Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterised by a persistent pattern of problems with focussing or maintaining attention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity, compared to others of the same age, which interferes with functioning or development.

  • inattention refers to a difficulty in maintaining attention and can present as difficulties with organisation, completing tasks, being distracted or forgetful
  • hyperactivity refers to a need to move about constantly, extreme restlessness, excessive fidgeting, or talking including in situations where it is not appropriate
  • impulsivity refers to a pattern of hasty actions or decisions without thinking about the consequences; impulsivity can also be seen as social intrusiveness and frequently interrupting others

ADHD typically presents in childhood but can continue across the life-span. Around 5% of children meet criteria for an ADHD diagnosis and it is more commonly seen in males with a 2:1 ratio of males to females.  Individuals living with ADHD often experience other mental health challenges with high rates of concurrent mood, anxiety and sleep disorders.

In Australia, as in the USA and the UK, the diagnosis, treatment and management of ADHD is predominantly undertaken by Paediatricians. ADHD is one of the most common reasons for visiting a Paediatrician in Australia4 and approximately 92% of individuals living with ADHD work with a Paediatrician to manage their symptoms.6

ADHD medications are the least prescribed class of psychotropic drugs in Australia7 and approximately only 30% of those diagnosed with ADHD are prescribed medication.3,7 While a number of treatments are available, around 25% of those living with ADHD do not respond to these medications.1,2 In addition, while current treatments can improve outcomes, they don’t necessarily address all aspects of the disorder and can have side effects.5 Because of this, we continue to work on identifying risk factors that influence ADHD with the aim of better understanding the disorder and identifying potential treatment targets. 


  • understanding the experiences of individuals living with ADHD
  • understanding the experiences of parents and family members caring for those living with ADHD
  • identifying genetic and environmental risk factors that influence ADHD
  • assessing ADHD in low and middle income countries




  1. Biederman, J. (1997). Treatment of ADHD with an emphasis on stimulant medication. The evaluation and treatment of ADHD in pediatrics, Boston, MA.
  2. Biederman, J., et al. (1999). Systematic chart review of the pharmacologic treatment of comorbid attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in youth with bipolar disorder. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology 9(4): 247-256.
  3. Charles, J., et al. (2011). Management of children’s psychological problems in general practice 1970-1971, 1990-1991 and 2008-2009. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 45(11): 976-984.
  4. Chow, S. J., et al. (2013). Paediatricians’ decision making about prescribing stimulant medications for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Child Care Health Dev.
  5. Faraone, S. V., et al. (2008). Effect of stimulants on height and weight: a review of the literature. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 47(9): 994-1009.
  6. Preen, D. B., et al. (2008). Prescribing of psychostimulant medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children: differences between clinical specialties. Med J Aust 188(6): 337-339.
  7. Stephenson, C. P., et al. (2013). Trends in the utilisation of psychotropic medications in Australia from 2000 to 2011. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 47(1): 74-87.