What is ADHD?

ADHD is a usually congenital and inherited disorder affecting the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. It can cause you to have difficulty with concentrating and to be easily distracted (attention regulation problems), make thoughtless decisions and act too quickly (impulsivity) and be physically overactive or always restless (hyperactivity). ADHD without hyperactivity used to be called ADD.  

Attention problems

  • Easily distracted
  • Difficulty finishing things
  • Switching from one activity to another
  • Lack of overview of main and minor issues
  • Difficulty with planning, organising and making choices
  • Can only read for a short time
  • Only able to concentrate if the subject is very interesting
  • Difficulty listening, absorbing information
  • Difficulty filling out forms, understanding and remembering instructions
  • Forgetful
  • Often loses things
  • Being chaotic



  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Always busy
  • Constantly having to walk
  • A feeling of inner restlessness
  • Fidgeting
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Excessive talking
  • Fanatically playing sports



  • Outbursts of anger
  • Impulse buying
  • Blurting out things: saying what you think
  • Interrupting others
  • Impatience
  • Gambling
  • Binge eating
  • Impulsively entering into or breaking off relationships and jobs



It is logical that, when you suffer from the abovementioned symptoms, life is less successful than you would hope or expect. Yet ADHD as an underlying cause is often not recognised. ADHD is often hidden under a shroud of misunderstanding; people mistake symptoms of ADHD for a weak character, stress intolerance and other psychological factors. For example, as someone with ADHD, you will have probably often been told: “You can concentrate as long as you find it interesting” “If you really need to, you can” “You just have to learn to control yourself better” “If you didn’t drink so much, you would function better” “You’re just a little busy” “If you had a week or so off, you could get your affairs in order”. Adults with ADHD often appear to function at a lower level than one would expect. For example, their schooling level does not match their ability level. And so a downward spiral is initiated: One starts following schooling, training or an educational trajectory that doesn’t match with their abilities. After one or two failures one moves on to a lower type of schooling and if learning really isn’t possible, one leaves school without a diploma. Youths with ADHD are also more prone to truancy, more often involved in conflicts in the classroom and the like. Intense puberty and above average impulsive actions are seen frequently and are detrimental to their (school) career. Typically, secondary school can still be completed fairly well, granted there is a steady family with rules and structure, a secondary school with control over attendance and study support. However, once they go to college or university and live on their own, the structure and control no longer maintained. Chaos in thinking and acting without external compensation often leads to dropping out. The room is a mess, the credits are not earned, financial problems arise and so on. Often, problems also arise at work. In almost every organisation, career progression is accompanied by responsibility and managerial tasks. Long-term goals must be set and achieved. An excellent salesperson is not necessarily a good planner. Concentration problems and impulsiveness do not help when working on long-term goals.   Relationships are strained when people are forgetful and react impulsively instead of diplomatically. A frequently heard complaint from partners is: “It seems as if I have another child”. Outsourcing all tasks that require planning and organisation exhausts the partner. Forgetfulness and inattention are often experienced as being inconsiderate or, worse, as being unreliable.   Substances are used much more than average to calm down or improve concentration. Alcohol temporarily helps to combat inner restlessness. Long-term and excessive use of substances, however, can make people more restless, reduce the quality of their sleep and lead to addiction problems. Smoking, cocaine, speed, caffeine – in short, all stimulants – initially also help to keep maintained a sort of clear and less chaotic mind. THC initially combats restlessness and sleep problems but makes one even more chaotic and forgetful.   Problems with the household is yet another area of dysfunction. At work, there is often still an external or imposed structure. The planning must be followed, attendance is determined at fixed times, if one does not have an overview themself, there is a boss, in a higher function, perhaps even one’s own secretary. Running your own household means planning, arranging and carrying out things yourself. Your own time must be allocated and there must be coordination with family members. It is precisely this “freedom” that calls for skills that adults with ADHD generally lack. Consequently, these adults with ADHD become overtired and overstrained. Many adults with ADHD have been negatively impacted through the course of their lives because of a multitude of experiences of failure. It goes without saying that this is bad for ones self-confidence. Not starting something anymore because you have failed so many times to finish it, is often seen. A certain hypersensitivity to criticism also easily develops.  

Adults with ADHD?

ADHD in adults has not been recognised in the Netherlands for very long. For a long time, it was even thought that ADHD was by definition a childhood disorder. In the DSM, the manual for psychiatry, the characteristics were formulated as “childish”. It has also long been thought that you grow out of it.  

Is ADHD a fad?

ADHD is a relatively new explanation for long-standing problems within and outside of psychiatry. In 1934 Kahn and Cohen published about behavioral problems in youth that continue into adulthood. In 1937 Bradley demonstrated that dexamphetamine, a drug still prescribed today for ADHD, calmed restless children. Back then, it was called children with organic driveness. In the Netherlands, too, research into and descriptions of ADHD-like images are very old. For example, Timo Bolt writes in the book “From nervous to hyperactive” about restlessness and nervosity. Around 1900, syndromes that strongly resemble today’s ADHD appeared everywhere in medical literature. From 1960, the term MDB (Minimal Brain Damage) came into vogue. On the website of Medisch Contact you can find an excellent article about recent reports on ADHD, titled “ADHD certainly not a fad“.  

Further reading about ADHD?

Through the links below you can reach a lot of (scientific) information about ADHD:

  Patient associations: