What is ADHD?

What is ADHD? thumbnail

what is adhd

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a condition that causes behavioral and cognitive problems. It can cause problems in the workplace, school, and relationships.

In most cases, a diagnosis of ADHD is made by a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. It involves a comprehensive evaluation and may include a review of symptoms and a medical exam and history.

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD is a brain disorder characterized by attention and impulsivity problems. It occurs in about 11 percent of school-age children and persists into adulthood in more than three-quarters of patients.

Many people with ADHD are misdiagnosed because symptoms look like other mental health conditions or because parents or teachers mistake them for emotional or disciplinary problems. Fortunately, ADHD is treatable and can be life-changing.

Kids who get treatment for ADHD often improve in school and in their relationships. They can also gain control of their symptoms by learning to manage their stress and emotions.

As adults, they may find it hard to focus on their work or keep up with their schedules. They may also be impulsive or have trouble setting boundaries with others.

Despite this, they can still lead happy, productive lives. It just takes education, support and a little creativity.

Some people with ADHD have a tendency to focus on things that aren’t interesting or exciting, a symptom called “hyperfocus.” This can be frustrating and confusing for those around them. But it can also be a valuable trait, allowing them to do their best work on projects and tasks they’re passionate about.

Types of ADHD

ADHD can be diagnosed at any age, but it is usually first diagnosed in childhood. Most children are diagnosed between ages 3 and 6.

In the United States, ADHD affects about 9.4% of people, with boys more likely to be affected than girls. Symptoms of ADHD typically start in early childhood and can be severe enough to impact home life, school, and relationships with peers.

The most common form of ADHD is the combined presentation, which includes impulsive and hyperactive behaviors. However, symptoms can change over time.

Medications are used to treat all types of ADHD, but each person may respond differently. Stimulant medications boost the levels of specific chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in the brain that help regulate behavior.

Another form of therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT empowers you to identify unhealthy thoughts and habits and implement unique strategies to replace them with healthy ones.

People with inattentive type ADHD primarily struggle with paying attention and focusing for long periods of time. They may find themselves getting distracted easily or starting projects they can’t finish. They may also fail to pay attention to details or make thoughtless mistakes.

Causes of ADHD

ADHD is a brain disorder that has several possible causes. Genetics, toxins, environment, and environmental stress are all thought to play a role in this common disorder.

Children with ADHD tend to have a shorter attention span than their peers and have problems with concentration. Their brains also have less dopamine, a chemical that is involved with mood, learning, and movement.

Kids with ADHD are also more likely to have learning disabilities, oppositional and defiant behaviors, and mood and anxiety disorders. Doctors often treat these issues along with their ADHD, because they can affect their behavior and make it difficult for them to learn.

In adults, the symptoms of ADHD can also interfere with work and career. They may struggle to stick to a schedule, meet deadlines, or follow corporate rules. They can also have trouble with health and financial problems.

Researchers are trying to find the exact cause of ADHD and identify genes that are related to it. They’ve found one gene that is linked to dopamine receptors in the brain, but more research is needed to understand the role this gene plays in causing ADHD.

How is ADHD Diagnosed?

Diagnosing ADHD requires professionals to look at a variety of symptoms and behavior patterns. These can include inattentiveness, hyperactivity or impulsivity. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition Text Revision (DSM-5-TR) provides guidelines for providers to diagnose ADHD.

Inattentive: Trouble paying attention to things around them, such as people or objects. Also, problems staying focused on tasks and activities. Difficulties with listening and daydreaming.

Hyperactive/impulsive: Difficulties with remaining calm in school or other settings, such as when interacting with peers. Often runs about, climbs or jumps where it is not appropriate. Blurts out an answer before questions are finished, often interrupting conversations or games with others.

Adults and teenagers with this type of ADHD may have trouble playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly, such as reading or writing. They may run about and climb where it is not appropriate or take over other people’s things without permission.

The symptoms of hyperactive/impulsive ADHD may be more severe than those of the inattentive form, and are categorized as “mild,” “moderate” or “severe.” Mild: Few symptoms meet criteria for diagnosis, but they cause a minor impairment in social, school or work settings.

Treatsments for ADHD

There are a number of treatments for ADHD. Medications, behavioral therapies and education can help improve symptoms and lead to better school performance and family life.

The best results are usually achieved with a team approach, including parents, teachers, therapists and physicians. This involves teaching children and teens with ADHD how to cope with their symptoms and learn new ways of handling them.

Stimulant medications are the most common treatment for ADHD and are highly effective in reducing symptoms. They can be taken alone or in combination with behavior therapy.

Non-stimulant medications are less effective at reducing symptoms, but can be tried if stimulants aren’t working. These include atomoxetine (Strattera), clonidine (Kapvay), guanfacine (Intuniv) and bupropion (Wellbutrin).

To begin taking medication, your doctor will prescribe a low dose and monitor how you react to it. You’ll see your health care provider regularly until you find the right dosage and medicine for you or your child.

Several types of psychotherapy can also help. This can include counseling and group therapy. These can be helpful if your child has anxiety, depression or other mental health problems that are coexisting with ADHD.

The goal of treatment is to restore normal functioning in all aspects of your child’s life. For this reason, it is important to work closely with your child’s school and teachers to ensure they understand the condition and have appropriate accommodations in place for students with ADHD.

ADHD in Adults

ADHD is a condition that causes problems in many areas of life. It begins in childhood, but symptoms can continue throughout adulthood.

The disorder is believed to be caused by a mix of differences in brain structure and chemistry. These differences can affect how you think and react.

It may also affect the way your brain forms connections between its different parts. These connections are critical for regulating executive functions, which help you make decisions and control your behavior.

For most people, the disorder responds well to medication and behavioral therapy. These approaches may include behavior management strategies and support from family members.

Stimulant medications are the most commonly prescribed treatment for adults with ADHD. They increase the availability of brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, which help improve attention and self-control.

These medications are usually taken by mouth, but they can be given through an injection or delivered in a patch. They’re safe and unlikely to be addictive, but they can take time to work.

While there are no laboratory tests to diagnose ADHD in adults, a healthcare provider can evaluate your medical history and current symptoms. This evaluation may include a review of your symptoms, a mental health exam and standardized behavior rating scales or checklists.

ADHD Medication

Medications that act on certain brain chemicals, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, may help people manage symptoms of ADHD. Some medications are more effective than others.

Stimulants are the most common type of medication for ADHD. They act on norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain and have a long history of effectiveness.

Short-acting stimulants start working within an hour and take effect around the clock. They are suitable for children and adults and come in generic formulations.

There are two types of stimulants: methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamines. They both cause less side effects than nonstimulants, but they can still have serious heart-related complications.

If a person’s doctor feels that stimulants won’t work or aren’t appropriate, they may prescribe nonstimulants. These medications, such as atomoxetine and antidepressants, work slower than stimulants do.

The right medication and dosage can be difficult to find. Your healthcare provider will try different drugs and doses over time to find the best medication for you or your child. Your doctor will also adjust the dose over time based on your response to the medicine and possible side effects.

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