your mind and options open.

Dr. Schwartz

ADHD - jglennon - Nov 15th 2009

As a former elementary school principal, I am quite aware that attention difficulties are just the tip of the iceberg. ADHD children can't filter out distractions, finish tasks on-time, use their memory optimally, etc. A pill doesn't teach these skills.

My wife and I opted to use cognitive training for our son, Alex. We used Play Attention ( and ADHD Nanny ( We've been very successful with these approaches. We also changed our parenting skills with great success.

It's just important to know that medicine teaches nothing. Parents and teachers must actively participate to help change a child's life.

Dr. Dombeck's Note: An absolutely true observation.  As is the case with many 'mental' issues, there are multiple ways to approach the problem(s).  Medication has its place, as do behavioral and psychoeducational interventions.  No single approach will address every aspect of the issue(s) needing to be addressed, and the manifestation of the issue(s) will vary with each child.  Where one child may respond well to a single approach, another may require a different approach or mutiple approaches offered at once or in series.  Not all professionals are aware of or good at offering all the various approaches so any given professional may not tell you about other approaches that may be helpful. 

There are multiple levels of funnction - CCRN1993 - Nov 15th 2009

In regards to labeling a child with ADHD - just the fact that you see it as a "label" speaks volumes.  We all must remember there are so many levels of severity and different manifestations. Structure at home is a big benefit to children with ADHD, they tend to thrive in structure/routine especially with supportive parents.  The problem is that many children do not have that, either the home is dysfunctional or simply one where both parents have to work and no routine can be established.  Also, so much focus has been on medicating, a quick fix, medicine only helps the child behave / perform IF THEY WANT TO, it does not make them behave - it gives the ability to choose, a bigger focus here is the importance of counseling. For those in which the impulsivity is expressed to the point that it interferes with relationships and success, counseling can help teach / guide them to develop those behaviors that seem innate to non ADHD suffers.  It teaches them how to bring out their strengths, how to handle their weaknesses and how to develop habits will help them succeed throughout their life.


They'd label my son if I'd let them - - Nov 14th 2009

My six-year-old is extremely talkative (verbal diarrhea), constantly moving, and disruptive at home and at school.  I'm not the best parent, but neither am I the worst.  We provide for him, love him, discipline him.  On that front, sometimes I lose patience and yell — God help me he is a handful — and when I do he tells me I don't need to yell because he is just a little boy and that makes me feel like poo.  I have educated myself on ADHD so that whenever a teacher makes a subtle hint in this direction, I can cut them off at the knees.  My son is reading a couple of grade levels above his age, he can concentrate for long periods of time on his many, many interests (building, basketball, chasing our cats, etc.), he does his homework pronto with the promise of a cookie when it's done, his brain is firing on all cylinders.  My quiet bright bookworm daughter tells me she wants to be a teacher.  I think she will be a very good one.  My crazy, wild, hyper son tells me he wants to be a scientist.  I think he will make a great one.  What might he discover?  He will not be labelled or druged as long as I have a breath left in my body.  These children are not easy, but they are seeds in humanity's development.  We must nurture them as best we can.

Stop traying to portray persons with the so called ADHD as abnormal - Elena - Nov 9th 2009

Stop trying to portray persons with the so called ADHD as abnormal, what is normal any ways. I have ADHD and I can focus and I can pay attention, but only to those things and situations that really interest me. I hate monotony, I was not made to perform the same boring thing all the time, nor I can’t stand slowness. May be that is because my mind works as fast as the speed of light.

We, persons with ADHD are not ABNORMAL, wed just learn differently and function differently. For example, office work is not suitable for a person with ADHD, but movie actor or any other profession that involves lots of action and excitement will be perfect.

Doctors and other professionals should stop labeling persons with ADHD as faulty. The only faulty thing is the society we are living in.

Wondering - - Sep 7th 2009

I am 50 years old, and have wondered if I have ADHD.

I have had many jobs over the years and have been fired from all of them for one reason or another.  My mind works very fast - ( I am told).  I play online scrabble games of 3 to 4 minutes.  My interpersonal skills are less than wonderful.  I only have one really close friend, and lots of acquaintance.

Anyone able to give me some insights?

