Overview Of ADD & ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder with symptoms including hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsive behavior. These symptoms need to interfere with the person’s development or functioning to diagnose them with this condition.
Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) is the same condition as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the ADHD term is more common of the two. The term has gone through several name changes over the last 30 years or so, but ADHD is the one most currently used.
ADHD symptoms typically start presenting in a child’s early pre-school days, and may become more noticeable as they age, especially when they start school. Children with this condition can have difficulties with following directions, sitting still, or completing tasks at school or at home.
Adults can have ADHD just as children do, but symptoms always begin in childhood. They may not have been diagnosed at the typical age, but ADHD does not onset in adulthood. Most cases of diagnosis occur in children that are 6-12 years of age.
ADHD symptoms commonly improve as the person gets older, but many adults still struggle with their condition.
Commonly Associated With
Causes Of ADD & ADHD
It is currently unknown what exactly causes ADHD. Multiple hypotheses suggest that the condition could have a link to social factors, home factors, or genetic factors. Researchers have observed brain structure differences in children with ADHD, along with differing chemical signals within the brain. But these studies are as of yet inconclusive.
ADHD begins in childhood, and it has been observed to continue into the person’s adult life. Interestingly, ADHD is much more commonly diagnosed in males than females. Whether that is due to differences in diagnostic criteria or not is not certain.
Symptoms Of ADD & ADHD
It is possible to observe symptoms as early as the age of 3-6 years old, and they can continue throughout the person’s teenage and adult years. These symptoms can change and evolve over time as the person ages.
In young children, the most predominant symptom of ADHD is hyperactivity-impulsivity. Once the child reaches elementary school age, their symptomatic inattention may become a significant problem for their academic studies.
In adolescents, hyperactivity symptoms typically lessen, and they may begin to show other symptoms more often, such as fidgeting or restlessness. Their impulsivity and inattention may remain, however. Many adolescents with ADHD can struggle with their interpersonal relationships, and may display antisocial behaviors.
The generalized symptoms of restlessness, inattention, and impulsivity tend to continue into the person’s adult years.
The key behaviors of ADHD are hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention, regardless of the person’s age. Some with ADHD only experience difficulties with one of these behaviors, while others may struggle with both. Most children diagnosed with this condition tend to have a combination of both types.
Some examples of typical childhood symptoms of ADHD can include:
- Difficulty with working or playing quietly
- Running and climbing when they’ve been told not to
- Leaving their seat in school constantly without permission
- Excessive fidgeting or squirming while seated
- Talking excessively even when told to be quiet
- Are often described as “on the go,” or acts as if “driven by a motor”
- Often blurts out answers to questions before the teacher or parent has finished asking
- May have difficulties with patience or waiting their turn when playing or sharing
- Problems with interrupting others or intruding into their games or conversations
- Problems with focusing during school-related tasks or play
- Often not listening when spoken to
- Very distractible
- Often misses small details or makes careless mistakes with their schoolwork
- Tends to avoid or dislike high-effort mental tasks, such as difficult assignments at school
- They often lose things, such as toys or homework assignments
- Not paying attention to or following through on instructions, and forgetting to or choosing not to finish chores or schoolwork
- Difficulties with organizing activities and tasks
It’s very important to keep in mind that many of these “symptoms” can be perfectly normal for a young child. For a person receive an ADHD diagnosis, they need to be outside the normal range of behaviors for their age and stage of development.
Diagnosis is not based on a single test, and is done through observation for a significant pattern of symptoms. These symptoms, as stated previously, need to fall outside the normal range of behaviors for the child/person at their age or stage of development.
Treatment should be a partnership between the affected person and their health care provider.
When a child has ADHD, the treatment process often involves parents and teachers. For any sort of treatment regimen to work, it’s crucial to:
- Make sure to set specific goals that are the right course of action.
- Always regularly follow-up with the health care provider to check on results, progress towards set goals, and if there are any side effects of chosen medications.
- Use medication or talk therapy, if applicable. Some patients may use both or only one of these.
If the current course of treatment does not appear to be working, a health care provider may need to:
- Double check that the patient is following the treatment plan correctly.
- Confirm that the patient actually has ADHD, as misdiagnosis is possible.
- Rule out the possibility of other conditions that could be causing similar symptoms.
Medication treatment in combination with behavioral treatment tends to be most effective. It is possible to use different ADHD medications either in combination with each other or alone. A health care provider should decide which medications, therapies, or both, are right for each individual patient.
Medications called psychostimulants (also known simply as stimulants) are most commonly used in the treatment of ADHD. These medications may act as stimulants in those without ADHD, but in those with the disorder, they have a calming and focusing effect.
Follow instructions given by a healthcare provider to the letter when it comes to medication use. Make sure to keep the provider up to date on how the medication is working and if there are any unwanted side effects. Make sure to keep all check-in appointments with the provider.
Some of these medications can have side effects, and it is important to inform a health care provider immediately. They may need to change the medication or the dosage.
Behavioral therapy is a commonly type of therapy for ADHD. This type of therapy seeks to teach children healthy behaviors and their parents how to properly manage disruptive behaviors. For mild cases of ADHD, behavioral therapy alone (without medication) may be all that is necessary.
Other tips for helping a child with ADHD can include:
- Rewarding and praising good behavior whenever it occurs
- Always having clear and consistent rules in place for the child
- Making sure to communicate regularly with the child’s teacher
- Limiting possible distractions within the child’s environment.
- Making sure to provide the child with a healthy and varied diet containing plenty of fiber and basic nutrients.
- Making sure the child gets the proper amount of sleep.
- Sticking to a consistent daily schedule, which includes regular times for meals, activities, and homework. Make any changes to the schedule well ahead of time and with notice to the child.
- There is little to no scientific evidence that “alternative treatments” for ADHD such as supplements, herbs, and chiropractic care are helpful. Make sure to get all your information from reputable sources, such as doctors, psychiatrists, and other licensed health care providers. Avoid unsubstantiated claims from non-reputable sources.