Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder  

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Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or Hyperkinetic Disorder, is considered by researchers in the field to be a neurobehavioural developmental disorder.


History of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Hyperactivity has long been part of the human condition. Sir Alexander Crichton describes "mental restlessness" in his book An Inquiry Into the Nature and Origin of Mental Derangement written in 1798. The terminology used to describe the symptoms of ADHD has gone through many changes over history including: "minimal brain damage", "minimal brain dysfunction" (or disorder), "learning/behavioral disabilities" and "hyperactivity". In the DSM-II (1968) it was the "Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood". In the DSM-III "ADD (Attention-Deficit Disorder) with or without hyperactivity" was introduced. In 1987 this was changed to ADHD in the DSM-III-R and subsequent editions. The use of stimulants to treat ADHD was first described in 1937.

Comorbid disorders

ADHD may accompany other disorders such as anxiety or depression. Such combinations can greatly complicate diagnosis and treatment. Academic studies and research in private practice suggest that depression in ADHD appears to be increasingly prevalent in children as they get older, with a higher rate of increase in girls than in boys, and to vary in prevalence with the subtype of ADHD. Where a mood disorder complicates ADHD it would be prudent to treat the mood disorder first, but parents of children who have ADHD often wish to have the ADHD treated first, because the response to treatment is quicker. Inattention and "hyperactive" behavior are not the only problems in children with ADHD. ADHD exists alone in only about 1/3 of the children diagnosed with it. Many co-existing conditions require other courses of treatment and should be diagnosed separately instead of being grouped in the ADHD diagnosis. Some of the associated conditions are:

  • Oppositional defiant disorder (35%) and conduct disorder (26%) which both are characterized by antisocial behaviors such as stubbornness, aggression, frequent temper tantrums, deceitfulness, lying, or stealing,
  • Borderline personality disorder, which was according to a study on 120 female psychiatric patients diagnosed and treated for BPD associated with ADHD in 70 percent of those cases.
  • Primary disorder of vigilance, which is characterized by poor attention and concentration, as well as difficulties staying awake. These children tend to fidget, yawn and stretch and appear to be hyperactive in order to remain alert and active.
  • Mood disorders. Boys diagnosed with the combined subtype have been shown likely to suffer from a mood disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder. As many as 25 percent of children with ADHD have bipolar disorder. Children with this combination may demonstrate more aggression and behavioral problems than those with ADHD alone.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder. OCD is believed to share a genetic component with ADHD and shares many of its characteristics.

See also



Related disorders

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