ADHD in children and adolescents

Symptoms and forms

The three main characteristics of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. If children only have difficulties managing and controlling their impulses as well as focusing their attention, but they are not hyperactive, this is referred to as an attention deficit disorder. This so-called ADD is more common with girls than with boys.

Side effects

These main characteristics are often accompanied by other problems: Many of the affected children have a reading and writing or math disability and they suffer from mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, urinary incontinence, or tic disorders. In most cases, these factors have a negative impact on their social behavior: They are defiant, aggressive and have difficulties managing anger and respecting rules.

Forms of appearance in childhood and youth

The symptoms of ADHD change throughout the stages of the person's development. It depends on several factors how strong those symptoms are, how they develop throughout life, and which impact they have on the patient's lives. These factors are biological characteristics, psychosocial factors, and environmental conditions. There is one thing all affected children have in common, regardless of age: Their emotional and psychosocial development is delayed compared to other children.

Infants

Often, but not always, children who are diagnosed with ADHD already had behavioral problems  as an infant. Often their parents describe them as “difficult babies”: They were restless or excessive criers, and they had feeding problems or trouble going to sleep. Affected infants often refuse body contact with other people.

Toddlers

Children with ADHD normally attract attention when they go to kindergarten because they are extremely restless and “fidgety”: They are constantly in motion and they literally climb over tables and benches. They cannot concentrate on a game for a long period of time, get easily upset and have trouble complying with rules. It is also hard for them to integrate into the group.

Children with ADD, however, are often very dreamy, playful and slow. Some of them show delays in speech, language and motor development. They cry quickly and are normally very clingy and fearful. Usually they have no or only one friend.

The typical symptoms occur, at the latest, in preschool followed by all areas of life.

Pupils

Children with ADHD often have problems implementing the requirements of educators, teachers, and parents. They are messy and chaotic, which is often reflected in poor handwriting. During lessons, these students are generally distracted and they distract their classmates. However, they often interfere at home, too, interrupting conversations or others’ activities. Furthermore, they have trouble keeping themselves busy. "Fights" with parents while eating or doing homework are normal for affected families.
Despite these disorders, all these children do also have many positive characteristics: They are almost always very helpful, curious, creative, and imaginative, and they have a strong sense of justice.

Adolescents

While the obvious hyperactivity slowly changes into an internal restlessness during the course of puberty, most adolescents with ADHD remain, in the majority of cases, impulsive and inattentive. Therefore, a lack of self-esteem, anxieties, and depression are brought to the foreground. At the latest at that age, affected children often experience rejection due to poor performances at school, although they are actually intelligent and creative.