ADHD: What You Need to Know
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental health disorders in modern-day society. It is a brain disorder that can interfere with normal life functions. It is often marked by an ongoing pattern of inattentiveness as well as hyperactivity (the inability to stay still for long) and can affect relationships between individuals. Symptoms may present as early as the age of 4 (WebMD).
ADHD is common in children and teens, although it can continue to manifest symptoms into adulthood. Its symptoms are divided into three categories within children’s ADHD and teenage/adult ADHD due to the psychological difference between these two groups (WebMD):
Doesn’t follow rules/directions
Doesn’t finish tasks
Makes careless mistakes
Forgets about daily activities
Has difficulty with organization
Often loses items
Has difficulty following schedules
Tends to daydream
May move excessively while sitting
Has trouble playing quietly
Has trouble waiting for turns
Interruptions are frequent
Is impatient and blurts out answers
These are the main symptoms of ADHD, but even subtle early signs of ADHD can be noticed. Usually, these signs include a gradual increase in hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and/or inattentiveness. It is important to not confuse normal hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and inattentiveness as early signs of ADHD. For people with ADHD, these behaviors are usually more severe, occur with a greater frequency, and interfere with daily routines and relationships to make interactions more difficult.
Diagnosing ADHD usually requires a comprehensive evaluation by a certified specialist. In order to receive such a diagnosis, the person must exhibit that these symptoms were/are chronic, impair functioning, and stunt normal mental development. For adolescents and adults to receive such a diagnosis, the symptoms must be present prior to age 12 (NIMH). Many times, the symptoms of ADHD can be misconstrued as normal childish behavior requiring mild disciplinary action. This is partly due to the fact that ADHD symptoms can change as a person ages, which can mislead people into thinking that they don’t have ADHD but rather some minor childish or antisocial tendencies (depending on their age range). According to NIMH, these symptoms can and will persist into adulthood.
There are various causes of ADHD. These factors include genetics, whether one abuses substances or not, exposure to environmental toxins that may alter brain chemistry, low birth weight (and birth-related injuries), as well as other brain-related injuries.
There is no strict cure for ADHD. However, taking certain medications can reduce hyperactivity and inattention. According to NIMH, ADHD is first treated with stimulants. Although this may sound odd, stimulants have been shown as effective in reducing symptoms (NOTE: This is not official medical advice. Please do not attempt to diagnose or treat yourself and go the doctor if you have any questions or concerns). Non-stimulants are also effective, although they take a little longer to take effect compared to stimulants. Drugs like atomoxetine and guanfacine are particularly used to help with ADHD symptoms. Antidepressants are also used to treat ADHD, but specifically in older adults (WebMD). Certain tricyclics are used to affect norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain and reduce ADHD tendencies/symptoms as well.
For ADHD, therapy is not recommended as a form of treatment but rather as a form of coping. Psychotherapy is not necessarily the most effective way of treating ADHD, but it is often very effective in helping families and loved ones work with ADHD. It provides education and training in dealing with ADHD and helps with daily challenges.
Dealing with ADHD can be rough. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed illnesses across America, and it affects 11% of children between the ages of 4 to 17 (CDC). Therapy and treatment are important parts of coping with and combating ADHD. However, it is equally as important to make sure your loved ones know that they are getting the same care and affection regardless of the diagnosis. If you have ADHD, don’t be afraid to voice what you’re going through. While it may affect relationships at the start, being honest and continuously working together to find an equilibrium will help. . Raising awareness is one way that people can effectively combat ADHD as well as maintain and strengthen relationships, after all. By knowing and recognizing the signs of ADHD, one can contribute to a kinder, more inclusive society.