Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a pervasive learning disorder. This means that ADHD affects all aspects of an individual’s life; it is not limited to school impairment as is commonly thought.

ADHD must result in impairment in at least two of these venues: home, school, vocational, or social/ relationship. Although ADHD may present at any time in life, it most often correlates with a history of dysfunctional behavior, performance, and learning difficulties since childhood. All persons with ADHD have inattentiveness and distractibility; some, in addition, exhibit hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Persons suffering from ADHD experience chronic feelings of frustration, easy overwhelm, failure, underachievement, and ineffectiveness that may ultimately lead to depression, anxiety, anger, irritability, and often self-loathing. Personal and professional relationships may suffer greatly. In older adolescents and adults these feelings often lead to “self-medication” with excessive amounts of coffee, alcohol, and drugs. There is a documented relationship between untreated ADHD and substance-abuse disorder.

Students with ADHD may feel stupid and criticized, often being told that they are “not working up to potential” or are “lazy”. They may feel easily frustrated and overwhelmed when attempting to complete tasks that take them much longer than their peers. These students are unable to maintain focus and are distractible in settings such as: learning new or difficult material, listening to a lengthy teacher discourse, or initiating and engaging in tasks that compete with another, more desired, activity. They tend to more easily “give-up” on tasks because they “take too long”.

Prioritization, lack of procrastination, initiation, and completion of tasks is a problem for both the adult and child with ADHD. This is a chronic source of conflict with parents, teachers, peers, coworkers, family members, and spouses. Persons with ADHD tend to “live-in-the-moment” and have difficulty with hindsight, foresight, insight, and overall judgement.

ADHD is often accompanied by other conditions including specific learning disabilities (reading, math, written expression), Oppositional Defiant Disorder, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders. The latter may include Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Skin-picking Disorder, and Hair-Pulling Disorder. Eating disorders are also not uncommon. It is therefore important that all persons diagnosed with ADHD be screened for these associated disorders.

ADHD is a legal learning disability and students who suffer from it are entitled to accommodations to optimize their academic success. These accommodations may follow the student into their college years. Parents and adult patients should be made fully aware of the education laws that are in place to support them with this disorder.

The “GOOD” news is that the treatment for ADHD is relatively easy. It should, however, be comprehensive. Treatment should consist of a multi-faceted approach including medication, accommodations, life-coaching, and follow-up. As is true of most disorders, ADHD is a spectrum disorder in that there is great variation in the degree of impairment that can be present.

Most patients will function optimally with the help of medication although in rare instances a person with a less severe form of ADHD may do well without it.

I believe that the “A” in ADHD also stands for “asset”. Many of these individuals have high intelligence, are creative, and gifted in a particular area (often in the arts). They have an ability to hyper-focus at times, which can be to great advantage when used appropriately. Most importantly, anyone with ADHD can live a happy, productive, and successful life if they learn to care for their disorder.


American Academy of Pediatrics (

Dr. Russell A. Barkley: ADHD-30 Essential Things You Should Know (

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (

Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation (

International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation (

National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (

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