Attention deficit disorder was formerly thought to be a disorder only affecting children. The symptoms of ADD generally begin to show at or prior to the age of seven. They begin as a lack of attention and increasing impulsiveness. Around 3% to 5% of children suffer from this neurological disorder and it is twice as common for boys to have this disorder as girls.
Up until the last decade or so, it was thought that only children suffered from attention deficit disorder. As more has become known about the disorder, it has become clear that many adults – as much as 5% – also suffer from ADD. While they may not have been diagnosed as children, chances are they have had ADD their entire lives.
Of those adults that were diagnosed with ADD as children approximately 10-40% continue to suffer from the disorder as adults. The reason it often seems as though people "grow out" of ADD is most likely that the adults that were diagnosed as children have learned coping mechanisms and skills that have helped them overcome many of their symptoms.
One of the biggest problems physicians face when diagnosing ADD is that the symptoms are often the same as symptoms caused be other disorders and diseases. Head trauma, mental disorders and other brain issues can all cause symptoms similar or identical to those of attention deficit disorder. It is only through a series of very specific testing that ADD can be correctly diagnosed.
A physician attempting to diagnose ADD in a child will conduct a thorough physical and neurological exam along with a set of psychological tests to measure social and emotional factors as well as IQ. The diagnosis process will most likely also include observation of the patient and interviews with parents, the patient and the patient’s teachers. Being that 75% of ADD cases are genetic, a family medical history can also be helpful in correctly diagnosing ADD.
Because adults are better able to communicate any issues they may be having, it can be easier to diagnose attention deficit disorder. The physician will start with a standard physical exam to rule out any physical issues that could be the cause of your symptoms. He or she will then ask you about the symptoms you have been experiencing and for how long you have noticed them. Standard ADD tests will also be administered which include symptom checklists and methods of testing attention-span. Your friends and/or family may be asked to be interviewed to discuss your symptoms and you will also be asked about problems the symptoms may have caused or are currently causing.
As researchers and doctors learn more about attention deficit disorder, it becomes easier and easier to correctly diagnose the disorder. This is important because the earlier ADD is diagnosed, the earlier coping mechanisms can be taught and symptom treatment can begin.