Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent chronic condition that affects people of all ages, including young children, school-aged children, adolescents, and adults. Symptoms can be noted as early as preschool age, tend to progress into functional impairment and behavioral problems in later childhood, and typically persist into adulthood. Contrary to previous belief, the disorder does not resolve with puberty for the majority of children; rather, the symptoms are manifested differently throughout the lifecycle. Presentation in adults is heavily biased toward inattentive symptoms, which are less likely to draw notice than hyperactive or impulsive symptoms and may contribute to the underrecognition of ADHD in this patient population. Diagnosis is particularly difficult due in large part to the pronounced comorbidity of psychiatric disorders in this patient population. Identification may be even more difficult in adults than children as the diagnostic criteria are not as clear, adults have difficulty remembering symptoms prior to 7 years of age, and there is a high prevalence of comorbid psychiatric disorders in adults. Early identification and treatment of symptoms of ADHD in preschool-age children is essential to effective long-term management of the disorder. Both medication and behavioral treatments appear to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD, and evidence suggests that discontinuation of treatment leads to the reemergence of the condition. Efforts are currently continuing toward understanding the genetic underpinnings of ADHD.
This expert review supplement will address the prevalence, comorbidity, treatment issues, and special considerations surrounding ADHD management throughout each stage of the lifecycle beginning with ADHD in preschool-aged children, continuing with school-aged children and adolescents, and ending with adulthood.