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Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) 

Introduction
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a neurologically based condition.  People with ADD have difficulty paying attention, maintaining their focus on a task, and are easily distracted.  They may move from one task to the next without completing any of them.  Adults and children may have ADD.  This condition can become problematic when it causes children to fall behind on their schoolwork or causes adults to miss deadlines at work or to not complete tasks at home.  There is no way to prevent ADD; however, the condition is usually very treatable with medications and therapy.

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Causes
It appears that ADD results from an abnormal balance of certain brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline.  Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that help nerve signals travel in the brain.  Researchers suspect that ADD may be an inherited condition that forms in early brain development.  It can affect both boys and girls.  Children with ADD begin to have symptoms before the age of seven.

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Symptoms
People with ADD have difficulty maintaining their attention, completing tasks they have started, and are easily distracted.  They may go from one uncompleted task to another.  They may have poor time-management skills and be very disorganized.  Other symptoms of ADD include forgetfulness, procrastination, chronic tardiness, chronic boredom, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and mood swings.  Children with ADD may be mislabeled as “daydreamers,” “slow-learners,” or “spacey.”  Adults may be mislabeled as “lazy” or “incompetent.”  ADD can be problematic if it interferes with a person’s schoolwork, job performance, home management, or social relationships.
 
ADD is technically considered Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Type.  This means that people with ADD may or may not have the hyperactivity or impulsivity that is associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).  People with ADD may experience purely inattention or inattention with a lesser degree of hyperactivity and impulsivity than people with ADHD.

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Diagnosis
A child or an adult should be evaluated for ADD if it is suspected. A psychiatrist can begin to diagnose ADD using questionnaires, psychological testing, developmental examinations, behavioral observation, and physical examinations.  Questionnaires completed by the parents, teachers, or the individual are helpful.  The psychiatrist uses the results of the assessments to determine if an individual meets the diagnostic criteria for ADD.  A psychiatrist can also diagnose conditions that may accompany ADD, such as depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder.

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Treatment
Prescription medications can help relieve the symptoms of ADD in children and adults.  In some cases, more than one medication trial may be necessary before the most appropriate medication or combination of medication is determined.  Psychological and behavioral therapy can be helpful to learn coping strategies and social skills.  For most people, treatment is effective for ADD, and people that are treated can lead full productive lives. 

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.