Is ADHD Hereditary?

Reviewed on 9/23/2022
Woman helping her daughter do homework
ADHD tends to run in families and parents and siblings of people who have ADHD are more likely to have ADHD themselves.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder of childhood characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Symptoms may continue into adulthood. 

About 8 to 10 percent of children aged 4 to 17 years have ADHD and the disorder occurs two to four times more often among boys than girls.

The cause of ADHD is unknown, but it is thought to be hereditary, and genetics are believed to play a role. ADHD tends to run in families and parents and siblings of people who have ADHD are more likely to have ADHD themselves.

The way ADHD is inherited is complex and it is not believed to be related to a single genetic defect.

Other potential causes and risk factors for developing ADHD may include:

What Are Symptoms of ADHD?

It is common for children to have difficulty focusing and behaving from time to time, but children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) do outgrow these behaviors and symptoms can cause difficulty at school, at home, and with friends.

Symptoms of ADHD include: 

  • Hyperactivity
    • Frequently restless
    • Excessive fidgeting or squirming
    • Difficulty remaining seated
    • Excessive talking
    • Difficulty playing quietly
    • Seems to always be “on the go”
  • Impulsivity
    • Disruptive classroom behavior
    • Difficulty waiting turns
    • Blurting out answers too quickly
    • Intruding on or interrupting others' activities
    • Difficulty getting along with others/rejection by classmates
    • Unnecessary risk-taking
    • Difficulty resisting temptation
    • Unintentional injury
  • Inattention
    • Being easily distracted
    • Disorganization
    • Underachievement in school
    • Forgetfulness
    • Losing or misplacing things
    • Making careless mistakes
    • Poor follow-through with assignments or tasks
    • Lack of attention to detail
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Daydreaming

How Is ADHD Diagnosed?

There is no single test used to diagnose ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Doctors must first rule out other possible conditions that may have similar symptoms. Tests may include a medical exam and hearing and vision tests.

The diagnostic criteria defined by the American Psychiatric Association for ADHD includes:

  • Symptoms must be present in more than one setting (e.g., school and home)
  • Symptoms must persist for at least six months
  • Symptoms must be present before the age of 12 years
  • Symptoms must impair function in academic, social, or occupational activities
  • Symptoms must be excessive for the age of the child
  • Other mental disorders that could account for the symptoms must be excluded

What Is the Treatment for ADHD?

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is usually treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. 

Behavioral treatments are generally recommended for preschool-aged children before medications are prescribed. School-aged children with ADHD usually do well with a stimulant medicine in addition to behavioral treatments and counseling if needed. 

Medications do not cure ADHD, and behavioral treatments are usually necessary so a child can learn to follow rules, stay motivated, and work well with others. 

Medications used to treat ADHD include: 

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Reviewed on 9/23/2022

Image source: iStock Images