Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), the generic term for all types of the "official" clinical diagnosis called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), affects nearly 4 percent to 6 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association.

An estimated 2 million children in the United States, or some 3 percent to 5 percent of children suffer from ADHD. In short, out of a classroom with about 28 children, the odds are that at least one will have ADHD. The disorder doesn’t stop there, though. Adults also suffer from the disorder. In fact anywhere from 50 percent to 66 percent of children with ADHD continue on into their adult lives with ADHD issues to face on their jobs and in their relationships.

Myth or truth? No one can accurately diagnose ADD / ADHD either in children or adults. This is not true. The fact is that although there is not yet a definitive medical test for diagnosing ADHD, there are distinct methods for gathering information and specific diagnostic criteria for assessing both children and adults listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), published in 1995 by the American Psychiatric Association.

Note that the content here only presents an overview of ADD / ADHD research for educational purposes and does not replace medical advice from a professional physician.

Understanding ADD in Laymen’s Terms

ADD is a neurobiological disorder that is often seen in others as a hyperactive, impulsive state; i.e. not being able to sit still or pay attention for long periods of time, overactive like “bouncing off walls” and jumping in with inappropriate comments and behaviors sporadically. And this hyperactivity and impulsiveness occurs about anywhere and everywhere, creating obstacles or often hindering day-to-day activities; work, school, social activities, family life, etc.

Just what IS ADD? Researchers believe that ADD is most probably caused by genetically based biological factors influencing neurotransmitter activity in areas of the brain. In some tests, people with ADD used lower levels of glucose in brain areas dealing with controlling attention and inhibiting impulses, meaning less activity. So a cause-and- effect approach ponders whether lower activity levels might contribute to some ADD symptoms.

What is known, though, is that ADD does appear across family lines. In short, indications suggest it’s hereditary, a possible genetic predisposition within members of the same family. For example, research shows that when a person is diagnosed with ADD, the odds are 25 percent to 35 percent that another family member also has ADD. Compared to the rest of the general public, there is a less than 6 percent chance of someone else having the disorder.

Not new really, since cases of hyperactivity, lack of attention and impulsivity have been reported since the early 1900’s, ADD has evolved out of health states with various terminologies; Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood, Minimal Brain Dysfunction, and Attention-Deficit Disorder With or Without Hyperactivity. However, with the official publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) classification system, the disorder has been renamed to stress the importance of the inattention characteristics, as well as the hyperactivity and impulsivity traits, to Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Old school has it that children outgrew ADHD during adolescent years, mainly because hyperactivity generally seemed to decrease throughout teenage years. But the fact that a lot of the symptoms carry on into adult years is now accepted and has erased that former belief. As a matter of fact, some research has reported that approximately 2 percent to 4 percent of adults suffer from some ADHD symptoms.

Among children and adults, many of those afflicted handle their ADHD and lead successful lives. However, many others have reported strained relationships, depression, work, social, school and dependency problems, and other negative issues. Overall, the keys to success have been early recognition of the disorder and prompt treatment.

Susan Norrad
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