ADHD: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Diagnosis and treatment

ADHD is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that manifests in different settings or contexts (e.g., home, school, work) and appears before the age of twelve.

During childhood, these children are typically restless, jittery, as if “driven by a motor”, impatient, disorganized, they usually forget their belongings, or usually start new tasks but they don’t finish them. They can talk excessively, interrupting others, and they tend to make decisions without thinking about the consequences.

However, when they are participating in new activities, or in activities that are especially interesting for them (such as playing videogames), symptoms can be minimal or even absent.

Some of these symptoms might be present in other disorders, such as the oppositional defiant disorder, or the intermittent explosive disorder, among others. Therefore, it is important to perform a good clinical interview to make the proper diagnosis. Psychometric testing or even genetic testing are also useful and can be performed, although the most valuable tool continues to be the clinical interview.

Without treatment, ADHD is associated with reduced school performance and academic achievements, as well as social rejection; In adults, it is associated with poorer occupational performance and higher rates of unemployment, as well as elevated interpersonal conflicts and increased likelihood for substance use disorders and incarceration.

With the appropriate treatment, these symptoms improve or even disappear.