ADD-ADHD Causes, Statistics, Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is ADD or ADHD?

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral and mental disorder. For children, ADHD is the most frequently analyzed and studied mental disorder. ADD or ADHD is typified by the patient’s disruptive behavior, hyperactivity, inability to focus, and inability to control impulsiveness. Since 1994, ADD has not been officially accepted as a disorder. Instead, ADHD has been adopted as the main hyperactivity disorder and has replaced ADD in the vernacular. There are three subtypes of ADHD:

  • ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive (ADHD-HI) – Exhibits hyperactivity, lack of focus, easy distractibility, disorganization, impulsiveness and forgetfulness
  • ADHD Predominantly Inattentive (ADHD-PI) (Also referred to ADD) – Exhibits procrastination, inattention, and some other characteristics as ADHD but does not exhibit hyperactivity
  • ADHD Combined (ADHD-C) – Exhibits six or more characteristics combined from ADHD-HI and ADHD-PI

Living with ADD or ADHD is extremely difficult. It is a mood disorder that prevents the sufferer being able to control themselves, their impulses or their concentration. ADD or ADHD most often affects children and therefore makes it difficult to diagnose. The complication arises because children are inherently impulsive, forgetful and active. Frequently, a child is misdiagnosed with ADHD because he or she is just a rambunctious kid. The opposite is true as well. A child will simply be considered active and forgetful and not receive the professional care they need to manage the disorder. The child that does not get diagnosed with ADHD begins school and promptly begins having disciplinary issues and trouble achieving good grades. The boy or girl is soon deemed to be a troublemaker and mentally challenged. However, the tests today help with making the correct analyzations and preventing incorrect treatments.

Statistics on Attention Deficit Disorder

The American Psychiatric Association states in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) that 3%-7% of school-aged children have ADHD. However, studies have estimated higher rates in community samples [1]. Additional statistics for ADD or ADHD include:

  • In 2007, the estimated prevalence of parent-reported ADHD (ever) among children aged 4–17 years was 9.5%, representing 5.4 million children. Of those with a history of ADHD, 78% (4.1 million, or 7.2% of all children aged 4–17 years) were reported to currently have the condition [2].
  • Children with ADHD, compared to children without ADHD, were more likely to have major injuries (59% vs. 49%), hospital inpatient (26% vs. 18%), hospital outpatient (41% vs. 33%), or emergency department admission (81% vs. 74%) [1].
  • ADHD creates a significant financial burden regarding the cost of medical care and work loss for patients and family members. The annual average direct cost for each per ADHD patient was $1,574, compared to $541 among matched controls. The annual average payment (direct plus indirect cost) per family member was $2,728 for non-ADHD family members of ADHD patients versus $1,440 for family members of matched controls [1].
  • The first large, population-based study to follow children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder into adulthood shows that ADHD often does not go away and that children with ADHD are more likely to have other psychiatric disorders as adults [3].
  • ADHD is the most common neuro-developmental disorder of childhood, affecting about 7 percent of all children and three times as many boys as girls [3].

Causes of ADD or ADHD

Currently, the causes of ADD or ADHD are unknown. It is believed that there are a number of contributing factors. Some of these influencing elements include the person’s genetics, social setting, diet, and physical environment. The pathophysiology (combination of pathology and physiology) research shows that people with ADD or ADHD has a reduction in brain volume of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for personality expression, cognitive behavior, decision making, and moderating social behavior. About two thirds of children with ADD or ADHD will continue to have it in adulthood, but they will not exhibit as many of the symptoms as when they were a child. Sometimes a person dealing with ADD or ADHD will display co-occurring mood disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), eating disorders, and bipolar disorder. Drug and alcohol abuse can also be prevalent with sufferers of ADD or ADHD.

Signs and Symptoms of ADD or ADHD

There are a plethora of signs and symptoms to help determine if someone is wrestling with ADD or ADHD. ADD or ADHD is first diagnosed in children and often continues into adulthood. The difficulty is determining if the child is simply rambunctious or if there is a true disorder. There are tests available that will assist in analyzing if the child has ADD or ADHD. If some of the characteristics noted are recognized, then the aid of a professional should be secured. A few of ADD or ADHD symptoms include:

  • Easily distracted
  • Acts without thinking of consequences
  • Constantly switches from one activity to another
  • Constant movement
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Must constantly be in motion
  • Difficulty maintaining focus on single tasks
  • Fidget and squirm in their seats

ADD or ADHD Effects

Life with ADD or ADHD is complicated. Medicines often are used to help control the disorder. Ritalin is repeatedly used as the go to medicine, but it has side effects that make the child not as hungry and can present feelings of anxiety. The multiple symptoms of ADHD make it hard for everyone to live with. Some of the psychological effects include:

  • Quick and accurate information processing is difficult
  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty in organizing and preparing for tasks
  • Forgets things
  • Constantly switches from one activity to another
  • Misses details
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Quickly bored with tasks if not enjoyable
  • Difficulty maintaining focus on single tasks
  • Daydreams
  • Easily confused

Some of the physical results are:

  • Appears not to listen when spoken to
  • Moves slowly
  • Acts without thinking of consequences
  • Dashes about
  • Constant movement
  • Performing quiet tasks or activities is difficult
  • Fidget and squirm in their seats
  • Hard to wait in lines
  • Sitting still during dinner, school, and story time is difficult
  • Low attention span
  • Nonstop talking
  • Difficulty in waiting their turn
  • Touches or plays with anything and everything in sight
  • Must constantly be in motion

Negative social consequences:

  • Hard to form friendships
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Can lead to substance abuse
  • Career can be damaged
  • Financial stability can be affected
  • Self esteem can be damaged

ADD or ADHD Treatment

ADD or ADHD is a chronic disorder that touches a large number of children. This commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorder is tremendously complicated to live with. So many negative labels are placed on the child, and it can greatly affect the child’s self-esteem in a harmful way. The family and friends struggle with the disorder as well. It is hard for them to remain patient and properly deal with the boy or girl that has ADD or ADHD. The good news is that there is help available. An ADD or ADHD treatment center can assist the child and parents in how to best manage the disorder through behavioral therapy and medications.





Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 15th, 2013
Published on, Substance Abuse Online Guides