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What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural disorder that includes symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness and difficulty in maintaining focus and concentration.

Symptoms tend to be noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable at significant life changes, such as starting school. Most cases are diagnosed between the ages of 6 and 12 years old.

The symptoms of ADHD usually improve with age, but many adults who were diagnosed with the condition as a child continue to experience problems.

People with ADHD may also have additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders.

Until recently, it was believed that children outgrew ADHD in adolescence, because symptoms can appear to lessen in teenage years.

However, many symptoms can continue into adulthood and hyperactivity may instead be experienced as internalised anxiety. Undiagnosed ADHD in adults can have severe consequences leading to substance abuse, criminal activity, failed relationships, troubled work relationships, anxiety and depression.

More recently, some adults describe experiencing “late-onset ADHD” in that they now meet the diagnostic criteria but did not during childhood.

What can I do?

It can be difficult to separate normal child development behaviour from that of an ADHD diagnosis. However, if you do have concerns then you should consider raising them with your child's teacher, their school's special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) or GP if you think their behaviour may be different from most children their age.

It's also a good idea to speak to your GP if you're an adult and you think you may have ADHD but weren't diagnosed with the condition as a child.

It is possible to find indicative self-diagnosis tools online, however these should never be seen as definitive and diagnosis will normally take place by a specialist psychiatrist, or other appropriately qualified healthcare professional with training and expertise in the diagnosis of ADHD, following a referral from your GP.

The World Health Organization Adult Self-Report Scale (ASRS) Screener can be a useful starting point to facilitate the conversation with your GP.

Further support

You can find lots more information on the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in both children and adults by visiting NHS Choices.

The ADHD Foundation website also contains a wealth of information, including details of available training for professionals.

If you are an adult with ADHD, or if you think you may have ADHD, there is also an online support group website. It contains a wealth of information, advice and research.

Whilst The Charity for Civil Servants are not experts in ADHD itself, we may be able to help with resulting mental health concerns or relationship problems by referring you to one of our partners. Find out more about how we may be able to help here.

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