Scientific American presents Savvy Psychologist by Quick & Dirty Tips. Scientific American and Quick & Dirty Tips are both Macmillan companies.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), once thought to be the fault of lousy parents or a conspiracy propagated by drug companies, is a brain-based disorder, and quite the disorderly disorder it can be.

The part of the brain affected is called the prefrontal cortex, which lies directly behind the forehead.  It is responsible for “executive functioning,” which includes attention, planning, problem solving, decision-making, and reasoning.  Trouble with executive functioning translates into two groups of symptoms:

Group #1: Inattention.  Symptoms like disorganization, messiness, forgetfulness, and losing things drive parents of inattentive kids and partners of inattentive adults up the wall.  Other signs include not paying attention to details, distractibility, spacing out, daydreaming, not following through, and trouble focusing on tedious tasks.  Also difficult for an individual with inattention is prioritizing what’s happening around them. For example, for a kid with ADHD, the TV in the background and the garbage truck outside seem just as important as the homework in front of them. Individuals with these symptoms are said to have ADHD Predominately Inattentive Type, which is the most common type among girls.

Continue reading on