Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition characterised by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than observed in individuals at a comparable level of development.
ADHD affects millions of children and adults. The illness, most common in children, is generally first diagnosed during the primary school years. Today, it affects approximately 3% to 7% of the school-age population, with boys diagnosed 3 to 4 times more than girls.
Research indicates that it occurs in approximately 2% to 4% of adults. The gender ratio is 2 to 1 or lower, with men more likely to have ADHD than women. Symptoms often become less severe in adolescents and adults. The prevailing belief among professionals that children 'outgrow' ADHD by adulthood is false. Of key importance is a proper diagnosis and effective treatment in childhood, which can help increase self-esteem, improve academic and social skills, resolve behavioural problems and decrease the long-term effects of ADHD in adulthood.
Despite increased awareness, ADHD remains under-recognised with less than a half of the affected individuals receiving appropriate diagnoses. Of those persons who are diagnosed, few get proper treatment.
Like for other chronic disorders, many treatments can effectively assist in managing ADHD symptoms. It is important to realise that most people with ADHD have a normal or above normal intelligence and that the symptoms of ADHD do not necessarily have to be an obstacle for leading successful lives. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment in children is the key to maximising positive outcomes and to minimising the negative long-term effects of ADHD in adulthood. Most people do not outgrow ADHD, but thanks to medication or a combination of medication and behavioural treatment, they can learn to adapt, and can lead full and productive lives. Increased patients' awareness of the symptoms of ADHD, the education of doctors to establish a correct diagnosis and new scientific discoveries play a crucial role in tackling this neurodevelopmental disorder.
New avenues of research promise to further improve diagnosis and treatment. Scientists are using different approaches to uncover new information on the role of the brain in patients with ADHD in order to learn more about the causes of the disorder and to identify better treatments. As a result of the continuing efforts of researchers on many fronts of ADHD, a much more positive outlook for individuals with this chronic disorder may be expected in the near future.
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