Resources - Stephanie Fiamengo - Aug 6th 2009

All of your information has been so helpful as I am researching a presentation on ADHD. I need to cite sources and I was wondering if you had a works cited page for where you get your information from. Thanks!

Editor's Note: Please find selected resources, readings and references here and here.

No to Methamphetamines - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Jul 29th 2009

Hello Bear Bear,

I very, very stronly urge you, plead with you and even beg you to stop your use of methamphetamine. It is higly dangerous, addictive and will cause you to lose control of your life. This is not my opinion, this is fact.

At your age you should be seeking Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy with a properly trained clinical psychologist in this set of techniques. ADHD is something you can LEARN to manage.

Dr. Schwartz

48 yrs with ADHD - Bear Bear - Jul 29th 2009

i was diagnosed by a psychiatrist with ADHD approx 6 yrs ago.  I was prescribed Stratterra and Depacote.  The depacote made me upset and I have tried several mood modifiyers since, but the Stratterra has been tremendously successful.  I started using methamphatime about the same time.  It struck me as feeling a strong dose of Stratterra and have been on them both since.  It's very confusing, but I feel better than I did before.

Good luck to all with this disorder.  It's a rough road!

Comment regarding medical marijuana and adhd - Rahul - Jun 21st 2009

I was just browsing and thought I'd post a question/comment regarding the previous comment about someone using marijuana to help with adhd.

I am 29 years old and received a medical marijuana license about 9 months ago.  I have been using cannabis regularly for the past 3 years.  I also used a little bit when I was 17 (and occasionally in college), but not on a regular basis.  I stopped for the most part, because it brought on paranoia.  However in the last few years I found that I get less paranoid and it helps with anxiety, depression, stress, headaches (I used to get migraines as a kid), and muscle tension.  I am continually seeking alternatives to remain healthy such as yoga.

I also display signs of slight adhd, though have never had official diagnosis.  My question is this: Although weed helps reduce anxiety (thereby allowing one to focus), it also can scatter my mind so that I find myself starting many projects but only finishing few.  So it also de-focuses people.  I don't want to go on ritalin or adderall, but does anyone know the best treatment for ADHD?

Also, I learned in graduate school that in the new DSM, there will be a new diagnosis that will have a blend of anxiety and depression.  My teacher told me that therapists have known about this blended diagnosis for a long time and have been treating patients using this knowledge, but this new official diagnosis will help people better understand the issue.

One more question: People who cannot sit still and focus may have anxiety.  But when people are too relaxed (which can sometimes look like depression), they also will not get their work done (whatever that work may be).  So, do people still need to go on two different medications?

A cure - - May 26th 2009

I am currently 18 years old and have a medical marijuana license.  I also happen to have been diagnosed with ADHD and it has been a problem for me in the past as i have been expelled form 2 school in 2 years because of my impulses.  i have found the most effective cure other than pills is to smoke weed as it calms me down and really makes me think about things before acting.

It is ok - - May 1st 2009

I am 13 years old and I have had ADHD my whole life.  I have gotten into trouble and had trouble making friends.  But since the 5th grade I have been out of trouble and tons of friends.  The only way I was able to do this was with the love and support from my family, therapists, and many adults who knew I could do it.  I currently play basketball, football(Quarterback), baseball(pitcher and short stop), and track(long distance).  My grades are A's and B's and my life is really good.  I still take weekly therapist.

ADHD - - Mar 25th 2009

My son is now 13 he was diagnosed with adhd when he was little and they tried to medicate him when he started school and at first i refused because i thought we could manage but by the time he was in 1st grade it was soo hard for him i agreed and in 2006 his doc sent him for a random ekg because new studies showed the meds caused heart problems and his ekg came back abnormal he had to go see a ped cardiologist and continues to see him now because these meds casued his left ventrical of his heart to be enlarged and it just devestated me i thought i was doin the right thing for him and i hurt him he can have reagular activity but the doc said he has to know when to stop so he wont over work his heart and possible have a heart attack or anything it just scares me because he dont know when to stop he has all the symptoms of adhd excessive noises not doing well in school because he cant focus and hes constantly moving ect.. he has seen phycologist and doc and nothing helps i took him off the meds as soon as the ekg but its so hard for him he dont have friends we dont have good family time together it just makes me sad i wish i new what to do i want him to have a good life any suggestions my email is

