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ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has been defined as: "a brain disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development."

As of 2011, about 11% of children had been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives and about 4% of adults had ADHD. However, these percentages may now be higher, as the number of people being diagnosed has continued to increase. So, what does this for those mean for those with a diagnosis?

What are the Symptoms of ADHD?

Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are key behaviours associated with ADHD. While these are behaviours that anybody can exhibit, they are much more likely to be prevalent in people with the condition.


Many people with ADHD struggle with being inattentive. They are more likely to have trouble paying attention to tasks at hand, can be easily distracted, and disorganised. This can make life difficult for those with the diagnosis because getting through certain tasks can be a struggle, and this has nothing to do with a lack of comprehension. They are more likely to struggle with paying attention to lectures, conversations, and reading, which can make school or work difficult.


The "H" in ADHD stands for hyperactivity, and this is paramount in distinguishing from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Hyperactivity can range from mild to extreme, depending on the individual. Many people with the condition feel a constant need to be doing something.

Sitting still for long periods of time can be difficult for people with ADHD. This is why those affected often find themselves tapping their pens or fidgeting in situations where they’re expected to be still.


Impulsivity is another key behaviour in people with ADHD. Many of those with the condition struggle with the temptation to make impulsive decisions. Whether it be impulsive purchases or impulsive commitments, it can be difficult to resist impulsive temptations.

People with ADHD often make important decisions without fully taking the time to consider the potential consequences. The impulsivity of ADHD also makes you more likely to interrupt people.

Being Diagnosed

If you’re struggling with the symptoms of ADHD, but you have yet to be diagnosed, it may be time to see a medical professional. While you can be diagnosed by a wide variety of mental health professionals, psychiatrists will be able to provide you with the largest variety of treatments.

Psychiatrists are able to diagnose, prescribe medication, and treat ADHD. However, it is recommended that one also sees a counsellor/psychologist if needed. It should also be noted that medication is not always required.

According to the DSM-5 medical classification system for ADHD, the criteria to diagnose a child is different than the criteria to diagnose an adult.

Here’s the table of diagnostic criteria provided by the ADHD Institute:

Symptoms of Inattention Symptoms of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
Often fails to give close attention to detail or makes mistakes Often fidgets with or taps hands and feet, or squirms in seat
Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or activities Often leaves their seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly Often runs and climbs in situations where it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to feeling restless)
Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork or workplace duties Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly
Often has difficulty organising tasks and activities Is often ‘on the go’, acting as if ‘driven by a motor’
Often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort Often talks excessively
Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities Often blurts out answers before a question has been completed
Is easily distracted by extraneous stimuli Often has difficulty waiting their turn
Is often forgetful in daily activities Often interrupts or intrudes on others

Diagnosing Children

Since children are more likely to be inattentive and hyperactive than adults, they have stricter requirements to justify a diagnosis. A child must present at least six or more of the symptoms listed above to be diagnosed and they must occur continually for at least six months.

Not only do the symptoms have to be present for at least six months, but they also must be inconsistent with the developmental level of the child. It must also have a direct negative impact on the child’s social or academic life.

If your child is diagnosed, they would likely benefit from seeing a counsellor (one that has experience dealing with ADHD in children) in order to develop coping mechanisms to help them deal with their symptoms. Coping mechanisms learned as a child will be very helpful to them as they approach adulthood. Also, making the teachers, principals, and/or guidance counsellors aware of your child’s diagnosis is an important step in creating a strong support network for you and your child.

Diagnosis as an Adult

ADHD diagnosis in adulthood is less common than in childhood, and it can be a difficult hurdle to overcome. To be diagnosed as an adult (age seventeen and above) you must present five or more of the symptoms listed in the table above, and the symptoms must negatively impact you socially, occupationally, or academically.

The Struggles of ADHD in Adulthood

Having ADHD as an adult can be a struggle, however, one can still lead a successful life. ADHD can present itself differently in adults. According to the medical journal, Psychiatry, the severity of hyperactivity is "less salient" in adults, than in children who have the condition.

While many adults with the disorder will develop coping mechanisms to deal with symptoms, they are still prone to making impulsive decisions. This can have a significant impact on their occupational or academic performance, their finances, and social relationships, and they are more likely to have problems with substance abuse. Adults with ADHD also struggle with completing tasks and maintaining focus on tasks that require significant mental effort.

If you’re an adult who’s been recently diagnosed, seeing a therapist can help you to develop coping mechanisms to deal with your symptoms. If you believe that you may require medication, you may benefit from seeing a psychiatrist.

ADHD and You

While ADHD can provide its fair share of struggles, it also has its upsides. People with ADHD can be the life of the party, exude massive amounts of creativity, and have more fun and a higher level of spontaneity compared to those without the condition.

With a lot of personal investment and assistance from a medical professional, a person with ADHD can develop coping mechanisms and a unique kind of resilience.

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