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Disability and Dyslexia Service

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is ADHD?

ADHD is classified in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5 (5th edition)) as a childhood-onset neurodevelopmental disorder, defined by the presence of developmentally inappropriate and impairing levels of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. A range of terminology is used to describe the condition including ADHD, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) along with hyperactive, inattentive and combined type ADHD.

Common symptoms of ADHD include concentration and attention difficulties, impulsivity and distractibility. Many of us experience these difficulties every day and may have experienced these or similar symptoms more frequently during the pandemic and subsequent online learning accompanied by changes in routine. At this moment in time there are many self-diagnosis tools for ADHD available on social media and it can be hard to decide whether your symptoms indicate the presence of ADHD.

The DSM5 manual states that to make a diagnosis of ADHD it would be expected that ‘several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present prior to age 12 years’. The symptoms of ADHD can change as the individual ages thus symptoms may differ as the individual moves through their education, for example a tendency to frequently find an excuse to move around within the classroom can change to a requirement to pace around the room while speaking on the telephone.

The symptoms of ADHD can mimic other conditions, for example anxiety can cause mind wandering, sleep problems and restlessness; depression can cause concentration and sleep problems. Other mental health issues may be at the root of impulsive behaviour, overactivity and restlessness or distractibility. Similarly, a weak auditory/working memory, typically observed in a profile of dyslexia or dyspraxia, typically causes distractibility and challenges in attention and concentration.

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