ADHD diagnoses have risen 67% in the past 20 years, and almost 1 in 10 children in the US are diagnosed with it. What is ADHD? How does it develop? And why the dramatic rise in recent diagnosis? Keep reading to find out.

Characteristics of ADHD

1 An interest-based nervous system – People with ADHD don’t struggle with paying attention all the time. Instead, they struggle with inconsistent attention, which is usually only activated by interest, urgency, or novelty. In fact, when faced with a task that fits into one of these categories, many people with ADHD can experience states of hyperfocus, where they are totally “in the zone” while working and may not even realize how much time has passed.

2Emotional hyperarousal – People with ADHD often experience thoughts and emotions that are more intense than those of people around them. They may also have an internal sense of hyperarousal that feels like tension, or being unable to “turn off” their brains and bodies.

3Rejection sensitivity – Criticism or the perception of rejection can be incredibly difficult for people with ADHD to bear. They may feel extreme emotional pain, or even physical pain, when they feel that they have let themselves or others down.

4Executive Functioning Deficits – 90% of people with ADHD experience executive functioning deficits, which means that they struggle to actively work towards goals, or change their behavior to improve the future. This can look like issues with time management, working memory, task initiation, impulse control, organization, and planning.

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Characteristics of ADHD


Hyperactive-Impulsive: People with this type of ADHD may feel the need to move constantly, or often feel restless. They also struggle with impulse control.


Inattentive: This type of ADHD is sometimes referred to as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). People with this type have difficulty paying attention in daily activities. They may seem forgetful or unorganized, and often avoid tasks that require a sustained mental effort. People with this type tend to go undiagnosed more often than people with the other types, as their symptoms can “fly under the radar” more easily.


Combined: People with this type of ADHD have significant issues with hyperactivity, impulsivity, and attention.

To read more about the three types of ADHD, click here.

ADHD may look different in boys and girls, and can often be harder to notice in girls. They are more likely to have Inattentive-type ADHD, but may work very hard to compensate for their symptoms by excelling in other areas. Girls with Hyperactive/Impulsive-type ADHD may present as very sensitive or talkative. Girls with any type of ADHD may have trouble making and keeping friends, and often struggle with shame and low self-esteem. Many researchers attribute the recent rise in ADHD diagnoses to increased awareness about the differences in how ADHD may show up in girls, as well as increased diagnosis for people of color.

To read more about ADHD in women and girls, click here.

Common Diagnoses alongside ADHD

Up to 90% of kids and 85% of adults with ADHD are diagnosed with at least one other condition, called a “comorbid” condition. When professionals test for ADHD, they should always screen for other common disorders, to avoid misdiagnoses. Here are some common disorders associated with ADHD:

  • Anxiety
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Mood Disorders
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Obsessive-compulsive Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Sensory Integration Dysfunction
  • Tourette’s Syndrome

For more information, check out this infographic.

Treatment Options

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that the best treatment for kids over the age of 6 is a combination of stimulant medication and parent behavior therapy. This combination of treatment methods works for 70-80% of patients. For the other 20-30%, nonstimulant medications and other types of behavioral therapy may be tried. There are also many supports available to help people with ADHD in the classroom and at work, such as accommodations or organizational training. However, there is no “cure” for ADHD. Many people who have ADHD as children will continue to have it into adulthood, although their ability to manage symptoms may improve over time.

For more information about treatments for ADHD, click here.

Published On: September 17th, 2021 / Categories: ADHD /