Penn Adult ADHD Treatment and Research Program
What is Adult ADHD?
The main symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are inattention (severe distractibility, forgetfulness, and disorganization), impulsivity (reckless behavior or carelessness), and hyperactivity (extreme restlessness and feeling "on the go"). Another way to think about ADHD is that it represents chronic difficulties with organizing and carrying out actions across time, particularly when there is no immediate reward for doing so.
Originally thought to affect only children, we now know that the symptoms of ADHD persist and cause problems for many adolescents and adults. ADHD can interfere with performance at school, at work, and in relationships, and can lead to feelings of low self- esteem, as well as depression and/or anxiety.
Many individuals with symptoms of ADHD are not diagnosed until they are older. In addition to wanting treatment for their symptoms, these adolescents and adults also need help developing new coping strategies for facing life's demands, made more difficult by ADHD.
What Causes ADHD?
ADHD is primarily a neurobiological disorder that is strongly hereditary. It is a developmental disorder affecting the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which controls "executive functions" - cognitive abilities that allow us to control and orchestrate thoughts and actions. In persons with ADHD, this area of the brain operates less efficiently than it could. Environmental factors (e.g., parenting, diet) have only a minimal association with the development of ADHD.