What is ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is reported to be one of the most common mental disorders affecting children and teenagers, but can and has also been diagnosed in adults. Someone with ADHD typically exhibits hyperactive behavior (meaning they need to constantly be moving) and are unable to focus. Those with ADHD may also be particularly impulsive, and may even be aggressive. In school-aged kids, the symptoms of ADHD are identified when they are reported to be often disorderly, inattentive, aggressive, reckless or even hostile.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

ADHD is categorized into three distinct types: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, and combined. When a mental health professional diagnoses a patient with one of the three types, it is after examining symptoms over the last six months.

In little ones, ADHD symptoms include very high activity levels, a limited ability to keep attention, and an inability or a lack of desire to stay still for any period of time, but particularly extended time spans. It’s true that it’s natural for most young children to be active and curious, but an ADHD diagnosis comes when the hyperactivity is deemed to be greater than normal for their age, or if their inattention is starting to make their learning, home life, or socializing difficult.

For Inattentive type, six of the following symptoms frequently occur. For people over the age of 17, five of the following symptoms frequently occur:

  • Unable to stay focused on tasks, like homework or a chore
  • Even when spoken to directly, does not seem to be listening
  • Does not follow through on clear instructions
  • Does not pay attention to details
  • Starts tasks but loses focus or interest quickly
  • Is distracted by little things easily and quickly
  • Has a limited ability or desire to organize tasks or time
  • Does not enjoy doing things that require a significant amount of time or effort (like homework for kids, or filling out paperwork for adults)
  • Is forgetful, even daily routine items, like brushing teeth or where the house keys are

For Hyperactive/Impulsive type, six of the following symptoms frequently occur. For those aged 17 and over, five of the following symptoms frequently occur:

  • Runs or climbs instead of walking
  • Fidgets or squirms often when seated
  • Taps hands or feet or is constantly bouncing in place
  • Talks more than most
  • Does not want to remain seated, and cannot stand in line (i.e. in amusement parks or grocery store lanes)
  • Cannot remain quiet in places or during activities when silence is required (i.e. quiet class time in school, or in libraries)
  • May finish people’s sentences or interrupts often, as if they can’t wait to speak

For those diagnosed with Combined type, they exhibit symptoms from both categories.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

There are no blood tests or scans that are used to determine an ADHD diagnosis; rather, a doctor or mental health professionals gathers information provided by caregivers (including parents, guardians and teachers) and then completing a medical evaluation. This evaluation will include hearing screening as well as vision tests, so that other medical problems can be ruled out or handled.

What causes ADHD?

While there have been no known causes of ADHD, some studies have shown that genetics may contribute to an ADHD diagnosis. In families, three out of four kids with ADHD are related to someone within the greater family tree who has ADHD. ADHD has also been known to develop in children who were born prematurely or to mothers who smoked, drank alcohol, or endured extreme stress during pregnancy.

How is ADHD treated in children?

While disruption, hyperactivity and inattention in a school-aged child is most often first reported by teachers, education staff are not responsible for diagnosing ADHD. They can advise parents, who can then turn to their doctors to evaluate the child’s behavior and learning challenges.

If ADHD is diagnosed, doctors may recommend medication, behavioral therapy, social skills training, or psychotherapy. For parents, the doctor may also recommend seeking therapy and support groups.

Many schools are ready and willing to support children with ADHD. While help varies from school to school, you can ask about alternative teaching techniques, a modified curriculum, or changes to classroom and play set-up.

How is ADHD treated in adults?

Because ADHD diagnoses is less common in the adult population, adults do not typically even consider they may have ADHD. However, once an adult seeks the advice of a mental health professional for the possibility of having the disorder, he or she will undergo an extensive medical exam, medical history, and an evaluation of current symptoms, which includes the use an adult rating scale.

Medication and psychotherapy may be suggested to adults with ADHD, or it could be a combination of both. An adult is likely more capable of adopting behavior management strategies, including how to minimize or stay away from distractions, or how to involve family members or friends in a treatment plan.

If you or someone you know has ADHD and you’re seeking more information, contact us today and make an appointment for an initial consultation.

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