Feature Article

An update on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Philip Hazell
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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect a child’s behaviour, thinking and learning, and can continue into adulthood. GPs can use specific questionnaires to make a diagnosis of ADHD. Treatment includes medication, as well as promoting learning support for the child and a positive collaboration between the parents, child and school teachers.

Key Points

  • ADHD can affect a child’s behaviour, thinking and learning and the effects can continue into adulthood.
  • People of all ages with ADHD seem less inclined than others to think beyond the present and to learn from experiences.
  • Other developmental conditions can resemble and co-occur with ADHD, particularly learning difficulties, anxiety, agitated depression, conduct problems and frenzied stereotyped behaviours associated with autism.
  • Medical problems, such as sequelae to brain injury or infection, some genetic disorders and fetal alcohol syndrome, can present with symptoms of ADHD. Other medical problems that may on rare occasions masquerade as ADHD include hyperthyroidism and lead toxicity.
  • For ADHD to be clinically significant, symptoms should have been present since preschool or the early school years and be causing problems in two or more settings (for example, school and home).
  • The child’s difficulties need to be considered within the family context.
  • Before specialist referral of the patient, the GP should check hearing, vision and growth, and also facilitate a family discussion with the child’s school.