The History of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

It is important to keep in mind while looking at the history of ADHD that the field of psychology is a fairly new one. Dating back to the late 1800’s the science of psychology is only a little over a century old.


Keeping the previous in mind the first MEDICAL documented case of ADHD can be traced back to 1902.  It was a British doctor named George Still that named the disorder “Defect of Moral Control”.


Various names have been given to the disorder over the years including “Post-Encephalitic Behavior Disorder” in 1922 , “Minimal Brain Dysfunction” in the early 1960’s to “Hyperkinetic Disorder of Childhood” in the late 1960’s.  It was then believe that ADHD was only a childhood disorder that one would outgrow.


In 1937 a pediatrician Dr. Charles Bradley began using stimulant to treat the disorder. However, it was not until 1956 that Ritalin was introduced as a treatment for ADHD. A funny FYI is that Ritalin is also used to treat people with narcolepsy.


In 1968 the disorder was included in the DSM II and we had our first diagnostic criteria.  Despite this diagnostic criteria there was much speculation that ADHD was caused by bad parenting, a poor environment and even sugar.  These speculations have been presently put to rest.


It was not until the 1980’s thanks to the work of Canadian Virginia Douglas that the name Attention Deficit Disorder with or without hyperactivity was given and included in the DSM III.


In 1987 the American Psychiatric Association renamed the disorder Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and it is noted that it was a medical diagnosis.  Despite the 3 sub-types of ADHD (inattentive, impulsive or combined) all 3 types are considered to include hyperactivity as racing thought are viewed as a form of hyperactivity.


In 1998 the American Medical Association stated that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder was one the best researched disorder.


At present there are several forms of stimulants and non stimulants to treat ADHD and Adult ADHD is currently included as a disorder.

About Coach Maddy
Coach Maddy Madeleine Cote is a Montreal ADD/ADHD Coach and has been working with teens, students, adults, parents and groups for over 10 years.

3 Responses to The History of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  1. Maddy — this is probably the most concise history of ADHD’s medical history. Thanks for putting it down “on paper” and sharing.

    Sadly, there remain many skeptics…who would benefit from this reading.


  2. Your post, history of ADHD, history of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Virginia Douglas, Ritalin, ADHD | The Center of Attention for ADD, is really well written and insightful. Glad I found your website, warm regards from Thurman!

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