Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a huge issue in the US. Over ten percent of children aged 5-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. And approximately five percent of adults also have it, though fewer adults are diagnosed and treated for it.
For starters, we want to clarify some confusing information about ADHD and ADD. ADHD used to be called ADD, but then it was changed to include the H, which stands for “Hyperactivity.” (Some sources still use the term ADD to refer to ADHD.) Both adults and children can have ADHD; however, the disorder always begins in childhood. In other words, every adult who has ADHD also had it as a child. (But many adults may not have been diagnosed as children, and therefore don’t realize that they have ADHD as adults.)
Diagnosis of ADHD can be particularly tricky because the symptoms often overlap with other mental health issues. There are three main symptoms associated with ADHD: Inattention, Hyperactivity, and Impulsivity. Here are the definitions of those symptoms from the National Institute of Mental Health:
• Inattention means a person wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized; and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension.
• Hyperactivity means a person excessively fidgets, taps, moves about, or talks, even in situations in which such behavior is inappropriate. In adults, hyperactivity can be characterized as extreme restlessness, or a tendency to wear others out with constant activity.
• Impulsivity means a person acts on hastily-made decisions that occur in the moment, without much forethought, even when these actions may have high potential for harm. Impulsivity can also be identified by a desire for immediate rewards, or an inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive, excessively interrupting others. They may also tend to make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences.
There are three types of diagnosis that people with ADHD can receive: Inattentive ADHD, Hyperactivity-Impulsivity ADHD, or Combined ADHD. Each diagnosis specifies which aspects of ADHD are predominant for the person receiving the diagnosis.
Part of what is tricky about diagnosis is that, as mentioned earlier, the symptoms of ADHD can overlap with other problems and/or normal reactions to everyday life. For that reason, doctors who diagnose ADHD are looking for several indicators:
• Behavior that’s not typical for the person’s age. (Most children can behave in those ways at some point or another, though.)
• Behavior that has a negative impact on the person’s ability to function at home, in social environments, or at work.
• A consistent display of at least six separate symptoms.
• Symptoms that last for at least 6 months, and in at least two settings, such as at home and in school.
Certain existing myths about ADHD often confuse people, leading to misunderstandings, and even preventing some people from seeking help. One common misunderstanding has to do with focus. It is true that, for many people, ADHD manifests through the inability to maintain focus. But ADHD can also mean that someone is hyper-focused:
”People who think ADD means having a short attention span misunderstand what ADD is,” says Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., a psychologist in Silver Spring, Maryland, and the author of ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life. “A better way to look at it is that people with ADD have a disregulated attention system.”
Children might display hyper focus through intensive video game playing, or through watching TV for long hours. Likewise for adults — but hyper focus can also show up in almost any activity. Whichever activity holds that person’s focus, it will fully monopolize their attention for hours at a time, often until something or someone interrupts the thought process.
Another common misconception about ADHD is that mostly boys and men have it. It is true that a higher percentage of boys are currently diagnosed, but this is largely due to the fact that ADHD has only been recognized in girls and women for the last few decades. And while more boys than girls are currently diagnosed, by the time these children reach adulthood, the disparity between the genders equal out.
Luckily, treatment of ADHD is becoming increasingly advanced. Many people (both children and adults) who are diagnosed with ADHD can learn to manage it through medication and therapy.The main causes of ADHD include: genetics, brain injury, exposure to environmental toxins (e.g., lead) during pregnancy or at a young age, alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, premature delivery, and a low birth weight.
If you or someone you know displays the symptoms above, it would be worthwhile to consider looking into ADHD, and to talk to your doctor.
We want to hear from you!
• What are your experiences with ADHD?
• Do you know anyone who has ADHD? What has their experience been like?
• Have they received successful treatment?
• Or do you have ADHD? What has your experience been?
• Did this article clarify any information for you about ADHD? What were your previous misconceptions about it?
• Do you still have questions about ADHD?
Please leave your thoughts and comments below! And thank you for sharing!