What Is the History of ADHD?


Quick Answer

While the term attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, was not recognized until 1987, a similar condition called hyperkinetic impulse disorder was mentioned by a British pediatrician in 1902, notes Healthline. Since that time, the descriptions of and medications for the disorder have evolved.

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British doctor Sir George Still described a defect in children that led to poor moral control of their behavior, though he noted these children were just as intelligent as others, states Healthline. The American Psychiatric Association issued its first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1952 but made no mention of the condition, though an updated version in 1968 included hyperkinetic impulse disorder. The organization released a third version of the manual in 1980 and included attention deficit disorder, or ADD, with subheadings that described the condition and subtypes, both with and without accompanying hyperactivity.

The 1987 version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders did not contain the distinction related to hyperactivity, and the disorder was renamed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The fourth edition of the manual in 2000 established combined type ADHD, predominantly inattentive type ADHD and predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD as the three subtypes of the disorder.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Benzedrine in 1936, and Dr. Charles Bradley found that it improved the behavior and school performance of children, notes Healthline. The agency approved Ritalin in 1955, which is still used to treat ADHD, as of 2015.

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