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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

ADHD is a highly debated condition that the National Institute of Mental Health estimates affects 3% to 5% of children.  The children may experience challenges with attention, impulsivity, or a combination of both areas of difficulty.  While these general indicators can be present in most of us from time to time, those with ADHD experience much more extreme symptoms which significantly impact their school, home, work, or social functioning.

Is ADHD real?

If you scan the internet, you will find a full spectrum of opinions to this question.  Some highly experienced experts believe that up to 10% of our population could be diagnosed with ADHD, while other experts feel ADHD is a myth perpetrated to sell medication.  However, the majority of medical professionals and psychologists take a stance somewhere between these two extremes.  There are clearly specific individuals whose abilities to focus attention and control impulses are significantly below expected levels.  When other known causes for these difficulties are adequately ruled out, we are left with ADHD.

What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?

The difference between these two acronyms is more about a change to the label than a difference in diagnosis.  Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is the current label used by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  The label was changed from the old label, Attention Deficit Disorder, to better reflect the multiple facets of the disorder which always included both attentional and behavioral components.

What are the types of ADHD?

People are often confused by ADHD labels because they appear quite similar to one another.  In short, there are three identified types of ADHD:  Predominantly Inattentive, Predominantly Hyperactive, and Combined.  The official labels read as follows:

  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Presentation
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Impulsive-Hyperactive Presentation
  •  Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Presentation

Can counseling help my child with ADHD?

Counseling services can often be a helpful tool in the treatment of ADHD.  The most effective strategies generally involve the child, caregivers, and school personnel where appropriate.  Individual work with the child serves to strengthen specific attentional and impulse control skills.  Home behavioral strategies are developed with the caregivers to establish a consistent structure best suited to the child’s specific needs.  Collaboration with school personnel serves to bridge the gap between home and school to ensure consistency across environments.

I have heard a lot of different opinions about medicating children with ADHD, is it safe?

Whether to medicate a child is one of the most difficult decisions faced by any parents, including parents of children with ADHD.  Here again, the internet provides a wide array of opinions on the matter, some from reputable sources and some less so.  The truth is that there is no one answer that will fit every child or situation.  Medication can have unpredictable effects at times, so both the risks and advantages must be considered.  It is recommended that you consult with a Pediatric Psychiatrist and the child’s counselor to weigh all possible benefits and risks involved with medication.  Your child is a unique individual who deserves an individualized plan of care.

My child seems inattentive and/or hyperactive, but does that mean it’s necessarily ADHD?

Great question.  There are many alternate explanations for symptoms that mimic those of ADHD.  You will want to seek out professionals who work diligently to rule out as many as possible.  Some of these alternate diagnoses include, but are not limited to, anxiety, depression, learning disorders, auditory/visual processing disorders, sleep disorders, PTSD, lead poisoning, and hyperthyroidism.

Are there any alternative treatments for ADHD?

While counseling and medication continue on as the most common treatment modalities for ADHD, alternative strategies are gaining ground.  Various dietary and nutritional supplement treatments have gained followings, but the best researched alternative treatment appears to be Biofeedback.

Biofeedback is a computerized tool that allows the individual to strengthen attention skills directly.  Electrodes placed on the scalp track brainwaves while the individual performs specific mental exercises.  Because the person can see their progress on a computer screen, they can learn to harness their brain waves and therefore improve their mental control.