Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is not an all or nothing disorder. Everyone has trouble sometimes with the characteristics of ADHD but not to the same extent or with the same impact as those who have ADHD. The DSM-5 describes ADHD as a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. It also includes the previous DSM-IV diagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADD).

What a diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t do so well is explain why it occurs. This is very important as treatment and assisting children and adults with ADHD is more effectively done when we understand what ADHD really is.

Experts in the field of ADHD, such as Dr Tomas E Brown and Dr David Nowell, describe ADHD as being a neurological issue rather than a behavioural issue. This is because true ADHD behaviours are due to an important area of the brain not working effectively (in the frontal cortex, and where our executive functioning is carried out). Executive functioning is a fancy description for being able to:

  • plan and prioritise
  • focus and shift attention
  • initiate tasks
  • emotionally regulate (manage emotions well under stressful situations)
  • self-regulate and monitor
  • sustain effort and regulate alertness, and
  • utilise working memory.

People that have ADHD can find these tasks very difficult as they have deficiencies of dopamine and/or norepinephrine (two of the brain’s neurotransmitters) and/or how they are managed in this area of the brain. The following YouTube video provides a helpful description of how this works: 

If you think you have ADHD, you can try this screener: ADHD by the Psych Central Research Team. Please note that a screener is not for diagnosis. It is only meant to indicate whether you have some of the relevant traits and may help you decide whether it’s worthwhile to seek an assessment.