Previously known by many other names, ADHD is characterized as the inability to focus.

Most people associate ADHD with extremely hyperactive, boisterous, or disruptive behavior, but this couldn’t be further from reality.

In fact, ADHD symptoms can manifest in several ways. Let's take a look at the history of ADHD (as we now know it).

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a behavioral condition. Each person may experience vastly different symptoms depending upon which type of ADHD they have.

People of all ages suffer from ADHD – not just children and teens.

Everyone experiences distractions or impulsive behavior time and again. This in itself doesn't necessarily mean someone has ADHD. Once it starts to negatively affect a person's life, they should take to a doctor or qualified professional.

Prevalence of ADHD

Although there is no global consensus, experts have come up with some general estimates.

The prevalence of ADHD depends on 3 factors:

  • Age: The prevalence of ADHD varies between children, teens, and adults; impacting all age groups to an extent.
  • Gender: Males are diagnosed more often than females. This doesn't mean less females have ADHD, but that they are diagnosed less frequently.
  • Type of ADHD: Inattentive ADHD is more prevalent than the hyperactive type.
  • Presence of additional conditions: ADHD often goes hand-in-hand with other psychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia.

ADHD statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5% of children currently have ADHD and 11% of children ages 4-7 have been diagnosed at some point in their lives.

Younger children also receive an ADHD diagnosis each year. About 237,000 children between the ages of 2 and 5 had an ADHD diagnoses as of 2012. That's a 50% increase from 2008.

Despite the widespread diagnoses, a whopping 40% of young children with ADHD are not currently receiving any treatment for their condition.

Symptoms of ADHD

The symptoms of ADHD vary drastically between age groups and individuals. Everyone has their own unique behavior so everyone's ADHD symptoms are also a little different.

There are three main types of ADHD: inattentive type, hyperactive-impulsive type, and combination type.

Common symptoms may include:

  • Having a hard time listening and paying attention to conversations.
  • Getting bored easily.
  • Interrupting others
  • Guessing without using problem solving
  • Fidgeting and inability to sit still.
  • Impulsive behavior, frequently changing jobs, relationships, or living arrangements
  • Trouble following directions and remembering details
  • Difficulty accomplishing tasks
  • Getting distracted easily and losing track of time

History of ADHD

history of ADHD
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The history of ADHD – and mental health treatment in general – has a long and sordid history.


Scottish physician Sir Alexander Crichton studied mental health extensively throughout Europe. He was the first doctor to identify inattention or frequent distraction as a possible form of mental illness.

Early 1900's

A pediatrician in the UK noticed that otherwise intelligent children were having trouble controlling their behavior. He dubbed the condition "an abnormal defect of moral children." Yikes!


This is the year Benzedrine – a prescription drug containing amphetamine – hit the market. The history of Adderall starts at this point with the introduction of amphetamines. Although marketed as a decongestant, doctors soon noticed it could cure several conditions such as obesity, narcolepsy, low blood pressure, and poor concentration.


The American Psychological Association (APA) released the first edition of the "Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM) in 1952, but it did not include ADHD. Instead, the behavioral condition was added to the second edition in 1968 and the condition was called "hyperkinetic impulse disorder." It still goes by this name in the UK.


In 1955, a new medication hit the market as the first alternative to Benzedrine: Ritalin. Another stimulant, Ritalin is still frequently prescribed to this day.


Hyperkinetic disorder gets a new name in the third DSM edition: ADD. Scientists didn't think "hyperactive" was the best word to describe the condition opting for "attention deficit disorder" instead.


Just seven years later, ADD got another rebranding as ADHD. There are currently three types of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: predominantly inattentive type, predominantly impulsive-hyperactive type, and combination.


Diagnoses and people receiving treatment for ADHD skyrocketed in the 1990's. This could be due to a number of factors:

  • Parents were prepared to notice and report symptoms
  • Doctors were more capable of administering a proper diagnosis.
  • Doctors were more willing to prescribe medications.
  • More children were developing ADHD


The first nonstimulants hit the market for treating ADHD. Doctors also started prescribing antidepressants for ADHD more frequently. Would this mark the end for the history of Adderall? Nope, not yet at least.

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