Children's Hospital Colorado
Mental Health

ADHD: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

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What is attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder in children. It is a brain disorder in which parts of the frontal lobe (a part of the brain that helps with paying attention, planning and making decisions) are less mature than in children without the disorder.

ADHD is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity. At least some of these symptoms must be present prior to a child turning 12 years old, and the symptoms must affect his or her functioning in multiple environments, typically at school and home. Untreated ADHD can affect academic performance, peer interactions, family relationships and self-esteem. About 60-80% of children who have ADHD will continue to experience symptoms as an adult.

What causes ADHD?

A variety of factors may increase a person's risk of having ADHD. The most common risk factor is a family history of ADHD; however, there isn't one specific gene identified as causing the condition.

Other factors that may contribute but are not proven to cause ADHD include a mother's substance use (of drugs or alcohol) during pregnancy, low birth weight or premature birth, environmental toxins and a history of severe emotional neglect.

Who gets ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder occurs in approximately 11% of children in the United States, and it is twice as likely to be diagnosed in boys versus girls. However, girls are more likely than boys to have primarily inattentive symptoms with little or no hyperactivity.

What's the difference between ADHD and ADD?

ADHD with only inattentive symptoms is commonly referred to as attention deficit disorder, or ADD.

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Elisabeth Fehr, LCSW

Elisabeth Fehr, LCSW

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Laura Anthony, PhD

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Laura Judd-Glossy, PhD

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Jennifer Hagman, MD

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Psychiatry

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