Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects people’s behaviour. ADHD is usually diagnosed in boys rather than girls as girls tend to show symptoms of inattentiveness and are less likely to show symptoms of disruptiveness. 
There is no known cause for ADHD, however, the condition is known to have a genetic relation. Other factors include premature birth (before the 37th week of pregnancy), low birth weight or smoking, alcohol or drug abuse during pregnancy, and people with neurodevelopmental conditions. ADHD can also occur in people of any intellectual ability.


Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed in childhood (between ages 3-7) and tend to show up more during times of transition (e.g. starting school). Despite this, there are times when ADHD is not recognized in childhood but is diagnosed later as an adult. The symptoms of ADHD can improve with age, however, many adults diagnosed with ADHD at a young age still tend to experience some problems.

Symptoms of ADHD can be categorised into 2 types of behavioural problems (see below). ADHD Symptoms in children & teenagers (noticeable before the age of 6 & occur in more than 1 situation such as at home and at school):

  1. Inattentiveness (difficulty concentrating & focusing)
  • have a short attention span and being easily distracted
  • making careless mistakes 
  • forgetfulness or losing things 
  • unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming 
  • unable to listen to or carry out instructions 
  • constantly changing activities or tasks 
  • having difficulty organising tasks 
  1. Hyperactivity and impulsiveness 
  • being unable to sit still, especially in calm quiet settings
  • constantly fidgeting 
  • unable to concentrate on tasks 
  • excessive physical movement
  • excessive talking 
  • unable to wait for their turn
  • impulsiveness 
  • interrupting conversations 
  • little or no sense of danger


If you are concerned that your child has symptoms of ADHD, it would be helpful to speak to their teacher to find out if they have noticed symptoms related to ADHD. To ascertain if your child has ADHD, a formal assessment may need to be conducted by an educational psychologist. The assessment will consist of diagnostic interviews, general psychiatric assessments, and specialist ADHD assessments that parents, teachers and the child complete.


ADHD can be treated through educational support, parental support, behavioural and normal therapy, social skills training and medication if necessary.

Adult symptoms

Adult symptoms of ADHD tend to be far more subtle than childhood symptoms, examples include: 

  • carelessness & lack of attention to details 
  • continuously starting new tasks before finishing old ones 
  • poor organisational skills 
  • inability to focus or prioritise 
  • continually losing or misplacing things 
  • forgetfulness 
  • restlessness and edginess
  • difficulty keeping quiet, and speaking out of turn 
  • blurting out responses and interrupting others 
  • mood swings, irritability and a quick temper 
  • inability to deal with stress
  • extreme impatience 
  • taking risks in activities, often with little or no regard for personal safety or safety of others 

Some adults may have issues with relationships or social interaction.

Diagnosis and treatment for adults

If you are concerned you might have ADHD, a formal assessment will need to be done to receive a diagnosis. For adults with ADHD, medication is usually the first treatment offered. ADHD can be treated through behavioural and normal therapy and social skills training.

We have a number of people who can help, including Dr Jennifer Greene, Hayley Su, Werner Sævland, Vicky Harris-Little and Alex Koen

Further Reading