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Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)


A syndrome, usually diagnosed in childhood, characterized by a persistent pattern of impulsiveness, a short attention span, and often hyperactivity, and interfering especially with academic, occupational, and social performance.

*American Heritage Dictionary, “A disorder characterized by a difficulty in retaining focus, especially on tasks, for long periods of time.”

*American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition


The DSM-IV allows for diagnosis of the predominantly inattentive subtype of ADHD if the individual presents six or more of the following symptoms of inattention for at least 6 months to a point that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:

  • 1. Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  • 2. Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
  • 3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • 4. Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
  • 5. Often has trouble organizing activities.
  • 6. Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn’t want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • 7. Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
  • 8. Is often easily distracted.
  • 9. Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Importantly, some of the symptoms that cause impairment must have been present before 7 years of age and are currently present in two or more settings (e.g., at school or work and at home). There must also be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning. Lastly, the symptoms must not occur exclusively during the course of a pervasive developmental disorder, schizophrenia, or other psychotic disorder, and are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, personality disorder.)

Examples of observed symptoms

Children 1

  • Failing to pay close attention to details or making careless mistakes when doing schoolwork or other activities
  • Trouble keeping attention focused during play or tasks
  • Appearing not to listen when spoken to
  • Failing to follow instructions or finish tasks
  • Avoiding tasks that require a high amount of mental effort and organization, such as school projects
  • Frequently losing items required to facilitate tasks or activities, such as school supplies
  • Excessive distractibility
  • Forgetfulness
  • Procrastination, inability to begin an activity
  • Difficulties completing household chores

Adults 2

  • Often making careless mistakes when having to work on uninteresting or difficult projects
  • Often having difficulty keeping attention during work
  • Often having difficulty concentrating on conversations
  • Having trouble finishing projects that have already been started
  • Often having difficulty organizing for the completion of tasks
  • Avoiding or delaying in starting projects that require a lot of thought
  • Often misplacing or having difficulty finding things at home or at work
  • Often distracted by activity or noise
  • Often having problems remembering appointments or obligations


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