ADHD, which affects around one in 20 people, is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that primarily impacts children but often continues into adulthood. The first clinical description of children with symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity dates back to 1902 when British paediatrician Professor George Still presented his observations of 43 defiant and emotional children. This set the stage for the evolution of diagnosing and understanding ADHD.

Initially referred to as ADD, the condition was later renamed to ADHD as our knowledge of the disorder expanded. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) played a crucial role in this transition. In the early 1980s, the DSM introduced “attention deficit disorder” with two sub-types, one with hyperactivity and one without. However, in 1987, ADD was replaced by ADHD in the DSM-III-R, which also outlined the three sub-types we recognize today: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and combined.

The DSM-5 defines the three sub-types of ADHD. Individuals with predominantly inattentive ADHD struggle with concentration, are easily distracted, and often forgetful. Conversely, those with predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD find it hard to sit still, interrupt others frequently, and struggle with self-control. The combined sub-type encompasses characteristics of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.

Challenges and Controversies

The rise in ADHD diagnoses among both children and adults has sparked debates about the expanded definition of the disorder. While traditionally more common in boys, there is a growing trend of girls and women seeking ADHD diagnoses. International experts argue that cultural, political, and local factors play a significant role in shaping the challenges faced by individuals with ADHD.

Impact of ADHD

Despite the name change and ongoing debates, ADHD continues to have a profound impact on the educational, social, and personal lives of individuals affected by the disorder. From childhood to adulthood, ADHD presents unique challenges that require tailored support and understanding.

The evolution of ADHD diagnosis and understanding highlights the complex nature of neurodevelopmental disorders. While the terminology and sub-types may have evolved over the years, the impact of ADHD on individuals’ lives remains significant. It is crucial to continue researching and advocating for better support systems for those living with ADHD.


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