ADHD is a chronic disorder of the brain that creates long-term difficulties for those who have it.
The disorder can make it hard to focus, sit still, and pay attention in daily life. Other diseases have similar symptoms, but ADHD does not change with your emotional state as can happen with conditions like anxiety or being sleep deprived.
Simultaneously, not everyone who has ADHD has the same set of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe.
It is vital to remember that ADHD is a medical condition—not a character flaw as is sometimes perceived when someone is unable to focus or sit still because they have ADHD.
ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood between the ages of three and six. About five percent of children in the United States, and the world at large, have ADHD.
Boys are diagnosed more often than girls at a rate of about eight to one. Though children are most often diagnosed with ADHD, you can have ADHD as a teen and adult.
However, symptoms of ADHD may ease after adolescence.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF ADHD AND THEIR SYMPTOMS?
There are three main types of ADHD, each according to patterns in how symptoms are presented:
- inattentive and distractible (also known as oblivious)
Hyperactive-impulsive is the least common type of ADHD. People who have this type of ADHD can have any number of hyperactivity and impulsiveness symptoms.
Those with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD do not necessarily have all of them but their unique combination of symptoms.
They might feel restless and fidget. They might move around in a rush even when they should be still or remain seated.
They might talk too much and interrupt others, often in inappropriate situations. They might not be able to relax and might annoy others with their behavior.
They might also act in haste without carefully considering the consequences, especially when they might receive some reward.
They might blurt something out without thinking, such as socially inappropriate speech.
They might make quick decisions based on their feelings at the moment without thinking ahead.
They might struggle to wait for their turn and often interrupt others. In an education setting, they might answer before the questions are completed.
Inattentive and distractible
When people have the inattentive and distractible type of ADHD, they can have any following symptoms.
As with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, people with the inattentive and distractible type of ADHD do not necessarily have all of the following symptoms but their unique combination.
They might have trouble concentrating and might be easily distracted. Also, they might not easily follow directions, focus on tasks, or organize tasks.
Sometimes, they might go as far as to avoid tasks that require a lot of mental focus. They might be often forgetful and lose important objects like car keys or homework.
They might make careless mistakes and do not pay close attention to details. They can also appear not to listen when spoken to.
Sometimes, specific inattentive and distractible symptoms are mistaken for defiance or the inability to comprehend, though ADHD causes them.
When people have the combined type of ADHD, they have at least six symptoms of each of the other types.
Most of the children who are diagnosed with ADHD have a mixed version of the disorder.
Though symptoms of ADHD may be found in normal children, those who have ADHD are different because they experience these symptoms in a way that interferes with every day, daily life.
They share the behaviors more intensely and in multiple settings.
People with ADHD, especially those with moderate to severe ADHD, often have other medical issues, including depression, anxiety, learning disabilities, and substance abuse disorders.
These issues should be diagnosed and treated to ensure success in treating the symptoms of ADHD.
HOW IS ADHD DIAGNOSED?
To be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms must be present for at least six months. They must be frequent and severe, considering the stage of development.
They also must interfere with daily life. The symptoms do not just occur at school or work but also at home and in social situations.
Though a professional medical diagnoses ADHD through an understanding of the patient’s behavior, medical testing also often takes place.
This testing should ensure that the symptoms are not part of an unrelated condition.
For example, inattention may come from vision or hearing issues, so getting vision or hearing tests can rule out these causes.
A psychiatric assessment usually occurs to ensure that a mood or behavior disorder is not mistaken for ADHD.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF ADHD?
The exact causes of ADHD are unknown. ADHD seems to run in families, suggesting a genetic link.
You are far more likely to get ADHD if a parent or sibling has the disorder.
Environmental factors may also be involved. If a mother smokes tobacco products and uses drugs while pregnant, her child is more likely to have ADHD.
The usage of tobacco and the consummation of alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of ADHD in the child.
Children exposed to toxins, like lead in paint in old buildings, are also more likely to develop the symptoms of ADHD.
Brain disorders and injuries can increase the chances of having ADHD as well.
Though it was previously believed that eating sugar played a role in ADHD, that is no longer the case.
However, studies show that some people with ADHD find their symptoms worsened when consuming certain types of food additives like food coloring.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS FOR ADHD?
Treatment for ADHD usually consists of a combination of therapy and medication.
Training programs, biofeedback, and dietary changes can also help those with ADHD.
Though treatment can help control and manage the symptoms, it is not a cure. There is no cure for ADHD.
Therapy for ADHD includes behavior therapy that helps those with ADHD recognize unwanted behaviors and make changes to alter them.
Therapy can help with improving organizational skills, managing time, controlling impulses and anger, and cultivating social skills.
Therapy can also assist with emotional issues and understanding how ADHD affects you.
Common ADHD medications include Adderall, Dexedrine, and Ritalin. These medications are stimulants that work to correct imbalances in brain chemistry.
They can reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and increase the ability to pay attention.
However, such ADHD medications offer no long-term benefits and can come with side effects, including increased hypertension and heart rate, changes in appetite, sleep problems, and increased anxiety.
Those who do not react well to stimulants can be given non-stimulants, such as guanfacine, clonidine, and atomoxetine.
These non-stimulant medications can help improve focus and reduce impulsivity without the side effects of stimulants. However, they take longer to work than stimulants.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ADHD?
ADHD can present frustrating challenges for affected persons and their families. Being patient with yourself or a person with the disorder can help manage ADHD.
Eating healthy foods, removing distractions, keeping a set sleeping schedule, and reducing stress can go a long way in successfully managing the disorder.
“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 11, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/index.html (accessed October 21, 2018).
“Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml (accessed October 21, 2018).
“What Is ADHD?” American Psychiatric Association. July 2017. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/adhd/what-is-adhd (accessed October 21, 2018).