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Unable to focus?


What are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)? DR VASILIOS SILIVISTRIS outlines the problems

ADHD is one of the most researched and prevalent childhood brain disorders. ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is classified as a psychiatric disorder and the symptoms often continue through adolescence into adulthood.

ADHD is a biological condition that is characterised by poor attention and distractibility and/or hyperactive and impulsive behaviours.

It is one of the most common mental disorders that develop in children. If left untreated, ADHD/ADD can lead to poor school and work performance, poor social relationships and a general feeling of low self-esteem.

In addition, symptoms of ADHD/ADD may continue into adolescence and adulthood. As many as one-third of children with ADHD/ADD have one or more coexisting behavioural conditions.

The most common of these are


Inattentive individuals have difficulty staying focused and attending to mundane tasks. They are easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds, shift from one activity to another and seem to get bored easily.

They may appear forgetful and even spacey or confused as if ‘in a fog.’ Organising and completing tasks is often extremely difficult, as is sorting out what information is relevant versus irrelevant.

An individual with inattentive symptoms may have great difficulty keeping up with items, frequently losing things and living life in a disorganised way.

Time management is also often an issue. An individual with the predominately inattentive type of ADHD may even appear sluggish, lethargic and slow to respond and process information.



Hyperactive individuals have excessively high levels of activity, which may present as physical and or verbal over-activity.

They may appear to be in constant motion, perpetually ‘on the go’ as if driven by a motor. They have difficulty keeping their body still, moving about excessively, squirming or fidgeting.

Hyperactive individuals often feel restless, may talk excessively, interrupt others, and monopolise conversations not letting others get in a word.

It is not unusual for an individual with hyperactive symptoms to engage in a running commentary on the activities going on around them.

Their behaviours tend to be loud and disruptive.

This difficulty regulating their activity level often creates great problems in social, school and work situations.



Impulsive individuals have trouble inhibiting their behaviours and responses. They often act and speak before thinking, reacting rapidly without considering the consequences.

They may interrupt others, blurt out responses, and rush through assignments without carefully reading or listening to instructions.

Waiting for turns and being patient is extremely difficult for someone impulsive. They prefer speed over accuracy and so often complete tasks quickly but carelessly.

Their lack of impulse control can not only be dangerous but can also create stress in school or work and in relationships with others.


Adults with ADHD/ADD show an even higher incidence of additional or accompanying disorders, they may also suffer from Depression, Mood disorders, Substance addictions, Anxiety, Phobias and Behavioural problems.



Treatment of ADHD/ADD has two important components, psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and medication such as Ritalin. There is a significant amount of research demonstrating that medication alone will not help address so many of the core issues a child (or adult) with ADHD/ADD has.

So while medication may help with immediate relief, the person with ADHD/ADD still often needs to learn the skills needed (CBT) to be successful while living with this condition.


Dr Vasilios Silivistris (Vasos) is a psychotherapist, counselling practitioner

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