A project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health

Skip Navigation

Womens Health logo
divider line

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, can make it hard to pay attention or complete a task. Some people with ADHD often feel restless and have trouble sitting still, or often act without thinking first. For people with ADHD, these behaviors can cause problems at home, on the job, and in social situations.

There are three types of ADHD:

  • Predominantly inattentive type – A person has trouble paying attention and is easily distracted
  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type – A person has trouble sitting still; also, acts without considering the outcome of such action
  • Combined type – A person shows both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms

Symptoms of ADHD often show up in early childhood. Many, and perhaps most, children with ADHD continue to have symptoms into their adult years. Some people with ADHD become adults without ever having been diagnosed with the disorder. They often just feel that it's impossible to get organized, stick to a job, or keep an appointment. Being diagnosed with ADHD can bring a sense of relief to some adults because it helps them understand the reasons for their problems. And, with help, they can begin to face them.

No one knows exactly what causes ADHD. It tends to run in families, and many studies suggest that genes play a large role.

Although ADHD has no cure, medicines can help control symptoms. The medicines that appear to work the best are drugs called stimulants. Adults with ADHD can also benefit from therapy or having a "life coach." The coach can help you learn how to organize your life by using "props." These might include lists, reminder notes, date books, and a large calendar to keep track of important dates and meetings.

Return to top

More information on Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Explore other publications and websites

Connect with other organizations

Content last updated: September 22, 2009.

Resources last updated: September 22, 2009.

Return to top