What is ADHD?
ADHD is a disorder that causes problems with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. It affects kids and adults alike.
The exact cause is not known, but it seems to run in families. ADHD is also linked to certain medical conditions and traumatic experiences.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
ADHD is a condition that affects children in different ways. Those who have it tend to struggle to pay attention, listen to others and follow instructions. They also may be more fidgety or impulsive than others.
Symptoms of ADHD usually begin in childhood, but can last into adulthood. The condition doesn’t get better as you grow up, and can lead to problems with schoolwork or relationships.
Inattention and hyperactivity are the most common symptoms in young children with ADHD. These symptoms can include being unable to stay seated or focus on a task. They may squirm or fidget excessively, talk too much or leave their seat in class or at work.
If you think you or someone you know may have ADHD, talk to your medical health care professional. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, at least six of the following symptoms must impair daily functioning in two or more settings to qualify for a diagnosis.
Types of ADHD
ADHD has many different types, and each type has a set of symptoms that physicians use to diagnose it. These are called “presentations” in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).
Historically, the disorder was called attention deficit disorder or ADD. This was a broad diagnosis that also referred to hyperactive and impulsive behavior.
However, changes in the DSM-V have changed this title to ADHD. Now, patients are diagnosed with one of three presentations: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, or combined.
Inattentive presentation: People with this type have difficulty paying attention to what’s going on around them, and find it hard to focus on tasks for long periods of time. They may forget their belongings, such as keys or cell phones, and may have trouble following instructions or completing work.
It’s important to note that the inattentive presentation is more common in children and adolescents than it is in adults. This is because the brain doesn’t develop at the same pace for everyone.
The impulsive and hyperactive presentation is also more common in children, but it is less frequent as kids get older. These children are often seen bouncing off the walls and interrupting others mid-sentence.
Causes of ADHD
Many factors may contribute to the development of ADHD, including genetics (heritable) and non-genetic risk factors. Some risk factors include low birth weight, traumatic head injuries during childhood, exposure to toxins in the environment (such as alcohol, tobacco or lead), and extreme stress in pregnancy.
ADHD is often diagnosed in children when they start to disrupt school or social activities and have problems completing tasks or following instructions. As a child ages, their symptoms can change or get worse.
Having a parent with ADHD can also increase the chance of developing the disorder. However, not every family has a member with ADHD.
Another possible cause of ADHD is a learning disability. About 20 to 60% of children with ADHD have learning disabilities that affect reading, writing, or math.
Parents can help their children with the condition by setting limits, talking to teachers and following through with discipline. They can also encourage their children’s strengths and talents, such as sports or extracurricular activities.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
If you suspect your child may have ADHD, the first step is to talk to a doctor. This doctor can be a mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist or a primary care provider, like a pediatrician.
The doctor will want to ask you and your child about what symptoms they’re experiencing, how long the symptoms have been present, and how they affect you and your child’s life. This information will help the doctor make an accurate diagnosis.
You or your child will also be asked to fill out a rating scale checklist of your or your child’s symptoms. This can help the doctor determine whether or not they are consistent with those of someone who has ADHD.
Your doctor may use other standardized behavior rating scales, as well. This can help rule out other conditions, such as depression or anxiety, that have similar symptoms.
In some cases, your doctor might want to get input from people who know you or your child, such as your spouse, a sibling or a parent. This can reveal a lot of information that can’t be culled from a questionnaire.
Once the diagnosis is made, the doctor will discuss treatment options with you and your child. These treatments can include medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Treatsments for ADHD
There are a number of treatment options available for ADHD. These include medicines and other therapies. Often these therapies can be used in conjunction with one another.
Medication is the most common way to treat ADHD. It works by targeting two brain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine. The most popular drugs for ADHD are stimulants, which act quickly to boost your focus and concentration. Stimulants can be taken once or twice a day.
Non-stimulants are also available, including atomoxetine (Strattera), clonidine (Kapvay), and guanfacine (Intuniv). These medications take up to a few weeks to start working, so your doctor will prescribe them at low doses until they start helping.
Counseling is another type of therapy that may be useful for patients with ADHD. It can help them learn new coping skills and change habits that are causing problems.
Psychoeducation is a type of counseling that helps you understand and make sense of your symptoms of ADHD. It can also be helpful in coping with life events and stressors related to your condition.
Behavioral therapy is an approach that uses strategies to encourage positive behaviors and discourage negative ones. It is typically provided by a psychologist or other mental health professional. Parents can also benefit from this type of therapy, which can help strengthen the parent-child relationship.
ADHD in Adults
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can affect adults as well. Many people with ADHD outgrow the condition, but others struggle with symptoms that remain even in adulthood.
Adults who are diagnosed with ADHD have a number of different treatment options available to them. The key is to talk with a health care professional who has experience treating the condition.
One type of therapy that has been shown to be effective in improving ADHD symptoms and related mental health conditions is psychotherapy, also called “talk therapy.” Individual or group psychotherapy can help individuals with ADHD learn new coping skills, improve self-esteem, and develop more positive relationships.
Another type of treatment is medication, which can help individuals with ADHD focus and control their impulses. Medication can include a variety of types of drugs, including stimulants and nonstimulants.
In addition, certain medications can help manage the side effects of ADHD, such as sleep difficulties and depression. Antidepressants and antipsychotics can help treat these symptoms as well.
Medications can be used for both children and adults with ADHD, and the condition usually responds well to medication. Medications are prescribed by a doctor, often in conjunction with behavioral therapies.
ADHD medications can help you focus on tasks and ignore distractions. They can also reduce impulsive behavior, improve social skills and decrease hyperactivity.
Stimulant drugs are the most common treatment for ADHD, but other options may be available depending on your needs. If you’re having trouble focusing or getting things done, you and your doctor can work together to find the right medication.
A stimulant medicine typically works in your body within an hour. It can be taken as a tablet, liquid or oral solution. Most people take a pill once a day.
The side effects of stimulants can vary from person to person. Some people may experience headaches, dizziness, drowsiness and upset stomach. Others may get tics, which are sudden movements or sounds that are not normal.
In addition to medication, many people with ADHD receive therapy, such as parent training and behavioral classroom intervention. These therapies are often used in conjunction with ADHD medication to get the best results.
Non-stimulant ADHD medicines, like atomoxetine (Strattera), guanfacine (Intuniv) and clonidine (Kapvay), are an alternative to stimulants. They are slower to start working than stimulants, but they can be effective if you don’t want to take a stimulant or if a stimulant causes unpleasant side effects.
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