Attention deficit disorder, commonly called ADD amongst the general public, is a disorder characterized by distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Attention deficit disorder is the same as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, which is the official clinical term for the disorder.
Attention deficit is not limited to childhood, and as many as 8 to 9 million adults in the United States have attention deficit disorder. Children who have attention deficit disorder will likely have some troubles with the symptoms as an adult.
Many people believe that attention deficit disorder is misdiagnosed or often overdiagnosed. What some people might call attention deficit is actually normal child behaviors or signs of other problems, such as a response to dramatic family changes, including a divorce or death in the family.
In order to receive a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, the symptoms must be present for an extended period of time (over six months, according to the DSM) and be present across many settings, including school, home, and within the community. Additionally, the symptoms of attention deficit must severely hinder a child or adult within these settings. It is this criterion that sets attention deficit disorder from otherwise “normal” impulsivity or distractibility.
Common symptoms of attention deficit disorder include: poor attention to detail or making careless mistakes, difficulty sustaining attention to tasks, difficulty following directions, losing or forgetting things, feeling restless and fidgeting often, difficulty taking turns, or answering before a question is completed. Many of these same symptoms of attention deficit translate from childhood to adulthood.
If a child likes to run and climb things, it is not necessarily an indicator of attention deficit or hyperactivity; when a child climbs excessively, cannot sit still, does not like to sit down even when instructed, or frequently fidgets, this behavior might be a sign of hyperactivity. Similarly, if a child does not always follow directions or has some trouble completing homework, this behavior might not mean your child has attention deficit disorder. Rather, if this behavior is pervasive and greatly affects your child’s school performance, and the failure to pay attention and follow directions is also present at home and in social situations, it might be an indicator of attention deficit.
Only healthcare professionals can diagnose attention deficit disorder, so if you suspect your child’s symptoms, visit your family doctor to discuss the behavior.