Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in adults: an overview

Biol Psychiatry. 2000 Jul 1;48(1):9-20. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(00)00889-1.


To assess the validity of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), we reviewed clinical, family, psychopharmacologic, neurobiological, and outcome studies. We found multiple reports describing adults with clinical features highly reminiscent of the childhood ADHD. These adults, who are impulsive, inattentive, and restless, have the clinical "look and feel" of ADHD children. As with their childhood counterparts, many adults with ADHD suffer from antisocial, depressive, and anxiety disorders. They also show clinically significant impairments--histories of school failure, occupational problems, and traffic accidents. Studies of biological features show correspondences between child and adult cases of ADHD. Both show familial aggregation and a characteristic profile of neuropsychologic deficits; an emerging neuroimaging literature suggests that abnormalities in the same brain regions underlie both the child and adult forms of the disorder. Although these converging lines of evidence support the validity of ADHD in adults, follow-up studies of ADHD children have yielded ambiguous results. This ambiguity is in part due to differences in how researchers define the persistence of ADHD, a problem that suggests future research focus on how best to diagnose ADHD in adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / administration & dosage
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / classification
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / complications
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / drug therapy
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / genetics
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / metabolism
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage
  • Comorbidity
  • Desipramine / administration & dosage
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dopamine Agents / administration & dosage
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Methylphenidate / administration & dosage
  • Prognosis
  • Remission, Spontaneous


  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Dopamine Agents
  • Methylphenidate
  • Desipramine
  • Dopamine