What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that can affect a person’s attention, impulsivity, memory, and other cognitive functions. While it is often diagnosed in childhood, ADHD can affect people well into adulthood.
It is estimated that 11 percent of children have ADHD in the United States. In adults, it is estimated at 4.4 percent. ADHD affects a range of cognitive functions, including one’s ability to concentrate and one’s memory.
Many associate ADHD with kids primarily, but as the statistics above show, it affects adults as well. Some children live with their ADHD into adulthood. Others do not even receive a diagnosis until they are adults.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD vary depending on the person’s age, gender identity, and type of ADHD.
ADHD Symptoms in Children
Diagnosing ADHD in children can be more complex. This is because children are very different in terms of development from adults and may not share certain symptoms. Parents and teachers should look for the following if they suspect ADHD in a child.
Inattentive ADHD symptoms in children include:
- Making mistakes they shouldn’t make in schoolwork
- Never staying with one toy for very long
- Detached from interaction with adults
- Avoidance of tasks that take focus and concentration
- An inability to keep track of things
- Hyperactivity-Impulsivity ADHD symptoms in children include:
- Not staying still in class even when told to
- Constant fidgeting and tapping
- Inappropriate running or climbing
- Boundless levels of energy
- Endless talking
Children should exhibit six of these symptoms for at least 6 months to qualify for a diagnosis. Children who have symptoms of both types of ADHD may live with what’s known as Combination ADHD.
Signs of ADHD in Adults
ADHD symptoms vary from one patient to the next and also depends on their age. The following are some of the symptoms that can present with the three types of ADHD in adults.
Symptoms of Inattention ADHD (Formerly Known as ADD Symptoms)
- Inability to focus on detail at work or school
- Brief attention span, even with preferred tasks or hobbies
- Inability to focus
- Poor executive function
- Forgetting normal daily activities
- Disliking anything that requires concentration
Symptoms of Hyperactivity-Impulsivity ADHD
- Fidgeting continuously
- Inability to relax
- Excessive talking
- An inability to take turns
Patients with Combination ADHD will have some combination of the listed symptoms. Any diagnosis of ADHD requires that symptoms interfere with the person’s ability to conduct a regular life. An adult also needs to exhibit at least 5 symptoms, and they must be evident for at least 6 months. Occasionally showing any of the above does not mean someone qualifies for a diagnosis, necessarily.
What Causes ADHD?
Genetics play the most significant role in determining if a child will develop ADHD. Other risk factors for ADHD include:
- Brain injuries
- Low birth weight
- Lead exposure at a young age
- Premature delivery
- Exposure to lead, alcohol, or tobacco in-utero
Many people mistakenly believe that ADHD is caused by sugar consumption, watching television, or parenting choices. The evidence simply does not support these ideas.
There has been a significant uptick in the diagnosis of ADHD. Increased awareness is the likely cause, though some suspect environmental triggers.
Parents understandably worry about the increasing rate of ADHD diagnoses. The mental health community has not completely ruled out all environmental factors as potential causes. However, all the current research suggests that the rise in ADHD diagnoses is the result of increased awareness among professionals and society at large.
It’s important for worried parents to keep in mind the fact that their children with ADHD will exhibit these symptoms whether or not they receive formal diagnoses. Therefore, it’s better for children with the disorder to get professional help. Therapists can give patients healthy coping mechanisms and tools to help them throughout their lives.
How is ADHD Treated?
There is no known cure for this mental health disorder. There are, however, many treatments that can make this disorder manageable in the long term. Treatment options can include medication, lifestyle changes, or therapy.
Medication for ADHD
While the fact confuses many, stimulants have historically been some of the most effective medications for treating ADHD. These are fast-acting interventions, and they have been shown to help as many as 80 percent of patients with ADHD.
In the last few decades, professionals have also turned to non-stimulants in treating the disorder. The advantage of these is that, while they do not act as quickly, they can be more effective in the long term. They are also a good alternative for those who have an adverse reaction to stimulants.
Behavioral Therapy for ADHD
Sometimes people prefer to rely on therapy when treating ADHD, especially when children are involved. Behavioral therapy helps those with ADHD stop destructive behaviors and replace them with more positive ones.
When children are in behavioral therapy, chances are that parents or caregivers will participate, too. This is to ensure that the adults involved know how to support the children and also respond to bad behaviors effectively.
Lifestyle Changes for ADHD
Anyone with ADHD can benefit from making lifestyle changes that support positive mental health. However, these changes should not be seen as a replacement for medication or therapy. Instead, they can supplement other parts of a person’s care plan.
Some habits that can help people with ADHD include:
- Adhering to a daily structured routine
- Eliminating and reducing distractions in a workspace
- Maintaining a healthy diet
- Getting regular exercise
- Getting enough sleep
Find ADHD Treatment at LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health offers comprehensive treatment plans for people with ADHD. Depending on the patient’s needs, this may include medication management as well as therapy.
LifeStance also offers telepsychiatry as an option for patients who cannot leave home. Being unable to come into the office should not prohibit anyone from receiving treatment for their ADHD. LifeStance telepsychiatry treatment for ADHD is just as rigorous and compassionate as our in-office treatments.
Telepsychiatry takes place via teleconferencing and requires a secure internet connection, an internet-connected device with a front-facing camera, and a private room that you can use for your sessions. LifeStance will provide you with the software necessary to conduct your telepsychiatry sessions. If you are interested in your telepsychiatry options for treating ADHD, contact LifeStance to discuss treatment via teleconferencing with one of our specialists.
In the past, mental health professionals viewed ADD and ADHD as different but related conditions.
Today, mental health professionals recognize three different disorders that are all subtypes of ADHD:
- Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD
- Primarily Inattentive ADHD
- Combination ADHD
No one receives a diagnosis of ADD today. What was once called ADD is now classified as Primarily Inattentive ADHD. The distinguishing characteristic of this subtype is that patients are not hyperactive.
Patients who were diagnosed with ADHD in the past are now diagnosed with Primarily Hyperactivity-Impulsivity ADHD. Anyone who exhibits some combination of the first two receives a diagnosis of Combination ADHD.
Testing for ADHD is not a simple matter of taking a quiz, as some websites might have you believe. You need a mental health professional to receive an ADHD diagnosis.
Diagnosing a child typically involves interviews with both the child and parent or parents. A mental health professional may also go through some play and tasks with the child. Parents and teachers may also have to respond to surveys that the mental health professional will then use as a reference.
Diagnosing an adult involves interviews with the patient and discussing things like patterns of behavior or thinking. An adult may also fill out surveys during the process.
Although ADHD is not a learning disorder, it is estimated that from 30 to 50% of children with ADHD also have a specific learning disability, and that the two conditions can make learning challenging.
No, it is classified as a mental health disorder but is not considered to be a mental illness.
Generally speaking, ADHD is considered a disability by the Americans with Disability Act and the Social Security Administration, but in order to substantiate that diagnosis, a medical professional may need to supply a patient’s medical and behavioral history along with a neuropsychiatric evaluation.
They can. ADHD is the most common coexisting condition with autism in children, and more than half of all individuals who have been diagnosed with autism also show signs of having ADHD.
The difference comes down to whether someone is not able to focus because they are having anxious thoughts, or they are not focused because they are easily distracted, even though their mind is calm.
The effects of caffeine consumption on ADHD remain largely unproven. Caffeine calms some people down, while increasing anxiety in others. However, some studies suggest that light to moderate caffeine use can be a way to help boost focus and concentration for people with ADHD.
Talk to someone who can help. LifeStance is your online resource for finding the right mental health professionals to deal with ADHD, and other related mental health issues.