Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Tiffani Lindenmuth & Marcellus Tyler/ Period 4/ March 7, 2014


The first scientist and physician to mention Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder was Sir Alexander Crichton, a Scottish scientist. He described the disorder as, "mental restlessness."

However, ADHD was first recognized as a disorder in 1902. A British doctor, Dr. Still, documented cases of impulsive behavior. "Defect of Moral Control," was the first name given to the disorder. Despite this name, he believed that the disorder was a medical problem, not a spiritual defect.


Scientists are not sure what causes ADHD, although many studies suggest that genes play a large role. Like many other illnesses, ADHD probably results from a combination of factors. In addition to genetics, researchers are looking at possible environmental factors, and are studying how brain injuries, nutrition, and the social environment might contribute to ADHD.

  • Children with ADHD display anatomical brain abnormalities beyond chemical imbalance.

No single test can diagnose a child as having ADHD. Instead, a licensed health professional needs to gather information about the child, and his or her behavior and environment in order to make a diagnosis.


ADHD begins in childhood, though it may not be diagnosed until later in life. The symptoms of ADHD typically appear between the ages of 3 and 6. Adults with undiagnosed and untreated ADHD are more likely to have a history of school, work, and relationship challenges that affect their self-esteem and their opportunities.

  • Fidget and squirm
  • Talk nonstop
  • Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
  • Have trouble sitting still
  • Be constantly in motion
  • Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities

An adult diagnosed must have ADHD symptoms that began in childhood and continued throughout adulthood. The mental health professional also will look at the person's history of childhood behavior and school experiences, and will interview spouses or partners, parents, close friends, and other associates. The person will also undergo a physical exam and various psychological tests.


Treatments can relieve many symptoms of ADHD, but there is currently no cure for the disorder.

  • Treatments include medication, various types of psychotherapy, education and training, or a combination of treatments.
  • Stimulants such as methylphenidate and amphetamines are the most common type of medication used for treating ADHD.

For many children, ADHD medications reduce hyperactivity and impulsive behavior and improve their ability to focus, work, and learn. Medications also may improve physical coordination.

Future of the Disorder

NIMH-sponsored scientists continue to look for the biological basis of ADHD, and how differences in genes and brain structure and function may combine with life experiences to produce the disorder. NIMH-funded researchers studied ADHD treatments for school-aged children in a large-scale, long-term study called the Multimodal Treatment Study of Children with ADHD (MTA study). Though the study has been completed, a recent follow-up found that, over a 10-year period, children with ADHD who were treated with methylphenidate had, on average, higher heart rates compared to children who received other treatments.


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