Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: characteristics, identification and treatment
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed psychological disorder of childhood (Barkley 2006). Worldwide, prevalence of ADHD is estimated at 5 percent among school-age children (Polanczyk et al. 2007). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM; American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2000) defines ADHD as a biological dysfunction that results in hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive behaviour to such an extent that it causes social, educational, or work performance problems. It is a chronic, lifelong disorder and while some symptoms may abate over time, the core problems remain. For children this may result in lower academic achievement and difficulty in social settings. If untreated into adulthood, ADHD can increase the incidence of risk-taking behaviour, dangerous driving, substance misuse, depression, and criminality (Barkley 2006). Given this impact of the disorder, the purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview, particularly in relation to its diagnosis, characteristics, possible causes, and treatment. The chapter also considers explanatory theories and the influence of psychosocial factors.