Characteristics of Attention Deficit Disorder: A Thorough Guide to Understanding

Characteristics of Attention Deficit Disorder: A Thorough Guide to Understanding
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First Things First

Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of attention deficit disorder to understand is that no one asks or wants to have the chemically imbalanced brain inherent with ADD that causes them to behave erratically. You would never blame anyone for having an unavoidable chronic disease or deformity so never blame yourself or someone with ADD for having the disorder.

ADD is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder that is not curable. It will last a lifetime, and acceptance is the first step toward being proactive in seeking the help needed to effectively cope and minimize the impact of the symptoms and behaviors associated with it. If you don’t work on it, it will work on you. When you start living in the solution, and not the problem, the symptoms and behaviors associated with it can be greatly minimized and less overwhelming.

Three Major Characteristics of Attention Deficit Disorder:

  1. Inattention, a symptom common to both ADD and ADHD includes difficulty maintaining consistent effort and staying on a task because of a rapid loss of interest. Also, the sufferer experiences problems organizing, prioritizing, following instructions, completing work/school work, keeping track of things, and remembering the ordinary daily activities required of them. All of this is wrapped up in the tendency of the ADD person to be very easily distracted by external stimuli.
  2. The Hyperactivity characteristic of attention deficit disorder equates to excessive talking, fidgeting, minor motor restlessness, difficulty listening, and following instructions. Overall, this distracting behavior can be very frustrating for parents and teachers dealing with ADD in children because it seems like the child will never sit still for even a minute. It’s difficult to comprehend this apparent lack of being able to regulate emotions and behaviors due to the faulty wiring in the ADD brain that causes it to get so easily distracted by external stimuli.
  3. The third major trait denoting ADD relates to Impulsivity meaning the patient speaks or behaves with no regard to consequences. This can lead to risky behavior and self-medicating with drugs and/or alcohol. Since impulsiveness can be part and parcel with compulsive behaviors, it’s important to explore the relationship between ADD and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which often overlap.

Abnormalities in the Brains of People with ADD

People with attention deficit order tend to have smaller prefrontal lobes and anterior temporal lobes as well as other brain abnormalities. There are also irregularities with the neurotransmitters dopamine (associated with mood, risk taking, impulsivity, and reward) and norephinephrine (moderates attention, arousal and mood). Improvements in brain scan technology revealed all of these characteristics of attention deficit disorder. So this chemical problem in the ADD brain’s management system is largely responsible for all the disruptive thoughts and behaviors outlined above that makes the ADD person so emotionally unruly.

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Other Salient Characteristics of ADD

A person with ADD is six times more likely to also suffer from another psychiatric or learning disorder. This can cause difficulty in correctly diagnosing people with overlapping symptoms.

More problematic symptoms will vary from person to person. A look at characteristics of Adult ADD will explain some of the differences that are possible between children and adults with the disorder.

Anxiety, mood swings, and poor concentration can also be prevalent in ADD.

Bad parenting doesn’t cause it, but it doesn’t help either.

A Friendly Reminder

There is no correlation between levels of intelligence and having ADD.

Now that you know the major characteristics of attention deficit disorder, perhaps it would be a good idea to read up on the top treatments for ADD. Finally, if you have it, always remember that you are not your disorder. Once you embark upon the best treatment strategies, it’s entirely possible to lead productive, meaningful, and successful lives. You might even come to look at it as a gift because you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to win with an attitude like that.


Virginia Tech: Cook Counseling Center:


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,