What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
ADHD is a brain disorder that causes problems with attention, activity, and self-control. It’s also more common than you might think.
Doctors aren’t sure what exactly causes ADHD, but genetics and heredity play a role. Having a parent or close family member with ADHD puts kids at risk for the condition.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
ADHD is a common childhood disorder that can persist through adolescence and adulthood. It usually involves symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity or a combination of both.
In children, inattention can look like failure to sustain attention, failing to follow directions, or making careless mistakes in schoolwork or other activities. It can also include difficulty getting organized or managing time.
Young people may struggle to finish schoolwork or keep up with social obligations, while adults with ADHD may have trouble finishing work tasks on time. These symptoms can also interfere with relationships.
Impulsivity: A person’s impulsiveness can lead them to act out inappropriately, such as blurting out responses or talking when they aren’t asked. They can also have a hard time waiting their turn.
Hyperactivity: A person with ADHD may be restless and have a strong need to move, fidget or run. They can also have trouble staying seated when they’re expected to do so, such as in a classroom or in the workplace.
Symptoms of ADHD can change over time as someone grows and changes their responsibilities. They can become less severe in adolescence, but they can still be problematic.
Types of ADHD
ADHD is a mental health condition that affects more children than adults. It is also more common in boys than girls. It is more often diagnosed in preschool-age children than older teens or adults.
ADHD can affect a child’s ability to learn and concentrate. For example, children with ADHD may have a hard time listening quietly or paying attention to a teacher’s instructions. They also have a hard time following directions or being organized.
In many cases, ADHD can be managed with medication and therapy. These treatment strategies can help a person improve their focus, organization, and impulse control.
The symptoms of ADHD are categorized into three subtypes, including predominantly inattentive type, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type, and combined type. There are also several factors that can increase the chances of developing ADHD, including environmental toxins during pregnancy, low birth weight, and alcohol or drug use during pregnancy.
The most common type of ADHD is the combined type. To be diagnosed with this type, a person must show at least six of the nine major symptoms in two settings. The symptoms must have started before age 12 and must interfere with daily life.
Causes of ADHD
The exact causes of ADHD aren’t known, but there are a few factors that can contribute to its development. Some of these include genetics, the environment and problems with the central nervous system at key moments during development.
Other factors that can affect children with ADHD include substance abuse, depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders. Symptoms of these disorders can also make ADHD symptoms worse, so it’s important to see a healthcare provider if you notice any changes in your child’s behavior or mood.
Regardless of the cause, ADHD is common and can be treated with medication and therapy. Treatment can help kids control their symptoms, improve their social skills and reduce other negative effects of the disorder.
If you think your child might have ADHD, talk to his school or teacher about having an evaluation done to find out if this is the case. The evaluation will give the school and your doctor an idea of the type of problems your child is having.
Your pediatrician or family physician can recommend a specialist to consult with, such as a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist or pediatric neurologist. They can also help you decide if your child needs medication and if so, what doses should be used.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
ADHD is a complex disorder and can be difficult to diagnose. A qualified professional uses multiple evaluations and tests to make the diagnosis.
Diagnosis can be made by a mental health professional, primary care provider or medical doctor. It is often done with a psychiatric evaluation, which includes a complete history from the patient and their caregivers as well as completion of one or more behavior rating scales.
The evaluator will also review the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which provides symptoms that are used for diagnosis. The evaluator will also consider how symptoms affect the individual’s life.
To be diagnosed with ADHD, a child must have six or more symptoms in the two main categories of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity for at least six months. The symptoms must also significantly interfere with school, work and family life.
A diagnosis of ADHD is most accurate if the symptoms start before age 7 and continue for at least six months. The symptoms must create a significant handicap in at least two major areas of the person’s life – in the classroom, at home or on the playground.
In addition, the evaluator will need to interview any other people who know the patient well, including parents and spouses or partners. If possible, the evaluator will also ask for copies of report cards and other records that could help them make their diagnosis.
Treatsments for ADHD
There are many treatments for ADHD, including medications, parent and teacher training, social skills training and psychotherapy. These methods help patients control symptoms, improve overall psychological well-being and manage relationships with family and friends.
Stimulant medicines are the most common and effective treatment for ADHD, and about 80% of children diagnosed with ADHD improve a great deal once they are treated with the right medicine. These medicines increase activity in the brain, especially in areas that are important for attention and behavior.
Medications for ADHD can be taken by mouth (tablets or capsules), or as patches that are worn on the skin. Immediate-release (short-acting) stimulants are most often prescribed, but you can also take extended-release stimulants, which last up to 16 hours.
Non-stimulant medicines for ADHD are also available, and they work differently from stimulants. They increase the amount of a chemical called norepinephrine in the brain, which increases focus and control.
Because these medicines are prescribed for a short period of time, they are less likely to cause dependence or abuse than stimulants. They may take a few weeks to start working, but they can be helpful for people with ADHD. Some of these drugs also treat depression and other mental health problems, so they can be used together with medicine for ADHD.
ADHD in Adults
If you have ADHD as an adult, you may be struggling with your responsibilities. This includes career, work, and family issues. You may also have difficulty managing finances, including unpaid bills or late fees.
Symptoms of ADHD are similar in adults as they are in children, but they tend to occur more often and with less control. They are also often accompanied by other health problems.
For example, ADHD symptoms can cause you to miss important appointments, forget to take medications, or not follow doctor’s instructions. They can also lead to poor self-esteem, chronic stress, and problems with relationships.
Inattention and hyperactivity are the most common symptoms in both adults and children. However, other symptoms can be present, such as impulsivity, disorganization, and emotional instability.
These symptoms need to be severe and persistent in multiple domains of your life in order to be diagnosed with ADHD. It is important to note that adults with ADHD often have comorbid mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety disorders.
Psychotherapy can help you learn to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. It may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you change your thinking patterns and improve your focus. You can do CBT individually or in a group setting.
ADHD medications are designed to reduce the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Depending on your health care provider’s recommendation, they may be prescribed in combination with behavioral therapy and other treatment options.
There are two main groups of ADHD medications: stimulants and nonstimulants. Stimulants boost levels of dopamine, a brain chemical that helps people focus and feel pleasure. They are the most common type of medication for children and adults with ADHD.
Stimulants are fast-acting and have been used safely for decades. However, they do have side effects.
Methylphenidate, the first choice for children and adolescents, works by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. It may also increase norepinephrine levels.
A different kind of stimulant, called amphetamines, may work better and produce fewer side effects in adults. Methylphenidate and amphetamines are FDA-approved for treating ADHD in children and adults, but they may not be the best choice for everyone.
Taking stimulants can lead to high blood pressure and a fast heart rate, so doctors monitor anyone who takes a stimulant medicine for ADHD closely for underlying heart problems.
Medications for ADHD can help with many of the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but they won’t cure it. To treat ADHD symptoms, patients and their families need to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, such as a balanced diet, exercise and adequate sleep.