What is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental condition that usually causes impulsive actions, hyperactive behavior, or an inability to focus. ADHD occurs in an estimated 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults, and is more often diagnosed in boys than girls. Scientists are not sure what causes ADHD, but genetics may be a significant factor.
Whether diagnosed in childhood or adulthood, ADHD can significantly affect relationships, school or work performance, and quality of life.
What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD?
There are three main types of ADHD, defined by their symptoms: inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, or combined type.
With ADHD of the inattentive type, a person frequently demonstrates some of the following symptoms:
- Inability to pay attention to details
- Makes careless mistakes
- Difficulty focusing on tasks or activities, or paying attention when spoken to
- Does not complete instructions, homework, or other tasks
- Difficulty with organization, such as time management
- Avoids tasks that require focus
- Loses things frequently
- Easily distracted or forgetful
With ADHD of the hyperactive/impulsive type, a person frequently demonstrates symptoms such as:
- Inability to sit still or avoid fidgeting
- Running around or climbing at inappropriate times or places
- Unable to play or do leisure activities quietly
- Constantly in motion
- Excessive talking
- Frequently interrupts others in conversation or activities
- Difficulty waiting in line or taking turns
A person with a combined type of ADHD may demonstrate symptoms from both the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive types.
How do I learn if I have ADHD?
Everyone forgets things, gets distracted, or feels restless sometimes. With ADHD, however, symptoms are usually extreme and frequent enough to affect a person’s relationships and quality of life.
If you believe that you have ADHD, you should first make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss your concerns. ADHD shares some symptoms with other conditions, such as anxiety, so a medical exam can rule out other problems first.
There is no one specific test available to diagnose ADHD. Health providers usually look at the symptoms and how severe they have been in the last six months. The provider may also get input from others, such as your spouse or coworkers, to identify symptoms.
What if my child shows symptoms of ADHD?
For children under age 18, parents or guardians should make an appointment with a pediatrician or other healthcare provider to discuss an ADHD diagnosis. The provider can help rule out other problems that may look similar to ADHD.
At this appointment, your child’s health provider may conduct or recommend the following:
- Hearing test
- Vision test
- Screening for other common disorders, such as learning disabilities, trauma, or seizures
- Taking a health or behavioral history of the child
- Considering input from others, including teachers or other health providers
- Referral to a child psychologist or psychiatrist
Some inattentive or impulsive behaviors are normal in growing children. In most cases, ADHD can only be diagnosed if the symptoms appear before age 7 and last for at least six months. The symptoms also must affect quality of life in at least two of the following areas:
- On the playground
- At home
- Within the community
- In social settings
A child may not have ADHD if he or she only shows symptoms occasionally, or if schoolwork or relationships do not seem to be impaired by his or her symptoms. This is why it’s important to get input on the child’s behavior from several sources, such as teachers, parents, babysitters, friends, or other family members.
What if an adult loved one shows signs of ADHD?
Symptoms of ADHD may change or look different with age. For example, adult hyperactivity may seem like extreme restlessness or activity levels that others cannot keep up with.
ADHD can be a frustrating disorder for both the person with ADHD and their loved ones. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to support your loved one and get them the help they need.
- Gently and privately talk to them about the symptoms that concern you.
- Suggest that your loved one seek professional help for their symptoms.
- Offer to help your loved one contact a healthcare provider.
- Be willing to accompany your loved one to appointments, if appropriate.
- Encourage them to practice good self-care, such as healthy eating, sufficient sleep, and physical activity.
- Educate yourself about the condition and its symptoms, which can help you better respond to the symptoms.
- Avoid speaking about their condition in judgmental tones.
- Ask your loved one how you can best help or support them.
What are the treatments for ADHD?
The most common treatments for ADHD are therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.
Therapy may involve either psychotherapy (also called talk therapy), behavioral therapy, or both.
- With talk therapy, you can discuss the effects of ADHD and how it can be managed.
- Behavioral therapy can help people with ADHD notice and modify their behavior appropriately.
Medications for ADHD can affect brain chemicals and help a person better control their behavior.
- The most common medications prescribed for ADHD are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall. These drugs increase the amounts dopamine and norepinephrine.
- If stimulant medications don’t work or have unpleasant side effects, a doctor may prescribe non-stimulant medications, such as antidepressants, that also can increase norepinephrine.
Among adults with ADHD, 90 percent of those who take a commonly prescribed stimulant can see improved functioning.
The Multimodal Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder study also found that combining intensive medication management and behavioral therapy led to sustained improvements in children.
Getting Tested and Treated for ADHD
The symptoms of different conditions can often overlap, making it easy to misdiagnose a person with ADHD. That’s why MindPath Care Centers offers Neuropsychiatric state-of-the-art technology, cognitive testing, and evaluation for individuals aged 6 years and up.
Effective treatments can also vary, so MindPath Care Centers provides specialized, revolutionary alternatives to help find the best treatment strategy for you or your loved one. After an initial appointment with a special evaluation, our compassionate, experienced professionals will work with you to determine the best treatment method for your needs. Click here to learn more about our Neuropsychiatric services.
MindPath Care Centers also participates in clinical trials with partnered sponsor organizations. These trials help evaluate potential new medications, therapies, or tests for specific mental-health conditions, including ADHD. Click here to learn more about these trials.
Help for Adults and Children With ADHD
Whether you’re concerned for yourself or a loved one with ADHD, you don’t have to struggle alone. Get your questions answered, and get compassionate help you deserve, by contacting the specialists at MindPath Care Centers.
Call us today to schedule an evaluative appointment, or schedule a time to talk.