Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interfere with daily functioning and development.

While symptoms often emerge in childhood, ADHD can persist into adulthood for many individuals, which can affect their broader lives, particularly their study, work and relationships.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Signs & Symptoms

While ADHD begins in childhood and symptoms typically improve as children get older, about 15% continue to have ADHD as adults.

The primary symptoms of ADHD fall into two main categories: inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. According to the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), these symptoms include:


  • Difficulty sustaining attention and concentration
  • Easily distracted by external stimuli
  • Frequent forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Avoidance of tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Losing or misplacing belongings


  • Fidgeting or restlessness
  • Excessive talking or interrupting others
  • Difficulty engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • Acting without considering consequences
  • Inability to wait or take turns

Based on the predominant symptom presentation, ADHD can be classified into three subtypes:

  1. Predominantly Inattentive: Characterised primarily by inattention symptoms.
  2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive: Characterised primarily by hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms.
  3. Combined Presentation: Significant symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.

For a diagnosis of ADHD, symptoms must be present before the age of 12, persist for at least six months, and cause significant impairment in multiple settings (e.g., home, school, work).


ADHD is a complex disorder with no single cause. Instead, it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, neurobiological, and environmental factors.

Genetic Factors

ADHD tends to run in families, and studies have identified several genes that may contribute to the disorder. Australian children with ADHD are more likely to have a parent or sibling with the condition.[1]

Neurobiological Factors

Neuroimaging studies have revealed structural and functional differences in certain brain regions involved in attention, impulse control, and executive functioning in individuals with ADHD.[2] These include differences in the prefrontal cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum.

Environmental Factors

Various environmental factors during pregnancy and early childhood may increase the risk of developing ADHD in Australia, including:

  • Maternal smoking, alcohol or substance use during pregnancy
  • Premature birth or low birth weight
  • Exposure to environmental toxins (e.g., lead)
  • Traumatic brain injury or illness affecting brain development
  • Lack of early nurturing or stimulation

Assessment and Diagnosis

In Australia, ADHD is typically diagnosed by a team of professionals, including a general practitioner (GP), paediatrician, psychologist, and/or psychiatrist. The diagnostic process involves:

  • Comprehensive medical and developmental history
  • Behavioural observations and rating scales completed by parents, teachers, or others
  • Psychological testing to assess cognitive abilities, attention, and executive functioning
  • Ruling out other potential causes or co-occurring conditions

The diagnostic criteria specified in the DSM-5 must be met, including the presence of symptoms before age 12, impairment in multiple settings, and significant functional impairment.

Tips to Manage ADHD

1. Decrease distractions

Set up your workspace to be free from distraction – away from the door (where people come and go), away from the window (and distractions outside), and make sure your workspace is free from clutter, electronic media, and other distractions.

2. Get organised

Use time management and organisational strategies to streamline your day. To help get more organised, you can:

  • set goals
  • write to-do lists, and use these to plan and prioritise tasks for the day
  • use a diary and set reminders for jobs that need doing
  • group similar tasks that can be done together.

3. Break tasks down into smaller chunks

Smaller tasks are easier to complete, easier to organise and are less overwhelming. They are also more easily done while your mind is fresh and before your concentration wanes.

4. Include breaks in activities and tasks

Breaks after work is completed can help you to refocus on the next task.

5. Use problem-solving

Effective problem-solving includes defining a problem you want to work on, brainstorming solutions, selecting a solution and trying it out, and reviewing the outcome.


ADHD is a chronic condition, and effective management often involves a combination of strategies tailored to the individual’s needs. Common treatment approaches include:


Stimulant medications, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dexamphetamine (Dexedrine), are commonly prescribed in Australia to improve attention, focus, and impulse control in individuals with ADHD. Non-stimulant medications, like atomoxetine (Strattera), may also be used in certain cases.


Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and other forms of psychotherapy can help individuals with ADHD develop skills for managing symptoms, improving organisation and time management, and addressing associated emotional and behavioural challenges.

Behavioural Interventions

Parent training and classroom interventions can help establish structured environments and consistent routines to support individuals with ADHD in Australia. Strategies may include reward systems, visual schedules, and accommodations for learning or workplace settings.

Educational Support

Individualised education plans (IEPs) can provide accommodations and support services for students with ADHD in educational settings, such as extra time on tests, preferential seating, or assistance with organisation.

Lifestyle Modifications

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep, can help manage ADHD symptoms. Stress management techniques, such as mindfulness and relaxation strategies, may also be beneficial.


NDIS Support

Individuals with ADHD may be eligible for support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Australia. The NDIS can provide funding for various services and supports, including psychological interventions, occupational therapy, and assistive technology, to help manage the impacts of ADHD and improve daily functioning.

For information about NDIS Psychology Services at Mind Health click here.

With proper treatment and support, individuals with ADHD in Australia can develop strategies to manage their symptoms and lead successful lives.


[1]: Faraone, S. V., Banaschewski, T., Coghill, D., Zheng, Y., Biederman, J., Bellgrove, M. A., … & Franke, B. (2021). The World Federation of ADHD International Consensus Statement: 208 Evidence-based conclusions about the disorder. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 128, 789-818.

[2]: Silk, T. J., Malpas, C., Beare, R., Adamson, C., Vilgis, V., Veluri, R., … & Vance, A. (2019). Brain abnormalities in ADHD: A window into clinical aspects and invivo pathology of the disorder. Current Developmental Disorders Reports, 6(1), 1-14.

For more information and additional references, please consult reputable sources such as the ADHD Australia or the ADHD Foundation.

ADHD Centre, Helpline: 02 9889 5977
The helpline is happy to take call from anywhere within Australia and is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 10:30am and 4:30pm AEST

Seeking Help

If you are finding it difficult to concentrate or focus, and this is affecting your day-to-day life, an assessment should be organised as early as possible with a GP to assess whether ADHD or another health issue might explain your symptoms, and refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for assessment if necessary.

  • Mind Health are highly trained and qualified professionals, skilled in providing effective interventions for a range of mental health concerns, including attention and concentration problems.
  • A Mind Health Clinician can help you to identify and address factors that might be contributing to your difficulty and the most effective ways to address it using techniques based on best available research.
  • Mind Health usually see clients individually, but can also include family members to support treatment where appropriate.

   A medical check-up with a GP might also be helpful to see if there is an underlying health issue.