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Help With ADHD

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. ADHD also affects many adults. Symptoms of ADHD include inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought).

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Oct 26, 2015
Award-Winning Program Helps Teachers and Students Recognize Students Needing Help with Mental Health Challenges

Teachers and other school staff who spend a great deal of time with students don’t know how to identify students that may be in need of help or how and where to refer the students for help. Early intervention can prevent or delay symptoms or provide access to care before it becomes more serious.

  • Oct 23, 2015
This Halloween, Stigma Shouldn’t Be in Fashion

Stigma is a barrier to care for people with mental illness; more than one in four people cite stigma as a reason that they do not seek care. Being mindful about the way that we portray mental illness is important to help reduce stigma.

  • Oct 22, 2015
ADHD in Athletes: Tips for Parents and Coaches

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may exist in higher rates in some athlete populations than in the general population. There are probably a number of reasons for this, including that ADHD symptoms can actually be assets in certain sports, such as tennis or swimming.

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My son's teacher keeps sending notes home about his behavior at school and I don't understand the problem. He is fine with me, maybe a handful for his mother and his grandparents. Should I ask for them to change his teacher, or is there a problem?

You are fortunate to have good management skills that help you with your child's behavior. Parents often get confusing reports about their children, and there are many factors that need to be considered. A good starting point is a meeting with your child's teacher and school guidance counselor. Ask for another observation of your child in the classroom. If the problems continue, there are behavior rating scales that help to clarify the problem behaviors. The Vanderbilt Assessment Scales used for diagnosing ADHD are readily available and the standard in many communities. Your child’s doctor may be comfortable with the next steps in the evaluation or you might look for a mental health professional, such as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, to continue the evaluation process. More

Are there side effects with ADHD medications that we should be worried about with children? What about adults taking ADHD medications long-term?

Like all medications there are important side effects that should be considered if a decision is made to try medications for treatment of ADHD. The most serious side effects involve the heart, primarily in children who have known heart problems. More common side effects are lack of appetite, sleep problems and moodiness. Usually these side effects can be managed with adjustments in the dosage, timing of dose or changing to another medication. Your child’s treatment will involve regular follow-up visits to monitor for any of these problems.

Most children with ADHD will continue having problems with concentration and focus during adolescence and adulthood. Research has confirmed that medications continue to be effective into adulthood. While there are few studies looking at very long-term effects it appears that the long- term benefit outweighs the risks. More

My 17-year-old son with ADHD does not want to take his medication anymore. Should I continue to try to get him to take the medication?

Adolescents with almost any medical condition will insist that they can manage their treatment. “I would rather do it myself.” Fortunately, in most cases the physician has anticipated this and steps have been taken early to help your child learn about his condition, identify target symptoms that improve with treatment and encourage open discussion about side effects. Trials off medication are welcomed. Explore your son’s reasons for wanting to be off medication. It may be a side effect that he has not discussed with his doctor. Identify the likely changes that are expected during a trial off medication. Your son might be willing to identify a neutral observer (a favorite teacher, a coach) who can help monitor for problem issues. Their observations may feel less “parental.” More

Are there non-medication ADHD treatments that are effective?

There are many steps that a family can take short of medication. Usually these involve close attention to a problem behavior and developing a strategy (not punishment) that might change the behavior. Some are straight forward – tighter routines in the morning while getting ready for school, close monitoring of homework assignments and school projects that require planning, or accommodations at school for tests. Some families benefit from counseling to examine conflicts at home.

There are many other “treatments” on the market that promise to be the answer for your child. Most of their claims have not been adequately tested for safety or long-term benefit. In this area parents have to be very informed consumers. A conversation with your child’s pediatrician is a good place to start. More

About the Expert:

Scott Benson, M.D.
Pediatric Psychiatrist
Pensacola, Fla.

Josh’s Story


Josh, a 19-year-old college student, came to a school clinic for help with academic problems. Since starting college six months earlier, he had done poorly on tests and could not manage his study schedule. His worries about flunking out of college were causing him poor sleep, poor focus and lost hope. After a week of low grades, he returned home and told his family he should drop out of college. His mother brought him to the clinic where he and his older brother had been treated for ADHD when they were younger. She wondered if his ADHD might be causing his problems, or whether he had outgrown it. More

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APA Resources

Understanding Mental Disorders: Your Guide to DSM-5

Understanding Mental Disorders is a consumer guide designed to promote education and understanding among anyone who has been touched by mental illness.

Editor's Choice
  • Oct. 27, 2015

Is it ADHD or Autism?
Harvard Health Blog

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism can look a lot alike. Children with either one can be very active and impulsive, and can have trouble focusing and interacting with other people. In fact, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two.More

  • Oct. 22, 2015

ADHD May Affect Brains of Boys, Girls Differently
HealthDay News

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) manifests itself differently in the brains of girls than in the brains of boys, new research suggests. The results may help scientists better understand how ADHD affects boys and girls in unique ways.More

  • Sep. 22, 2015

Meta-analysis shows significant association between ADHD, obesity in children, adults Annals

Results from a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Psychiatry indicated a significant association between obesity and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder among children and adults.More

  • Sep. 20, 2015

Children being carefully evaluated for ADHD, study says
The Boston Globe

ADHD diagnoses have risen 5 percent per year since the late 1990s, while diagnoses involving medication have risen 7 percent since 2007.More