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What is ADHD?

The myth busting truth about ADHD giving you all you need to know, supported by recent research to help you understand the truth about the neurodiverse condition with unique brain wiring.

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ADHD stands for attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. What is ADHD? Well it is a common genetic neuro-developmental difference or disability which is characterised by an imbalance in the neurotransmitter chemicals found in the brain; norepinephrine and dopamine. But what does that actually mean for you and I?

It means that someone with ADHD often experiences difficulty with their executive functioning skills. This means ADHDers experiences dysregulation with attention, memory, organisation, motivation and emotions. The good news is, that when identified, understood and worked alongside with, an ADHDer can lead a successful life, and these challenges can be massively reduced.

ADHD falls under the Neurodivergent Umbrella, which is part of a movement called The Neurodiversity Paradigm, which asks us to reconsider and celebrate difference as opposed to looking at people who diverge as being disordered or having a deficit. It also argues that Neurotypical is a social construct: it's an idea of what is normal and that every brain is actually different. Judy Singer coined the term Neurodiversity in 1998 to help people understand that autistic people aren't broken or inferior, just different. Kassiane Asasumasu coined the term Neurodivergent to explain how people differ from the imagined norm.

It is important to note that Neurodivergence is an identity, it is not take away from nor is is it meant to replace the fact that you are experiencing difficulties or disabilities from your diagnosis.

Internal Connections

Neuroscience, brain imaging, and clinical research tell us a few important things: ADHD is not about behaviour. ADHD is not a mental illness. ADHD is not a specific learning disability. ADHD is, instead, a developmental impairment of the brain’s self-management system.

ADHDers have many strengths and when individuals learn how to work alongside their brain and function in a way that is most natural to them, they can live hugely positive lives, reach their full potential and achieve great success.

How To Identify ADHD

The traits of ADHD are typically broken down into three categories:

  • Primary hyperactive-impulsive type

  • Primarily inattentive type (formerly called ADD)

  • Primarily combined type

Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

People with primarily hyperactive-impulsive ADHD have an excitable energy and feel “as if driven by a motor” with little impulse control. They are known for constant fidgeting, moving around and talking excessively, even at the most inappropriate times. They are impulsive, impatient, and often interrupt others. Hyperactivity is not only presented physically, it can also be noticed cognitively in terms of decision making, racing minds and bombarding thoughts.

Primarily Inattentive ADHD (Formerly ADD)

Those diagnosed with the inattentive subtype of ADHD have difficulty focusing, completing tasks and following instructions. They are easily distracted and forgetful. They will be classed as daydreamers and are known for losing track o f tasks, belongings and conversations. Experts believe that many children with the inattentive subtype of ADHD may go undiagnosed because they do not tend to disrupt the learning environment.

Primarily Combined Type ADHD

Individuals with combined-type ADHD display a mixture of all the symptoms mentioned above. A physician will diagnose patients with this Combined Type ADHD, if they meet the guidelines for Primarily Inattentive ADHD and Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD. A diagnosis of combined type ADHD is given when individuals present with 6 of the 9 symptoms identified for each sub-type.

Below is a table that sets out traits of both subtypes:

Indicators of Inattentiveness

Indicators of Hyperactivity

Difficulty sustaining attention on tasks.

​Fidgeting, tapping hands or feet.

​Fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes.

​Makes impulsive decisions, acts without thinking, takes risks.

​Appears to have difficulty listening when directly spoken to.

​Experiences a sense of feeling restless, jumping from task to task.

​Difficulty following through on instructions and failing to complete tasks.

​Often “on the go,” acting as if “driven by a motor”, uncomfortable being still.

​Difficulty organizing, prioritising and poor time management.

​Unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly.

​Avoids/dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort.

​Excessive talking, interrupts others conversations or intrudes on others.

​Misplaces belongings/items necessary for tasks or activities.

​Blurts things out, completes people’s sentences.

​Easily distracted by extraneous stimuli, zoning out.

​Impatient. Difficulty waiting their turn/waiting in line.

​Forgetfulness in daily activities, memory issues.

​Using other people’s things without asking, takes over what others are doing.


Some Interesting Facts

  • Approximately 20-30% of people with the condition struggle with concentration but do not struggle with hyperactivity or impulsiveness.

  • Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls.

  • Girls are more likely to exhibit inattentiveness, as opposed to the more disruptive behaviours associated with ADHD.

  • There is a clear understanding of the signs of ADHD in children and adolescents. In most cases, these symptoms become apparent before the age of 6. They occur in more than one setting, such as both at home and at school, for example.

This neurodivergence is very commonly miss-understood due to outdated research, lack of training and limited support services and therefore is often misdiagnosed.

Associated Conditions

It is important to mention that ADHD can co-exist with other neurodiverse conditions, such as autism, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and oppositional defiance disorder (ODD). Different people experience this coexistence to varying degrees.

Some examples of these conditions or problems include the following:

  • Anxiety disorder, which causes your child to be anxious and worried most of the time; it may also cause physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, and dizziness.

  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is defined by harmful and disruptive behaviour, particularly towards authority figures, such as parents and teachers.

  • Conduct disorder is characterised by a propensity for highly antisocial behaviour such as stealing, fighting, vandalism, and harming others. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity

  • Autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) - affects social interaction, communication, interests, and behaviour; dyspraxia - affects physical co-ordination; epilepsy - affects the brain and causes repeated fits or seizures;

  • Tourette's syndrome is a nervous system disorder characterised by involuntary noises and movements.

Internal Connections

Living With ADHD

We understand it better now!

Some experts argue that “Attention deficit” is actually a misleading name suggesting that “Attention dysregulation” might be a more accurate description. Since most people with ADHD have more than enough attention, they just can’t guide it in the right direction at the right time with any consistency. ADHDers actually have less difficulty sustaining focus when their interest is high and their brain is being stimulated.

Early diagnosis and support on how to understand & manage the condition is essential in easing the path for an ADHDer who has been learning from neurotypical people their whole life. Space is required for them to unlearn these habits and patterns, and discover what is going to work best for them.

Self Diagnosis

If some of the above sounds relatable, for you or a family member, you may want to complete some questionnaires. This can be really useful in terms of giving yourself an insight into ADHD traits and helping to indicate if they are present for you. Though they do not give you an ‘official’ diagnosis, they stand to help you understand yourself and your brain better, and that’s what we’re really here for. I always advise people to answer them from the point of view of what they experience on their worst days.

These can also be helpful when trying to explain your challenges to professionals if you go down the path to exploring a formal diagnosis.

Below are 2 assessment tools created by Dr. Bill Dodson.

We show preference to these as they include an element of assessing the other challenges of ADHD not taken into account on the DSM-5.

Click on the image below to start the questionnaire.

ADHD Screening Tool

The Self-Report screening tool is something you can complete while thinking about your own challenges.

This will be useful for gaining clarity about what your experiencing and a better idea of the presentations of ADHD.

ADHD Screening Tool

The screening tool to the right is an Informant tool. You can complete this on behalf of a child/partner/sibling or loved one that you are curious about in relation to traits they have and challenges they may be experiencing.

Russell Barkley & Laura Knouse designed a 9 symptom checklist that has provided useful for adults with ADHD. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) uses 18 symptoms to diagnose ADHD but was originally developed for children only.

To take a look at this click the link below.

Here are some other tools we recommend if you would like to double up:

These questionnaires can be useful to share with your professional if you decide to undergo an ADHD assessment.

Check out our other blogs on how to get diagnosed and then what to do next if you have been diagnosed with ADHD!


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