Hyperactivity: what is ADHD and what are its symptoms

The term hyperactivity nowadays it is expanding. Many times this word is misused or generalized to active behaviors or that we consider "more active than normal".

What is "normal"? What was once a restless child suddenly is now hyperactive, we put the alarms and we take it immediately to a specialist. Then we will explain a little more in depth what is the ADHD ( Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).

What is ADHD?

It's about a neurobiological disorder that originates in childhood. This implies a pattern of attention deficit, hyperactivity and / or impulsivity. Not all children with this disorder manifest these symptoms with the same intensity.

In other words, a child with ADHD may have symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity but not of impulsivity and another child may simply report one of these 3 symptoms in isolation.

Due to the complication of this disorder, a single cause could not be identified. It is understood that it is a heterogeneous disorder produced by the combination of various risk factors, mainly genetic and environmental.

Some environmental factors that may affect are (among others): traumatic brain injuries, central nervous system infections, prematurity, toxic consumption during pregnancy or low birth weight. It is considered that the percentage of inheriting ADHD is 76%.

The symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Currently, there are two systems of international classification of criteria for diagnosing ADHD: the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the American Psychiatric Association and the CIE (International Classification of Diseases), of the World Health Organization. Health (WHO).

In this case we will describe the diagnostic criteria according to the DSM-5 since it is the most used by professionals worldwide and is also reviewed periodically according to the latest research and discoveries.

Recall that ADHD can occur by: attention deficit, hyperactivity and / or impulsivity. That is why the DSM-5 separates the diagnosis in these two aspects:

Symptoms of Attention Deficit (Inattention)

Six (or more) of the following symptoms have been maintained for at least 6 months to a degree that does not accord with the level of development and that directly affects social and academic / work activities:

  • Frequently fails to pay due attention to details or careless mistakes are made in school work, at work or during other activities.
  • He often has difficulty maintaining attention on recreational tasks or activities.
  • He often does not seem to listen when spoken directly to him.
  • He often does not follow the instructions and does not complete homework, chores or work duties.
  • He often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
  • He often avoids, dislikes, or is not enthusiastic about initiating tasks that require sustained mental effort.
  • He often loses things necessary for tasks or activities.
  • It is often easily distracted by external stimuli.
  • He often forgets everyday activities.

Symptoms of Hyperactivity and impulsivity

Six (or more) of the following symptoms have been maintained for at least 6 months to a degree that does not accord with the level of development and that directly affects social and academic / work activities:

  • He often fiddles or bangs with his hands or feet or writhes on the seat.
  • He often gets up in situations where he is expected to remain seated.
  • Frequently runs or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate.
  • He is often unable to play or quietly engage in recreational activities.
  • He is often "busy", acting as if "driven by an engine".
  • He often talks excessively.
  • Often responds unexpectedly or before a question has been completed.
  • It is often difficult for him to wait his turn.
  • Frequently interrupts or interferes with others.

In addition to these descriptors, the American Psychiatric Association adds that some of the above symptoms must have been present before the age of 12, that the symptoms become apparent in at least two different contexts (home, school, friends, activities, etc.), that there is clear evidence that these symptoms interfere with social, academic or occupational functioning and, finally, stress that these symptoms should not be caused by another disorder that better defines the patient's situation.

After this brief definition of what ADHD means and the criteria that lead to its diagnosis, we recommend that you always consult your pediatrician and explain the situation before making any decision and labeling your child with the term ADHD. He can guide you as a professional in the field. This article is published for informational purposes only. It can not and should not replace the consultation with a Psychologist. We advise you to consult your trusted Psychologist.

Walk In My Shoes: ADHD (December 2021)