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What is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

ADHD affects children and adults and includes a combination of symptoms that include difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. These symptoms may impact ability to function in school/work settings, social situation, and relationships. Some people grow out of or have lessening symptoms as they enter adulthood; however, others struggle throughout all stages of their lives.

Symptoms of ADHD:

ADHD is classified in three types; inattentive type, hyperactive-impulsive type, or combined. Symptoms can be noticeable as young as two or three, but sometimes are not noticed until adulthood. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Frequent daydreaming
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Appearing to not listen
  • Problems organizing tasks or activities
  • Forgetfulness
  • Misplacing things frequently
  • Missing small details or parts
  • Fails to finish tasks
  • Easily distracted
  • Fidgets or squirms
  • Difficulty remaining seated
  • Excessive talking, interrupts when talking
  • Has trouble waiting their turn

Causes:

Multiple factors have been determined to cause ADHD; including, genetics, environmental factors, and central nervous system problems. It appears to be more common in males than females.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

The most traditional route of diagnosis is through a combination of medical exam, information gathering or observation, interviews and questionnaires, and rating scales. A team of professionals can work together with a family to make this diagnosis and may include teachers, doctors, psychologists, and psychotherapists. In order to meet the criteria for a diagnosis a child or adult must have a minimum of six of the diagnostic criteria:

Inattention:

  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork and other activities
  • Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • Often doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Often doesn’t follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork or chores
  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Often avoids, dislikes or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork or homework
  • Often loses items necessary for tasks or activities (for example, toys, school assignments, pencils, books)
  • Is often easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity:

  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations when remaining seated is expected
  • Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations when it’s inappropriate
  • Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
  • Often talks too much
  • Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Often has difficulty awaiting turn
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others’ conversations or games

In addition symptoms must meet the following criteria:

  • Has inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive signs and symptoms that cause impairment
  • Has behaviors that aren’t normal for children the same age who don’t have ADHD
  • Has symptoms for at least six months
  • Has symptoms that affect school, home life or relationships in more than one setting (such as at home and at school)

How is ADHD treated?

Medication is the most common route of treatment; however, it has been found that a combination of medication and psychotherapy is the most effective treatment. Therapy can be broken up into behavior therapy, talk therapy, parenting skills training, and social skills training. Behavior therapy focuses on teachers and parents learning behavior changing techniques to deal with difficult situations and behaviors. Talk therapy allows older children, adolescents, and adults to talk about the issues that bother them, including the emotional difficulties that ADHD symptoms might trigger. Parenting skills training helps parents develop parenting techniques that assist a child in managing their symptoms. Finally social skills training assists children in learning appropriate social skills that may be have been impaired by their symptoms, assisting them in making and maintaining successful relationships.

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