What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural disorder which causes people to be inattentive, impulsive and in some cases hyperactive. People with ADHD find it difficult to focus on specific tasks, sit still for long periods of time and control their behaviour. Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed at an early age with most people being diagnosed when they’re children, often between 6 and 12 years old.

There are three types of ADHD:

  • Inattentive – Also known as ADD, this where the person is inattentive but isn’t hyperactive or impulsive.
  • Hyperactive-Impulsive – This is when a person is hyperactive and/or impulsive but not inattentive.
  • Combined – This is when a person shows signs of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Due to its ability to affect a Person’s learning, ADHD is commonly thought of as a Learning Disability however ADHD is actually a psychological condition which can be managed with medication and therapy. That’s not to say people with ADHD can’t also have a Learning Disability. Research suggests that around 50 percent of people with ADHD will also have some type of Learning Disability such as Dyslexia. This may explain why someone on ADHD medication can sit still and stay focused but may not improve academically.

What causes ADHD?

Research suggests a number of different factors can contribute to a child having ADHD but no one cause has been identified. ADHD often runs in families but being born prematurely, having a low birth weight and smoking/ drinking alcohol/ using drugs during pregnancy has also shown to have an effect.

How do I know if I have ADHD?

Signs of ADHD are usually noticed at an early age and tend to improve with age. However, 65 percent of adults diagnosed with ADHD as children will continue to have some but not all of the symptoms they had as children.

The main signs of inattentiveness are:

  • Having short attention span
  • Being easily distracted
  • Making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork
  • Being forgetful or losing things
  • Being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
  • Being unable to listen to or carry out instructions
  • Constantly changing activity or task
  • Having difficulty organising tasks
  • Being Hyperactive and impulsive

The main signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are:

  • Being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
  • Constantly fidgeting
  • Being unable to concentrate on tasks
  • Excessive physical movement
  • Excessive talking
  • Being unable to wait their turn
  • Acting without thinking
  • Interrupting conversations
  • Little or no sense of danger

What helps?

Getting Treatment for ADHD can help relieve the symptoms and make the condition easier to manage. Treatments area arranged by your GP, a Paediatrician or Psychiatrist and include medication (usually Methylphenidate) or therapy, but a combination of both often has the best results.

How can I help myself?

There are also things you can do to help yourself. These could include:

  • If you find it hard to stay organised, then make lists, keep diaries, stick up reminders and set aside some time to plan your day
  • Let off steam by exercising regularly
  • Find ways to help you relax, such as listening to music or learning relaxation techniques
  • Speak to your school/employer about your condition, and discuss anything they can do to help you work better
  • Contact or join a local or national support group – these organisations can put you in touch with other people in a similar situation, and can be a good source of support, information and advice

Myth buster #1

Myth: Children will outgrow ADHD

Fact: Although ADHD is well known in children, adults can also have ADHD. It is estimated that around 15% of the children with ADHD will continue to have the full diagnosis in adulthood and about 60 – 80% will still have symptoms of ADHD when they are adults. Often, the hyperactivity symptoms of ADHD reduce when children get older, but the inattention symptoms often remain.

Myth buster #2

Myth: People with ADHD can never focus

Fact: People with ADHD usually have trouble focusing but if they’re interested in something, they may focus on it intensely. This is called hyperfocus

Useful resources

ADHD Foundation

Stories That Never Stand Still, a book celebrating what’s amazing and annoying about ADHD


ADHD Success stories


Information for parents supporting a child with ADHD

Need help now?

If you need to speak to someone urgently call your GP or family doctor!


NHS 24/7 helpline : 0800 038 5300
Childline up to 19 yrs: 0800 1111
The Samaritans: 116 123
In an emergency go to A&E or call 999