History of the Condition

ADHD was first described by Dr. Heinrich Hoffman in 1845. As a physician who wrote books on medicine and psychiatry, Dr. Hoffman was also a poet who became interested in writing for children when he couldn't find suitable materials to read to his three-year-old son. The result was a book of poems, complete with illustrations, about children and their characteristics. "The Story of Fidgety Philip" was an accurate description of a little boy who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Yet it was not until 1902 that Sir George F. Still published a series of lectures to the Royal College of Physicians in England. In these lectures, he described a group of impulsive children with significant behavioral problems caused by a genetic dysfunction and not by poor child rearing -- children who today would be easily recognized as having ADHD. Since then, several thousand scientific papers on the disorder have been published, providing information on its nature, course, causes, impairments, and treatments.

Statistics on ADHD

ADHD, which is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder of childhood, occurs in 3 to 5 percent of school-age children in a six-month period.
Pediatricians report that approximately 4 percent of their patients have ADHD, but in practice, the diagnosis is often made in children who meet some, but not all, of the criteria.
Boys are two to three times more likely to have it than girls are.
ADHD is found in all cultures, although its prevalence differs. This difference is thought to stem more from differences in diagnostic criteria than from differences in symptoms.

Important Facts on ADHD

Key information about ADHD includes the following:
  • The disorder affects an estimated 4.1 percent of youths ages 9 to 17 in a six-month period. This means that in a classroom of 25 to 30 children, it is likely that at least one will have ADHD.
  • Children with untreated ADHD have higher-than-normal rates of injury.
  • ADHD often co-occurs with other problems, such as depressive and anxiety disorders, conduct disorder, drug abuse, or antisocial behavior.
  • Symptoms usually become evident in preschool or early elementary years. The disorder frequently persists into adolescence and occasionally into adulthood.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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