What is ADHD ?

ADHD is a medical term for a characteristic group of symptoms which, if untreated, may lead to under achievement and poor social skills, despite normal intellect and quality parenting. ADHD is characterized by problems with attention, impulsivity and over activity. It affects between 4-6 percent of school age children and between 2-4 percent of adults.

There is no doubt that ADHD leads to impairments in major life activities, including social relations, education, family functioning, occupational functioning, self-sufficiency and adherence to social rules, norms and laws. It appears to affect more boys than girls and occurs in all ethnic groups. ADHD often runs in families.

The condition is widespread, poorly understood and frequently remains undiagnosed. It often causes distress in family, work and social situations, mainly from unrealistic expectations, condemnation and rejection.

ADHD children do not mature at the appropriate rate in early childhood and they are often slow in acquiring skills. They do mostly what ‘normal’ children do except it is louder, longer, more often and to the extreme. Most children will carry some of the symptoms into adulthood, with an increased tendency to alcohol and drug abuse and ongoing emotional difficulties.

Each person will vary in the type, number, frequency and severity of their symptoms. To determine the best treatment a medical and educational assessment is recommended. ADHD people are usually energetic, enthusiastic and creative; intuitive, sensitive and highly intelligent. Capturing those special attributes is one of the goals of treatment.




Research has shown that ADHD can be recognised by the age of three. Up to this age the executive control in the frontal lobes of the brain are very immature. The average preschool child has plenty of active, unthinking behaviour, but when ADHD is also present, this produces a double dose of disinhibition. This can be devastating to parents who aren’t aware of what they are dealing with.

These early years have a significant effect on all the family members; parents; siblings and grandparents and extended family, aunts, uncles etc. Knowing and understanding are the keys to success for a family.

Poor behaviour is not the sole resolve of ADHD. It does occur in other children, but with less intensity and a different response to discipline. Parents, who do not accept that their ADHD child is different, can expect trouble.

On joining the association you will be guided into taking those first steps of, ‘cleaning up the diet’, finding a parenting programme that will make a difference and give you the ‘know-how’, to survive.


Early Signs (Baby and Toddler)

  • Colic, cries a lot, difficult to hold and cuddle
  • Cot rocking, head banging, poor sleepers
  • Nappy rash, fussy eaters
  • Runs away, bites, hits, dominates others
  • Appears to have unusual strength
  • Climbs, can have little or no fear of danger
  • Demands constant entertainment and attention
  • Excessive restlessness, in constant motion
  • Needs constant supervision
  • Easily frustrated, tantrums, moody
  • Aggressive, destructive, devious and defiant

Physical Symptoms:

  • Excessive thirst and perspiration
  • Poor temperature control
  • Prone to ear infections, allergies, food intolerance eczema and asthma


Common Symptoms:


  • Easily distracted, poor short term memory
  • Forgets instructions, fails to finish tasks
  • Disorganized, appears not to hear
  • Learning difficulties


  • Excessive restlessness, in constant motion
  • Has difficulty in sitting still or staying seated
  • Has a ‘driven’ quality, runs and jumps
  • Insatiable (never satisfied, never enough)
  • Can also be Hypoactive (under active)


  • Acts without thought or sense of safety
  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Needs constant supervision
  • Interrupts and intrudes on others

Emotional Instability

  • Easily frustrated, tantrums. moody
  • Impatient, intolerant, extremes of feeling
  • Irrational, overreacts to touch, pain and sound
  • Peer rejection, low self esteem

Antisocial Behavior

  • Oppositional behavior/conduct disorder
  • Aggressive, destructive, defiant, devious
  • Argumentative, swears, fascination with fire
  • Can act with cruelty and violence, steals
  • Unresponsive to punishment, lies

Co ordination Difficulties

  • Clumsy, lacks good balance
  • Difficulty in dressing, lacing and buttoning
  • Poor ball skills, mixed left-right dominance
  • Writing at times large and spidery
  • Reversal in letters and spelling

Physical Symptoms

  • Excessive thirst and perspiration
  • Poor temperature sense control
  • Ear troubles (infections, glue ear)
  • Eye trouble (dark circles, puffiness, squint)
  • Headaches, muscle or stomach pains
  • Digestive upsets, air hunger
  • Food and drink cravings e.g. sugar, milk
  • Prone to infections e.g. colds, allergies, eczema, hives


How can I tell if I have ADHD?

  • You fidget
  • You become bored easily
  • You can’t stay in your seat
  • You can listen to what is said but you don’t ‘hear’ it
  • You understand instructions but can’t follow them
  • You can’t organise your schoolwork, homework or household chores
  • You hate stopping anything when it’s going well
  • You can become totally lost or absorbed in certain interests or even certain ideas!
  • You forget things like keys, names, phone numbers or notebooks
  • You often know the answer before the question is finished
  • You hate gossip but love debates
  • You are easily distracted by anything even if it’s slightly more interesting than what you should be doing
  • You hate waiting for slower thinkers
  • You find it hard to stop yourself from doing anything that seems exciting or cool.
  • You know the consequences of what you do, but you can’t quite ‘get’ the significance to your family, your teacher or your friends
  • You are appalled or get angry if misunderstood
  • You are very critical of yourself if you make a mistake or are wrong

Remember, many of these characteristics are typical of adolescence and the teenage years.
Many people under stress also have the same characteristics.

ADHD is a problem when you consistently act impulsively, are hyperactive and are continually distracted.

Some or all of the following ma y be present some or all of the time:

  • Sense of underachievement, often false due to poor insight
  • Easily bored, craves stimulation, takes risks, gambles
  • Fidgets, doodles, seem to be elsewhere, easily distracted or sidetracked
  • Mood swings, extremes of feelings, sense of impending doom, excessive or unfounded anxiety or sensitivity, compulsive
  • Over excited, hyper focused, obsessive
  • Intolerance, can act with sudden, unreasonable and/or unpredictable verbal and/or physical aggression; rages
  • Reluctance to read, finds it hard to focus and concentrate
  • Reluctance to write, finds it hard to express and sequence ideas, may be dyslexic
  • Sets unrealistic goals and multi-tasks leading to non-completion of projects
  • Difficulty getting organised, procrastinates
  • Subject hops, many thoughts in mind at once
  • Impatient, tactless, interrupts or acts out of turn, finishes off other’s sentences
  • Impulsive with no thought of consequences
  • Has trouble following authorised procedure, oppositional
  • Inattentive, forgetful, can’t retain information, sudden blank mind

Greater than ‘normal’ frequency of physical symptoms:

  • Cravings, addictions e.g. cigarettes, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, milk, chocolate, soft drinks. chemicals, drugs
  • Atopy, allergy, hypersensitivity e.g. asthma, eczema, hay fever, rashes, hives, mouth ulcers, itching
  • Migraines, headaches, dizziness
  • Excessive thirst
  • Eye troubles e.g. dark circles, conjunctivitis
  • Digestive upsets e.g. bloating, abdominal pains, heartburn, abnormal appetite
  • Muscle aches, twitching, tics, cramps, fatigue, restlessness
  • Air hunger e.g. sighing, yawning
  • Sleep disturbances, sleep apnoea, insomnia
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Skin, nail, hair abnormalities
  • Poor temperature sense, thyroid problems

If your relationships, achievements or quality of life are suffering then membership of the ADHD Association would be a worthwhile start to managing improvement. We have an Adult Chat Group for members, who meet monthly in Epsom, Auckland.

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