What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a Neurobehavioral disorder that carries symptoms of inattentiveness, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. It is usually first diagnosed when a child starts attending school, and the inattention and distraction are noticed. It’s more common among boys than girls. 

ADHD has long been considered as a disorder found only in children; however, around 2.5% of adults  live with ADHD. In addition to that, only about 25% of adults with ADHD were diagnosed during childhood or adolescence .

What are the symptoms of ADHD

The symptoms of ADHD usually include the inability to stay focused (also referred to as inattention), excessive movement that’s not fitting to the setting or situation (referred to as hyperactivity), and conducting impulsive behavior at the spur of the moment without thought (impulsivity). 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, gives an outline of diagnostic criteria used by mental health and health professionals to diagnose ADHD. This shortened version functions as a guideline as only trained health care professionals can diagnose and treat mental health illnesses like ADHD.

Individuals who have ADHD show consistent patterns of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity. These behaviors interfere with normal functioning or development.

  • Inattention: Six or more symptoms should be absurd for children younger than 16 or five or more for adolescents 17 years and older, and adults. These symptoms should have been present for at least six months and are inappropriate for the individual’s developmental level.
  • Struggles to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes either in work or other activities.
  • Find it difficult to keep attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Seems not to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not complete activities based on instructions and fails to finish activities.
  • Doesn’t like, avoids, or is reluctant to take on tasks that would require more extended periods of mental effort.
  • Often loses essential things, especially things needed to complete tasks and activities.
  • Is easily distracted.
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.
  • Hyperactivity and impulsivity: Six or more of these symptoms are present in children up to 16 years of age. Five or more of these symptoms are present for adolescents of 17 years or older, and adults. These symptoms should be observed and be present for at least six months and cause disruption or are inappropriate for the individual’s developmental level.
  • Often fidgets, taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
  • Gets up and leaves seat in situations when the individual is expected or required to remain seated.
  • Runs around or climbs in situations where these behaviors are not proper. In the case of adults, they might have a consistent feeling of restlessness.
  • Struggles to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
  • Always seems to be busy and on the go.
  • Talks excessively.
  • Shows poor impulse control by blurting out an answer before the question has been completed.
  • Struggles to wait for his or her turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others.

In addition to the symptoms listed below, the following conditions must be met:

  • Several of the inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before the child turned 12.
  • Several of the symptoms are present in at least two or more settings or situations.
  • The symptoms interfere with and reduce the quality of everyday life that includes social activities, school, and work.
  • Any other mental disorder cannot better explain the symptoms, nor does it only occur during schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.

Causes and risk factors for the development of ADHD

It’s not clear what causes ADHD. Genes likely play a role, while some research indicates that exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides or leads could lead to the development of ADHD. Furthermore, prenatal cigarette smoking or alcohol intake could also increase the risk of developing ADHD.

Research has not been able to confirm the theory that more copious amounts of sugar cause either attention deficit or hyperactivity. While “poor parenting” does not directly lead to the development of ADHD, some parenting styles could affect a child’s ability to self-regulate, suppress their impulses, or focus their attention on specific tasks. Children who experience inconsistent discipline or who suffer from neglect are especially at risk of developing these behaviors.

Treating ADHD

While treatment is available for ADHD, in 2016, nearly a quarter of children diagnosed with the condition was not receiving treatment .

Behavioral treatments that include therapy, parent training, or neurofeedback often require the individual to take less medication. These treatments could even lead to someone not needing to take medication at all. Parents could be given training to assist the child in managing their symptoms.

Medications for ADHD generally fall into two categories. Stimulants include drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, while non-stimulants include medications like Strattera or other antidepressants. While medicines used in tandem with behavioral treatment seemed to have positive outcomes, the correct medication and dosage must be taken as some drugs could have a negative effect on co-occurring illnesses that could include bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety.

The co-morbidity or co-existence of other mental health illnesses could make it challenging to diagnose and treat ADHD, especially in adults.

While being mostly predominant in children, many adults could be living with the condition – even without knowing it. Of the 25% of adults with ADHD that are diagnosed, about 10% are receiving treatment.

While the symptoms of ADHD could be disruptive and impair healthy development, it is manageable with a combination of treatments. While some medications have been shown to work, behavioral therapy is also useful in treating and managing ADHD. Support from family, friends, teachers, and co-workers is essential for managing the symptoms of ADHD.

Diagnosis and treatment in younger years could see a markedly enhanced quality of life. With the correct treatment and skills, individuals can manage their symptoms while simultaneously managing symptoms of co-occurring conditions in order to live a happy and balanced life.