Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 July 2014
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD; American Psychiatric Association, 1994) is the most recent in a long line of diagnostic labels used to describe individuals who display developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity. Prior to 1994, children displaying many of these same behavioral features might have been identified as having attention deficit disorder (ADD), hyperkinetic reaction of childhood, or minimal brain dysfunction. Although confusing to some, such changes in diagnostic terminology have not been without purpose. On the contrary, each labeling change has reflected important changes in the conceptualization of this disorder.
As recently as 15 years ago, it was not unusual to find people – lay individuals and healthcare professionals alike – who believed that AD/HD was a condition limited to childhood. Hence, the advice often given to parents was: “Hang in there, once children reach the teen years, they outgrow their AD/HD.” We now know that nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does AD/HD occur during adolescence, it can also be found among a significant number of adults. In light of this finding, most experts in the field today view AD/HD to be a chronic condition that persists across the lifespan (Weiss and Hechtman, 1993; Barkley, 1998).
Of what relevance is cognitive therapy to the clinical management of AD/HD? To answer this question, it is first necessary to have a better understanding of what AD/HD is, and howit presents itself across the lifespan.