The Evolution of ADHD: From ADD to ADHD

The Evolution of ADHD: From ADD to ADHD

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects around one in 20 people. It is a condition that is often diagnosed in childhood and can continue into adulthood. ADHD is characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that can impact individuals in various aspects of their lives such as school, work, social settings, and home.

In the past, ADHD was referred to as attention-deficit disorder (ADD). The transition from ADD to ADHD occurred over time as our understanding of the condition evolved. The first clinical description of children with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity was presented in 1902 by British paediatrician Professor George Still. These children were described as defiant, aggressive, undisciplined, and extremely emotional or passionate. This description laid the foundation for what would later become known as ADHD.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) plays a crucial role in diagnosing mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions. In the early stages, ADHD-type characteristics were referred to as “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood or adolescence” in the DSM. Over time, the manual underwent revisions, eventually replacing ADD with ADHD in 1987. This change was driven by several factors, including debates over the presence of hyperactivity, the similarities and differences between the two subtypes, and the recognition of inattention as a key component of the disorder.

Today, ADHD is classified into three subtypes: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and combined. Individuals with the predominantly inattentive subtype struggle with concentration, frequently lose things, and have difficulty following instructions. On the other hand, those with the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive subtype find it challenging to be still, interrupt others frequently, and struggle with self-control. The combined subtype exhibits characteristics of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.

Over the years, there has been a rise in ADHD diagnoses among both children and adults. While ADHD was traditionally more commonly diagnosed in boys, there has been a noticeable increase in girls and women seeking diagnoses in recent years. However, some international experts argue that the expanded definition of ADHD, particularly in the United States, may not fully account for the unique cultural and political factors that influence the challenges faced by individuals with the condition.

Despite the name change and the evolution of diagnostic criteria, ADHD continues to have a significant impact on the lives of many individuals. It affects educational, social, and life situations for children, adolescents, and adults alike. As our understanding of ADHD continues to grow, it is crucial to consider the diverse ways in which the condition manifests and the unique needs of individuals affected by it.


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