How common is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects over 1 in 20 (5%-7%) kids. Studies have found that over half of these kids continue to have ADHD symptoms in their teenage and adult years (~2.5% of the population).

What is ADHD?

It is a neurodevelopmental condition that starts from an early age. It is characterised by a persistent pattern of inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity that can affect one’s quality of life in different areas such as school, social, and family life.

What causes ADHD?

The exact causes are not definitively known. It is likely related to a combination of genetic, neurological, environmental, and developmental factors. ADHD is linked to a lower level of brain messengers (neurotransmitters) in parts of the brain that govern attention, focus, and impulse control.

What are the risk factors?

  • Family history of ADHD, i.e. parents or siblings have ADHD.
  • Male gender
  • Exposure during pregnancy to cigarette smoking and alcohol.
  • Exposure during pregnancy to toxins like lead
  • Premature birth and low birth weight
  • Accidental brain injuries at a young age
  • Having other developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder

Is it due to excess sugar intake and food additives? Is it due to poor parenting?

ADHD is not due to sugar intake or food additives. It is not the parent’s fault. It is not because the child is lazy, naughty, or has a difficult temperament. It is a medically recognised neurodevelopmental condition that can improve with understanding, support, and proper treatment.

How do kids with ADHD present?

Some kids will present mainly with inattentive symptoms, while others will have primarily hyperactive symptoms. However, some kids manifest both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms (i.e. combined type).

What are the inattentive symptoms?

  • Difficulty maintaining focus
  • Short attention span
  • Easily distracted by sights or sounds
  • Difficulty paying attention to details
  • Make careless mistakes frequently
  • Trouble organising and completing tasks
  • Being forgetful about homework or errands
  • Losing items like pencils, erasers, toys, water bottles and wallets
  • “Spacing out” when spoken to directly

What are the hyperactive and impulsive symptoms?

  • The child may be restless or fidgety
  • Leaving the seat often, running around the classroom
  • Unable to play quietly by themselves
  • Often running and climbing around inappropriately
  • Overly talkative
  • Difficulty waiting for their turn
  • Impatiently blurting out replies before the question is finished
  • Interrupting others in conversation
  • Acting without thinking

Are there differences between boys and girls with ADHD? How does ADHD affect their self-esteem?

Yes, there are differences. Boys tend to be more hyperactive or have the combined type (both hyperactive and inattentive symptoms), while girls tend to present with inattentive symptoms only. As a result, boys tend to be labelled as “naughty” or “mischievous”, while girls with ADHD may be wrongly labelled as “lazy” or “slow.” These labels can have a huge impact on their self-esteem. They may feel discouraged and start to believe that they cannot do well academically. Some may rebel against the labels by becoming oppositional and more defiant.

Do all children present the same way?

No, they don’t. Symptoms range from mild, to moderate to severe. Children with ADHD may present with primarily inattentive symptoms, primarily hyperactivity-impulsive symptoms, or both sets of symptoms.

Should we just wait and see? Is it important for us to seek help early?

Many adults with ADHD tell us that they wish their parents had brought them to seek help early in life. They feel that they were disadvantaged in school and did not fulfill their full academic potential because their ADHD symptoms had gone untreated for many years. Labels like “naughty” or “blur” from teachers and friends may have affected their self-esteem.
Primary/elementary school is where our children build a strong foundation in languages, math, and sciences. If ADHD is not treated, they may struggle more in secondary/high school and beyond.
A letter from our psychiatrist or psychologist will help the teachers understand the needs of the child better and provide more effective learning support in school.

Seek Help Today

Thank you for taking the time to read about ADHD. If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms like those mentioned, don't hesitate to reach out to our expert clinicians. Understanding, support, and proper treatment can make a significant difference in managing ADHD and improving quality of life.

Your well-being matters, and we're here to help every step of the way.

Dr Victor Kwok
Senior Consultant Psychiatrist
Private Space Medical
Dr Tay Kai Hong
Senior Consultant Psychiatrist
Private Space Medical