What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental health condition. It can affect children, teens and adults.
ADHD is caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Symptoms usually start in childhood.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition that affects how a person acts and reacts. It can cause problems with schoolwork, social relationships, and employment. It can also make people more anxious or depressed and lead to substance abuse.
Symptoms of ADHD tend to appear during childhood and persist through adolescence. These symptoms can include academic failure, driving problems, and difficulty with peer relationships.
For example, a child may lose his or her pencils or book or have trouble remembering instructions during tasks. They may also be easily distracted by things such as noises or events that are usually ignored by others.
They may squirm in their seat or talk a lot, even though they are supposed to be listening to a story or playing with a toy. They may also run around or climb when it is not appropriate for them to do so.
If you think you or a family member might have ADHD, it is important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. Getting an accurate diagnosis can help you find treatment that can reduce or eliminate some of the symptoms. It can also help you understand some of your strengths that could be leveraged in coping with the challenges you experience.
Types of ADHD
There are three main types of ADHD: hyperactive, impulsive and inattentive. These are commonly referred to as subtypes and are described as “presentations” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V).
The most common type is called inattentive ADHD. People with this type of ADHD have trouble maintaining focus and paying attention for long periods of time.
They are also often forgetful and easily distracted. For example, they may miss important appointments or forget to return birthday cards on time.
Another common symptom is that they often get up and move around excessively. For instance, a child might get up from their desk in the middle of class and leave before the teacher can ask them to sit down again.
These behaviors can be very disruptive to others and the environment. They can be a challenge for teachers and parents to manage.
People with hyperactive type ADHD are frequently referred to as “jumpers” or “on the go.” They tend to fidget and squirm constantly, or act as if they are running around and “driven by a motor.” For adults, this can cause problems in meetings, dinner parties, and other social events. They might talk nonstop, interrupt others, or blurt out answers before they have completed a question.
Causes of ADHD
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how the brain works. It involves a difference in the way the frontal lobe develops. This impacts how a person understands cause-and-effect, changes habits, and learns from mistakes.
Children typically master these skills as they grow and are taught by parents and teachers. But some kids never get better at paying attention, settling down, listening, or waiting their turn.
They may also have trouble focusing on tasks, being impulsive, or acting out in a variety of ways. If these behaviors are not getting better and are affecting their daily lives, it may be time to talk to your doctor.
Adults with ADHD often suffer from a range of difficulties, including career problems, social anxiety, financial struggles, and physical health issues. They may also find themselves suffering from depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem.
There are several risk factors for developing ADHD, including being born prematurely or having a parent who has it. Some environmental toxins can also increase the likelihood of developing ADHD, especially in women who smoke during pregnancy.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of ADHD is usually made by a physician, psychologist or other mental health professional. The evaluation may involve a series of tests and interviews with parents, teachers, caregivers, and other people who have cared for the child.
The evaluation also includes a review of school records, medical history and family history. In addition, a physical exam might be performed to rule out other medical conditions that can cause similar symptoms.
Some doctors, primary care providers and psychologists specialize in diagnosing ADHD. These specialists may use a checklist or questionnaires, a psychiatric and medical history, and a physical examination to determine whether the person meets the criteria for ADHD.
During the assessment, the evaluator will ask about the patient’s symptoms in different settings, such as home, school or with friends. The evaluator will also collect information about the environment and other stressors that might be causing symptoms.
The evaluator will also look at your performance in tasks or activities that require attention (e.g., studying or completing paperwork). In older adolescents and adults, this can include preparing reports or preparing for work or other tasks that are time-consuming.
Treatsments for ADHD
ADHD treatments include medications, psychotherapy, parent support and school intervention. These therapies help people with ADHD feel better and have more control over their lives.
Medicines are the most common treatment for ADHD, and they are safe and effective. They work by stimulating brain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine, to improve your focus and behavior. These medicines can be short-acting or long-acting, and they stay in your body for a few hours.
Your doctor may try a few different medicines until you find one that works best for you. He or she will also change your dose and how often you take it.
It can take weeks or months to find the right medication and dose for you, so be patient. Your health care team will want to see you for follow-up visits at least every 3 to 6 months to monitor your progress and adjust your medicines if needed.
During these appointments, your doctor will check on your height, weight and blood pressure, and make sure your side effects are controlled. They will also check on your compliance with taking the medicines and whether you have any other health problems that might affect how well they work.
ADHD in Adults
Adults with ADHD often struggle to keep a job and manage their finances. They may also experience health problems, such as obesity, anxiety or substance abuse, because they have a hard time staying focused and following medical advice.
If you are an adult who suspects that you have ADHD, it is important to seek treatment early. You can contact your primary care provider to start the discussion, or you can talk with a mental health professional.
First, the mental health specialist will do a detailed interview with you about your symptoms and behavior patterns. This includes questions about your past and current activities at work, school or home. Family members or friends may also be interviewed to verify information you have given the clinician.
The specialist will also ask about your memory of events and situations from the past. This is because adults with ADHD often have a hard time remembering things from childhood, such as their diagnosis or problems they encountered.
The mental health specialist may then request that you fill out a form about your ADHD symptoms in childhood, called a retrospective ADHD profile. This will help the specialist see if you had any symptoms as a child that are still present as an adult.
Medication is one of the most effective treatment options for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It doesn’t cure ADHD but it can help people with the condition stay focused longer, listen better and control their behavior.
Most ADHD medications work by increasing the levels of certain chemicals (neurotransmitters) in your brain that make you pay attention, think and be motivated. These neurotransmitters include dopamine and norepinephrine.
Stimulants are the most common type of prescription medication healthcare providers use to treat ADHD. They come in short-acting (immediate-release) and long-acting (extended-release) forms.
In many cases, doctors prescribe a combination of stimulants with other treatments to improve symptoms. This combination is called multimodal therapy.
If you or your child take a stimulant, talk to your doctor about possible side effects and how to prevent them. Some medicines can cause loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and jitteriness.
You may also have trouble concentrating, mood changes and trouble with impulse control. These side effects can be more serious, so you need to tell your doctor if they happen.
Nonstimulants aren’t as widely available as stimulants, but they’re an option for some people with ADHD who don’t tolerate or see benefits from a stimulant. These include atomoxetine, guanfacine and clonidine.
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