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What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that makes it challenging for your child to pay attention and control their behavior. It can also cause your child to have trouble staying still.

How common is ADHD?

ADHD is common. It affects 11 out of every 100 children ages 4-17.

What causes ADHD?

Doctors do not know what causes ADHD, but it seems likely that genetics play a role. Environmental factors that might cause ADHD can include smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy, exposures to toxins (such as lead paint) and traumatic brain injury. In most people, there is a possible interaction between genes and environment. ADHD is not caused by certain diet or food choices, parenting skills or technology.

What are the signs of ADHD?

The most common signs of ADHD include:

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactive (very energetic) behavior
  • Impulsive behavior (acting without thinking)

How do doctors treat ADHD?

There is no cure for ADHD. Treatment focuses on managing your child’s behavior. Common treatments for ADHD can include:

  • Tutoring in executive functioning (skills to help your child learn how to focus, complete tasks and learn organization skills)
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Medication

Most children with ADHD have trouble with inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. Some children have trouble mostly with inattention. Others have trouble with impulsivity and hyperactivity. At some point, all children (whether they have ADHD or not) have trouble sitting still, paying attention or controlling their behavior. To receive a diagnosis of ADHD, the symptoms have to be severe enough to interfere with your child’s functioning. Signs of ADHD must also affect your child’s life in more than just one area, such as home and at school.

Rev. 6/2018. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions. Reviewed by the MGfC Family Advisory Council.