Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or AD/HD) is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder. [Requires registration] ADHD is defined as a “persistent pattern of inattention or hyperactivity—impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and more severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development.” While symptoms may appear to be innocent and merely annoying nuisances to observers, "if left untreated, the persistent and pervasive effects of ADHD symptoms can insidiously and severely interfere with one's ability to get the most out of education, fulfill one's potential in the workplace, establish and maintain interpersonal relationships, and maintain a generally positive sense of self.":p.2
ADHD is the most commonly studied and diagnosed psychiatric disorder in children, affecting about 3 to 5% of children globally with symptoms starting before seven years of age. ADHD is a common chronic disorder in children with 30 to 50% of those individuals diagnosed in childhood continuing to have symptoms into adulthood. Adolescents and adults with ADHD tend to develop coping mechanisms to compensate for some or all of their impairments. However, many aspects of daily life that most people take for granted are rendered more difficult by the symptoms of ADHD.[clarification needed]
Though previously regarded as a childhood diagnosis, ADHD can continue throughout adulthood. 4.7 percent of American adults are estimated to live with ADHD. ADHD is diagnosed twice to four times as frequently in boys as in girls, though studies suggest this discrepancy may be due to subjective bias of referring teachers. ADHD management usually involves some combination of medications, behavior modifications, lifestyle changes, and counseling. Its symptoms can be difficult to differentiate from other psychiatric or other disorders, increasing the likelihood that the diagnosis of ADHD will be missed. Additionally, most clinicians have not received formal training in the assessment and treatment of ADHD, particularly in adult patients.
ADHD and its diagnosis and treatment have been considered controversial since the 1970s. The controversies have involved clinicians, teachers, policymakers, parents and the media. Opinions regarding ADHD range from not believing it exists at all to believing there are genetic and physiological bases for the condition as well as disagreement about the use of stimulant medications in treatment. Most healthcare providers accept that ADHD is a genuine disorder with debate in the scientific community centering mainly around how it is diagnosed and treated.