The definition of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and the name of the problem itself has evolved over the years. The first descriptions of the disorder date back to the eighteenth century. At that time, the Scottish physician Alexander Crichton attempted to define attention. He pointed out that difficulties in focusing it could be associated with poor academic persistence and the need to adjust pedagogical demands.

More than a century later, in 1902, English paediatrician George Still described hyperactivity in a child. He recognised that its symptoms included:

  • problems maintaining attention;
  • hyperactivity;
  • excessive emotionality.

In 1968, the second edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM diagnostic manual included a clinical entity called childhood hyperkinetic reaction. It was described as a disorder characterised by:

  • excessive activity;
  • restlessness;
  • short attention span.

The name attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was first used in 1994, in the fourth edition of the DSM.

In 1967, the World Health Organisation’s ICD classification of diseases in Europe described a disorder called hyperkinetic syndrome. The term was subsequently changed to hyperkinetic disorder. The eleventh revision of the WHO classification, which came into force in 2022, describes the clinical entity attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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