look at me now - B-money - Mar 13th 2009

hello every one i am a 16 year old who has adhd and i would like to say to every one that this is a very beatable problem i was just like ever other kid with adhd but now im in a great place im very well in the mental health system and you would think that im in it but no in fact im on the board of a whole non-profit comp. im very happy that i have learned many ways to deal with this and i would like to say that if any one would like to know any more about me and my story of growing up with adhd and beating it i will leave my e-mail

i would also like to know from some one it did say that forgetfullness what a part of this but i really have some probelms with that i some times more then less forget my friends names and if i have home work to do i have many things to do i go around Oregon supporting youth and what they want to do with there mental health and i some times forget to go to meetings so i would like to know if there is any way i can imporve my memery some how  


i would like to say thanks to the people who really care  

ADD and Successful Coping - Allan N Schwartz - Feb 27th 2009

Hi Mrs. Beautiful Brown,

Congratulations. You are doing an excellent job of successfully coping with your ADD. Yes, I agree with you that others with this problem should get help with it. They can see a clinical psychologist whose focus is adult add because they can help clients learn the very techniques you taught yourself. There is no reason why add needs to keep anyone back. You made a wonderful career choice and it works well for you. Keep on with the great work you are doing.

Dr. Schwartz

8th Grade Teacher with ADHD - Mrs. Beautiful Brown - Feb 26th 2009

I have suffered with ADD for so long until I found and made up every coping skill  possible. I knew from a very early age that college wasn't an option.  I hated to read. I can't stand being bored, I'm impatient and I loose everything. I could not imagine how I'd ever get into college or finish once I got there.

I am now a 45 year old .  I teach 8th grade, I've been teaching for 20 years.  My class is the fun and activities change often because I can't stand being bored. This is real and very serious. Anyone who suffers with ADHD really should get some help.

ADD and ADHD are real illnesses - - Feb 1st 2009

My 3 children are now grown. They all have ADD or ADHD.  To me it is an inability to focus in on tasks (the worse the ADD, the more tasks this applies to).  They procrastinate, but a deadline gets them to get the task done--at the last moment.  They cannot do jobs which require them to initiate the work.  The work must be coming at them--such as asnwering incoming calls, customers waiting in line to be helped.  One things I have not read about that I see associated with their ADD is that they go beyond disorganized or forgetful--their apartments, cars, and even their personal hygiene definitely are affected--things are gross, slovenly, not just cluttered.  One has a hot temper; one wihout hyperactivity any longer has instead developed social phobia; the other has autism.  This is definitely a neurological problem which needs much more research and much better medicines.  Gross motor skills, hand/eye coordination and learning disabilities such as dyslexia also run in the family.  Please support more research--these are bright minds we cannot afford to lose, and they are also young people who are suffering

- - Jan 6th 2009
 my neice has adhd,odd, an bi polar disorder. she was kicked out of pre-k for bitting the teacher  an thats when we first found out she was diagnosed with these disorders

- - Dec 17th 2008

Any parent with a child with adhd please be careful while they are young. My son was dx at the age of 6 and was placed on ritlan in high doses, he was kicked out of school in kindergarden and they refused to allow him in school unless he was on medication.

He is now 32, his adhd never improved, the experts now say its because of the medication. As they get older some go to street drugs because they are looking for that normal feeling again they had with the medication when they were younger. Some become worse, develop drug induced bipolar disorder which causes them a life time of hell and hard to get good help for because they can not keep a job or insurance.

Fight for your kids while they  are young, and make sure they follow up into their adulthood for their sake and yours.

Training - Allan N Schwartz - Nov 11th 2008

Just to let people know that medication is not the only way to treat ADHD for either children or adults. A psychologist trained in it can do Coaching, and that is training in specific behaviors to help overcome the symptoms of ADHD, such as: learning refrain from interrupting people, keeping yourself organized, making eye contact, listening skills, etc. It works. Medicine can sometimes be helpful but, with or without medicine, it is important to get the training.

