Attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD)

ADHD is a behavioural disorder, which starts in childhood, usually before the age of 7. Sufferers have difficulty with easy distractibility, meaning that concentration on a task is very difficult and they may also display excessively impulsive behaviour. These tendencies are common in childhood anyway and for most children, learning how to concentrate and to wait for things is a part of growing up and maturing. It would be entirely wrong to attribute these tendencies in the majority of children to ADHD. However, if the behaviour difficulties are severe and cause enough interruption to everyday living, the child may need assessment by a specialist team. Schools should be involved and a psychological assessment will be essential.

ADHD can persist into adult life although the difficulties it causes often ease during late adolescence. Strategies can be developed to deal with the problems that sufferers face. Drug treatment should only be used as part of a programme designed to help individuals to learn how to cope with their behavioural difficulties and should not be relied upon as a single treatment.

NICE, the government agency which advises on evidence based treatments has looked at the validity of prescribing a drug called ritalin (methylphenidate) for this condition and drawn up some guidelines.

Further information

You can read the NICE guidelines at

Attention Deficit Disorder Association

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder

Mental Health and Growing Up (Royal College of Psychiatrists)

This article published on
25 July 2005

Next review date 7/1/2013


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