What You Need to Know About ADHD
Do you know someone who struggles to listen, pay attention and follow directions? Someone who is sitting still one minute and then suddenly becomes restless the next minute? Someone who is inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive? If you answered yes, then that person might have an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
People with ADHD may be hyperactive and have a difficult time controlling their impulses. Because of this, people who are diagnosed with this mental disorder have difficulties adapting to their school, work, and home life.
Furthermore, ADHD is associated with immense financial burden and can severely affect the academic achievement, well-being, and social interaction of people who have this condition.
It is a common misconception that ADHD is just a childhood condition that can continue through adolescence. Contrary to popular belief, signs and symptoms of ADHD are still observed in adulthood. Even though hyperactivity diminishes as a child becomes a teen, inattentiveness and impulsiveness will likely persist into adulthood.
Causes of ADHD
Although the exact cause of ADHD is not clear, a combination of the factors below are thought to be responsible:
- Genetics – ADHD runs in the family and studies suggest that the genes you inherit from your parents may play a role in developing the condition. In addition, research shows that parents and siblings of a child who has ADHD are more likely to have the condition themselves.
- Pregnancy Problems – People who were born prematurely or with low birthweight are also at risk of developing ADHD. Mothers who have had difficult pregnancies also have a higher risk of giving birth to a child with this condition. Studies also show that pregnant women who smoke or drink alcohol may contribute to their child developing ADHD.
- Brain Structure and Function – Research has recognized a number of possible differences in the brains of people with ADHD from those who do not have ADHD. An imaging study conducted at the University of Sydney revealed that people with ADHD had slightly smaller brains, and they are associated with the delayed development of five brain regions.
Signs and symptoms of ADHD
People with ADHD show three different considerable types of symptoms namely: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms get in the way of functioning or development. It is normal to have some inattention or hyperactivity behavior, however people with ADHD have these behaviors manifested in a severe manner and it occurs more often. Here are a breakdown and categorization of the symptoms.
People with symptoms of inattention often have the following behaviors:
- Problems organizing tasks and activities
- Overlooks details and make careless mistakes
- Difficulties paying attention during tasks and activities
- Doesn’t appear to listen when spoken to directly
- Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort
- Easily loses things necessary for tasks or activities
- Easily distracted by unrelated thoughts
- Forgetful in daily activities
Hyperactivity and Impulsiveness
People with hyperactivity-impulsivity may often have the following behaviors:
- Unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly
- Often feels restless
- Talks nonstop
- Difficulty waiting for his or her turn
- Interrupting or intruding on others
- Moves or runs around in situations where it is inappropriate
- Acts without thinking
These symptoms may negatively affect the lives of people with ADHD. It can cause significant problems such as underachievement at school, poor social interaction with other children and adults, and problems with discipline.
Treatment for ADHD
There is no cure for ADHD, however, it can be managed with the appropriate family and educational support alongside medication (if necessary). Medication is often the first treatment suggested for adults with ADHD. Psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also help.
- Stimulants – Stimulants are usually the first line of treatment for ADHD. Although it may seem unusual to treat ADHD with stimulants, it is effective. The medication increases the brain chemical dopamine, which plays an essential role in how a person thinks and their attention span. There are a few risks and side effects that should be considered when taking stimulants. However, with proper medical supervision, this medication is considered safe for managing ADHD.
- Non-Stimulants – These medications take longer than stimulants to start working. However, non-stimulants can improve focus, attention, and impulsivity in people with ADHD. Non-stimulants may be prescribed if a person has difficulties with the side effects of stimulants or if stimulants are ineffective.
- Behavior Therapy – This treatment involves behavior management, which uses a system of rewards to encourage a child to try to control his or her ADHD. It aims to improve a child’s behavior, self-control, and self-esteem. Behavior therapy, given by parents and with the support of healthcare providers, teaches children to better control their own behavior, leading to improved functioning at school, home and in relationships.
- Psychoeducation – This therapy involves encouraging the child and the parent to discuss ADHD and its effects. It helps children, teenagers, and adults to make sense of what it feels like to be diagnosed with the condition to help them cope and live with it.
- Parent Training and Education Programs – Parents who have a child that has ADHD can attend specially tailored parent training and education programs to help them learn specific ways of talking to their child to improve their child’s attention and behavior.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This type of therapy can help people with ADHD manage their problems by changing the way they think. A therapist would try to change how the person feels about a situation which, in turn, would change their behavior.
Effective treatment for a person’s ADHD often includes several approaches. These can include medication and one or more types of therapy. If you know someone who has ADHD, make sure that he or she sees a specialist help them understand their situation. The specialist can also find solutions to help that person manage their ADHD. Dr. Mark Herbst, MD is a trusted and experienced ADHD psychiatrist in Los Angeles who diagnoses and treats individuals with cognitive, emotional, behavioral and addictive problems. He can help you deal with ADHD and find the best treatment option for you.