ADD/ADHD Facts & Characteristics

  • On this web page, the terms ADD and ADHD will be used interchangeably because the information applies to individuals who may or may not have hyperactive traits.
    • Brain imaging research has consistently demonstrated that several areas of the brain are smaller in individuals who have ADD traits. These areas include the right frontal cortex, the basal ganglia, the cerebellum, the corpus callosum and the anterior cingulate cortex. Essentially, these underdeveloped regions in the brain contribute to the symptoms associated with ADHD; the smaller the brain region, the more severe the symptoms tend to be.  These areas of the brain are responsible for things like self-awareness, time management, emotional regulation, behavioral control, and sustaining attention and motivation.    Additional research has also shown that the pathways in the brain that allow different regions to communicate with each other tend to send weaker signals in individuals with ADHD. Those pathways that help  us to focus on tasks and think further into the future are weak and underdeveloped.  In addition, brain imaging research  has shown that it is common for the daydreaming network to interrupt the area of their brain working on tasks, causing a loss of attention, especially if the individual is not actively engaged in the task.  

    • There is a general consensus among professionals in the field of ADHD research that this condition is associated with weaknesses in the ability to self-regulate.  Self-restraint ( inhibition), self-speech (talking to yourself), and self-awareness (self-directed attention) are all forms of self-regulation.  These traits are also commonly referred to as "executive functions."  
    • Individuals with ADD traits tend to focus more on the present, rather than the future. This is one of the reasons why immediate gratification is so important, why delaying gratification is so difficult and why time management is so poor. As the average individual ages, attention tends to be less externally focused and more internally focused.  In other words, thinking tends to guide behavior, more than the environment.  Unfortunately, individuals with ADD struggle with turning their attention back on themselves because they are responding to, or distracted by, events going on around them and they have great difficulty suppressing the need to respond to the irrelevant.  Shifting behaviors or slowing down when mistakes are encountered requires that one consciously direct attention back to oneself.  This is a great challenge for individuals with ADHD.
    • Individuals with ADD do not necessarily have a poor memory, rather their visual field becomes more compelling than what they have in mind. When people with ADHD are distracted, they have greater difficulty returning back to the task at hand.  This is one of the reasons why accomplishing goals and sticking to a plan can be so challenging.  One's "working memory" is another way of saying that you are able to hold goals or thoughts in your mind as a means of guiding your behavior in both the present and the future. 
    • Research conducted by Russell Barkley has found that for those children who are clinically diagnosed with ADHD, 50-80% will continue to have symptoms into adolescence and 50-75% may continue to have some symptoms that will cause some impairment in adulthood.