ADHD: all you need to know

ADHD affects children and teens and can continue into adulthood and is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder of children.

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Feb 14, 2019

Tiimo member

February 14, 2019
Charlotte Egeskov
Content Manager

Top things to know

  • ADHD affects children and teens and can continue into adulthood. It is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder in children.
  • Some common symptoms that children may experience with ADHD include: Easily distracted, don’t follow directions or finish tasks, forget about daily activities, have problems organising tasks, lose things, tend to daydream.
  • Every person with ADHD has a unique combination of symptoms, challenges and abilities.
  • ADHD is usually treated with medication to increase the amount of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.
  • ADHD can be improved with diet and certain lifestyle changes.

What is ADHD?

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurological disorder that is characterised by patterns of inattention, attention deficit, hyperactivity and lack of impulse control (1). More often than not the disorder is also connected to behavioural problems. ADHD affects around 5% of children and adolescents and 2.5% of adults worldwide (2). ADHD is divided into three different types; the predominately inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive and a combination of the two. Symptoms can change as the person gets older and so can the way that each of the three types are displayed(3).

A child with ADHD will be easily diverted, have trouble maintaining concentration and be easily distracted by his or her surroundings. Most children with ADHD get tired fast and need constant outside stimuli in order to maintain concentration. A child with ADHD is often characterised by being unable to sit still and unable to concentrate or keep focus. The impulsiveness can cause problems in different social interactions.

Most people diagnosed with ADHD have difficulties with executive functions such as planning activities, keeping structure or maintaining overview. The working memory is also impaired in most and many have a distorted sense of time. ADHD is different from person to person and varies in degree.

ADHD manifests itself in the early years of childhood. For those who continue to have ADHD as adolescents and adults, the symptoms can somewhat change.

With children, ADHD often leads to learning disabilities and social difficulties. For youngsters and adults it can lead to difficulties keeping a job, finishing an education or finishing a project on time.

The pronounced hyperactivity seen in childhood often diminishes over time and gets replaced by an inner turmoil or restlessness where some adults with ADHD refer to themselves as a ticking time bomb. Less than half of those diagnosed with ADHD in childhood will do well in adolescence and adulthood, while the rest still struggle as adults. For the most disadvantaged group, the problems are lack of education, social difficulties, increased risk of crime and abuse, and reduced quality of life (4).

ADHD symptoms: What you might notice

The diagnosis has a wide range of symptoms. Some of the most common ADHD symptoms include (5):

  • Overlooking details
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Don't follow directions or finish tasks
  • Don't appear to be listening or taking notice when talked to
  • Don't pay attention and make careless choices
  • Forget about daily activities
  • Have problems organising daily tasks
  • Often lose things
  • Tend to daydream
  • Don’t like to sit still
  • Difficulty playing calmly or play silent games
  • Talk excessively
  • Seem to be all over the place at all times
  • Fail to respond when being spoken to
  • Disruptive or extremely active behaviour
  • Struggle to be quiet during leisure activities
  • Easily distracted
  • Find it hard to wait for their turn
  • Interrupt conversations and games

Causes of ADHD

The exact cause of ADHD is not fully understood, although a combination of multiple factors is thought to be the contributing factor. Some researches suggest that ADHD is largely due to a genetic disorder but new research and knowledge shows that the causes are more complex. Other environmental and social factors have been examined as a potential contributor even though the genetic component is thought to be the main cause of ADHD. The contributors of ADHD can be sectioned into three categories; the biological, psychological and social contributor. The biology contributor refers to the nervous system, sensory processing, diet, immune system etc. The psychological contributor refers to the general emotional well-being and emotional strain or trauma. The social contributor refers to the social relations and interactions between adults, children and their immediate surroundings (4).

The exact cause of ADHD is not fully understood, although a combination of multiple factors is thought to be the contributing factor. Some researches suggest that ADHD is largely due to a genetic disorder but new research and knowledge shows that the causes are more complex.

How ADHD is diagnosed

According to the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, there must be a certain number of symptoms for attention difficulties, hyperactivity or impulsiveness. The symptoms must occur over a certain period of time and must be so disruptive that the symptoms affect the persons life and development. Moreover, the symptoms must occur in different situations, in order to exclude other environmental factors (anxiety in school, learning complications or difficulties in the family).

ADHD should be diagnosed by a doctor or a specialist.

ADHD treatment: What can you do about the diagnosis?

There is no one true solution or ADHD treatment. Everyone struggling with ADHD is in a unique situation with individual needs and difficulties. The fact is that when diagnosed with ADHD or ADD they have to learn to live with the diagnosis even if they get medical treatment. They can possibly decrease the symptoms and reduce struggles by changing their diet, seek alternative types of therapy and stimuli (e.g. craniosacral therapy, sensory processing therapy etc.) and find other specialists that help those with the diagnosis. Studies show that by looking into for example a combination of dieting and finding a useful therapy can improve life and development of an individual with ADHD immensely. Everybody has the potential to be successful, one only has to nurture that potential with the right stimuli.

The three types of ADHD

A person with a predominantly inattentive type of ADHD shows difficulty organising or finishing tasks. It is equally difficult to maintain focus, pay attention to detail or follow directions. The person is also easily distracted, forgets details, daily activities and routines.

A person with a predominately hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD fidgets, talks and moves a lot. A person with this type of ADHD can find it hard to sit still and feels restless. They are likely to interrupt conversations and games, and find it hard to wait for their turn to speak. They are also prone to getting into more accidents or get more injuries than others due to their impulsiveness.

A person with a combined type of ADHD displays the above mentioned symptoms equally.(3)


  1. ICD-11 for Mortality and Morbidity Statistics, Icd.who.int, viewed 10 Jan. 2019, https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#/http%3a%2f%2fid.who.int%2ficd%2fentity%2f821852937
  2. Faraone, S. V. et al. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. PubMed - NCBI, viewed 9 Jan. 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27189265
  3. Nimh.nih.gov. 2019, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), viewed 9 Jan. 2019, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml
  4. Jepsen, J 2014, Bag symptomerne og ind til barnet, Siesta, Viborg
  5. 2018, Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, viewed 9 Jan. 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html

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