What is ADHD?

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a condition which develops in childhood, characterised by behaviours such as:


  • Difficulty concentrating for any length of time

  • Easily distracted and difficulty sticking to anything for any length of time

  • Often impulsive (e.g. saying or doing things without thinking it through)

  • Frequently over-active

Many people with ADHD do not experience all of these difficulties.  But people with ADHD will find these difficulties affect:

  • Work and education

  • Relationships and managing domestic life

  • Emotional wellbeing

Do People Grow Out of ADHD?

For many people, ADHD symptoms can improve as they get older.  This is because they learn to manage some of their difficulties.  Often hyperactive symptoms can improve, but difficulties with attention and impulsivity can actually worsen.  This is often related to the demands of life increasing.  Also, when structure and support reduce as people get older, ADHD symptoms can become more apparent, and more impairing.  It is no surprise then, that many people with ADHD develop low mood, low self-esteem, or anxiety. It is also common that people with ADHD will use substance (such as alcohol, cigarettes and illicit drugs) to try and help cope with the demands of life.  This is sometimes referred to as "self-medicating".

How Common is ADHD?

Approximately one in every twenty children will have ADHD.  By early adulthood, some children will no longer be effected by ADHD, some will go on to experience some of their ADHD difficulties, and some will continue to have full ADHD.  About one in every thirty-three adults will have ADHD.  All of them will have had it as a child.  Some people will feel their ADHD difficulties were not particularly apparent during childhood; this is usually due to structured and supportive environments (at school and home).  In adults, ADHD is equally common in men and women.

What is it like to have ADHD?

People with ADHD are often creative, charismatic and ambitious.  The difficulties you might find you have include:

  • Frequently losing or misplacing things

  • Running late

  • Doing things at the last minute, often in a rush

  • Forgetful of things (such as items need for a trip or job; or forgetful of appointments and obligations)

  • It can be hard to follow instructions, or listen to other people ("zoning out")

  • You can start things, but struggle to finish them.  You may also procrastinate a lot

  • You find it hard to focus on a task for any length of time (unless you are very interested in it)

  • You can be easily distracted from what you're doing by noises, other people, and even your own thoughts.

  • Having a busy, over-active mind, or feel restless and struggle to relax

  • Being busy and "on the go", without necessarily being productive

  • Some people may say you are overly talkative or loud

  • You might blurt out, or interrupt people

  • Low tolerance to frustration, getting irritable or having a "short fuse"

  • You get bored easily, find it hard to wait for things, and are often fidgety

Can ADHD be treated?

The good news is ADHD is easily treated, and most people respond very well to treatment.  Treatment can be medication or non-medication.  Often people use both.


Medication for ADHD is very effective, and people can often notice a fairly profound positive impact.  The first choice of medication is a stimulant.  This seems at odds for someone who is hyperactive.  In simple terms, the brain of someone with ADHD is not being adequately stimulated, hence they are easily distracted, always on the go, etc.  Stimulants tend to start working very quickly.  They typically last for a few hours, but 'long-acting' stimulants can last all day.  Non-stimulant medication is also available for people who cannot tolerate stimulants, or do not respond to stimulants.  Common side effects from medication include dry mouth, reduced appetite, nausea, and increases to pulse or blood pressure.  Less commonly agitation or psychosis symptoms can occur.  All side effects will be monitored for, and all can be alleviated or reversed (e.g. through dose reduction or stopping medication).  


Some people benefit from specialised coaching or CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).  Mindfulness is also shown to have a positive impact for adults with ADHD.  There is increasing research evidence that diet may play a role to help ADHD symptoms (such as a Mediterranean diet or whole-food plant-based diet).  Such diets can have a highly positive impact on psychological well-being and physical health also.

There are several books, support groups and websites which can also be helpful for people with ADHD.  For example, see: https://aadduk.org/


Lancashire Psychiatry.  Private Psychiatrist. Ormskirk, Skelmersdale, Preston, Chorley, Kendal, Carlisle.
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