Dr. Schwartz

this is not rubbish - DJ - Nov 11th 2008

hey mike those things you said are true but this article does not says anything like that it just shows common charecteristics of adhd children i know i have been diagnosed with it as well and i have these exact problems anyway your probably not a kid unlike me so why are you saying its rubbish

53 with adhd - sandi - Oct 19th 2008

i was diagnosed approx 2 yrs ago.  i need help i have had the symtoms since childhood.  2 years ago i was also diagnosed bi-polar. im on several meds now staterra, ziprexa,prozac.  the meds help some what. any ideas that might help me come to grips with this illness. i only learned tonight that it is not curable. thats pretty frightening.

alot of this is rubish - mike - Oct 11th 2008

alot of this is rubish like anythnig you can find  on adhd im 25 and am one of the most extream cases in uk iv herd so much crap from ppl that no know more then wot tv or there dr has told them full blown adhd really adhd is not nice people if you kid is actin like a brat that is not adha if thay go nut when there not ment to that is not adhd lots of people now blame anything thay can on adhd it makes life hard for thos how have it it is so much more then bein hyper or not doin as your told one day the world will change its way of thinkin .. but for me stupid people and tv shows make my life hard as if it wasnt already every time i see some brat on tv usein it as a get out of trouble card i think there perants should be locked up and stoped from havein kids thay are lazy and wont to blam something for being bad parants

 the bigest problem tho is the dr's sellin any drug thay can to make cash mum's and dad dont give them to your kid i was on ritalin for years b for i was told wot it had don to me your kid anger and mad actin is as a result of this like a coke addict on a come down thats wot your putin your kids thru docs will tell you differnt but i spent 14 years on it thay sold it i think i know wot it dose to someone give them good food exersize and get them in to something like acting thay will make you proud .. dont try and change them thay will fight it  teach them to usew there extra power to be better faster and smarter do this and you will do well .

Coffee - Rachel - Sep 24th 2008

If you are short on money or find it difficult to buy or locate the medication your child needs. You may have a cheap alternative in your home. Caffine.

Not all children react the same to caffine. For some, it makes them calm and helps them concentrate. In other cases, it makes the child hyperactive. 

You can do a simple test at home, give the child caffine, and see how they react. If it boosts their hyperactivity and makes it worse, oh well, it was worth a try. But if it makes them concentrate better, Great!

 It's cheap and has it's flaws but it may just get you through.

good luck!

Medication - Montana - Sep 24th 2008

Ok so, my name is Rachel i'm fourteen and I have ADHD inattentive subtype. I have no idea if anyone even knows what that is. But I have been on two kinds of medication and so far the Adderall XR is the one that works best.

I was on Strattera since 3rd grade, it started out fine till I kept getting violent stomach aches. They got worse as I continued to take the medication. Eventually I told my mother that  flat-out refused to take it. I found out later from a few friends in my school that they had had the same problem. (one of them even progressed to vomiting) 

So throughout most of 7th grade I didn't have medication. I did OK in school, but i could have done better. Eventually my mom took me to see the doctor and they put me on the Adderall. (which is a lot like riddlin) It has been perfect. The only minor flaws it has is that:

1. it curbs your appetite (children who are skinny already may need to drink things like ensure or boost to keep thier weight up)

2. it is an anphetamine, so if it isn't taken with care it could make you high, and/or  addicted.

3. even if you do take it with care, on days when you forget to take it you may experience minor withdrawl symptoms. (irritability, drowzyness, mood swings)

4. it causes some sort of slight B vitamin deficiency. (I just take multivitamins and i'm fine)

other than those it is a great way to control your ADHD.

now some people say that riddlin (adderall) gives you "ticks" (twitches) but the truth is, it only gives you ticks if the dose is too high.

Anyway, that's about all i have to say on the medication part.... one more thing tho, HERBAL MEDS DO NOT WORK! so yeah that's it.

mother's concern - carnel san jose - Jul 8th 2008
i have a son who has adhd but i heard that the medication is expensive that stopped me to go to a hospital specializing you have other options for me to help my son overcome this disorder.i am a mother from a third world country.thank you so much and God speed.

medication - Duke - May 20th 2008

Strattera has worked very well for me. When I took ritilan it gave me twiches. Ask your doctor. Good Luck.


my life whit adhd - nate - Feb 18th 2008
i have had adhd for 7 years now and it is just so had to find help so if u all have somthing to tell me that will help it woud be nice

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