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.
Many people think of ADHD as something that primarily affects kids, but it affects adults as well. Some children live with ADHD into adulthood, while others do not get a diagnosis until they’re adults.
- It is estimated that 11% of children and 4.4% of adults have ADHD in the US
- ADHD affects more than 8 million adults but many of them don’t know it
- Less than 20% of adults with ADHD are even aware that they have it
- Most of the adults who have it remain undiagnosed and untreated
- Only a fourth of those who know they have ADHD are getting treatment
Types of ADHD
There are three main types of ADHD:
- Primarily Inattentive and Distractable ADHD
- Primarily Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD
- Combination ADHD
- Primarily Inattentive and Distractable ADHD (formerly known as ADD): What was once called ADD is now known as Primarily Inattentive and Distractab ADHD. This type is characterized by symptoms of inattention, such as difficulty paying attention, forgetfulness, and disorganization. People with this type of ADHD may struggle with completing tasks, following instructions, and maintaining focus. The distinguishing characteristic here is that someone is inattentive and distracted, but is not hyperactive.
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD: This type is characterized by symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, such as fidgeting, talking excessively, interrupting others, and engaging in risky behavior. People with this type of ADHD may have difficulty sitting still, waiting their turn, and controlling their impulses. People who were previously diagnosed with ADHD in the past are now diagnosed with Primarily Hyperactivity/Impulsivity ADHD because they are hyperactive and impulsive, but not inattentive or distracted.
- Combined Type ADHD: This type is a combination of the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types. It is the most common type of ADHD and is characterized by symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. And people who exhibit some symptoms from both now receive a Combination ADHD diagnosis.
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 Adults
ADHD symptoms vary from one person to the next and also depend on their age. The following are some of the symptoms that can present with the three types of ADHD in adults.
ADHD Symptoms of Inattention and Distraction (Formerly Known as ADD Symptoms)
- Inability to focus on detail at work
- Brief attention span, even with preferred tasks or hobbies
- Inability to focus
- Poor executive function
- Forgetting normal daily activities
- Disliking anything that requires concentration
ADHD Symptoms of Hyperactivity/Impulsivity
- Fidgeting continuously
- Inability to relax
- Excessive talking
People with Combination ADHD will have a mix of these symptoms. Any diagnosis of ADHD requires that symptoms interfere with the person’s ability to conduct a regular life. An adult needs to exhibit at least five symptoms, and they must be evident for at least six months. Occasionally showing any of the above does not necessarily mean someone qualifies for an ADHD diagnosis.
ADHD Symptoms in Women
Diagnosing ADHD in women is further complicated by gender role expectations, including the need to manage yourself, your family and your home simultaneously, which is why ADHD is often overlooked and misunderstood for women.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in Women:
- Having trouble getting organized
- Getting easily distracted
- Being forgetful about things
- Not being able to pay attention
- Making careless mistakes
- Having trouble focusing
- Not following through
- Not finishing what you start
- Internalizing your feelings
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 behaviors 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 six months to qualify for a diagnosis. Children who have symptoms of both types of ADHD may be living with Combination ADHD.
How Are People Diagnosed and Tested for ADHD?
Testing for ADHD is not a simple matter of taking a quiz—as some websites might have you believe. The only person who can deliver an ADHD diagnosis is a trained mental health professional.
Diagnosing an adult involves interviewing the person and discussing things like patterns of behavior and thinking. An adult may also fill out surveys during the process.
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 use as a reference.
Do I Have ADHD?
If you have symptoms that make you believe that you may have ADHD it is best to seek out a trained medical professional for a true assessment. Guessing, self-diagnosing or taking an online quiz will not give you the answer you need; only a professional can do that.
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, excessive television watching, or bad parenting choices. The evidence simply does not support these ideas.
There has been a significant uptick in the diagnosis of ADHD. Parents understandably worry about the increasing rate of these 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 parents to keep in mind that their children with ADHD will exhibit these symptoms whether they receive a formal diagnosis or not. Therefore, it’s better for children with the disorder to get a diagnosis and professional help. Therapists can give children coping mechanisms and tools that will 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. ADHD treatment options can include medication, lifestyle changes, and various types of therapy including therapy and behavioral therapy.
Medication is typically used for adults and children dealing with ADHD because it has proven to be successful. Studies have shown that medication works well for around 80% of people with ADHD
It is important to note that medication is not always necessary for the treatment of ADHD. Behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), may also be effective in managing symptoms. Additionally, medication is not a cure for ADHD, but rather a tool that can help manage symptoms. It is important to work closely with your healthcare provider to find the most effective treatment plan for 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.
Lifestyle Changes for ADHD
Anyone with ADHD will most likely benefit from making lifestyle changes to support their 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:
- Adhering to a daily structured routine
- Eliminating and reducing distractions in the workplace
- 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 a variety of therapy types.
LifeStance also offers telepsychiatry (remote visits) 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.
Although ADHD is not a learning disorder, it is estimated that 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. Mental illness generally refers to a broad range of psychiatric conditions that are characterized by significant impairment in mental functioning and behavior, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia.
Mental health disorders are conditions that affect a person’s ability to regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, but may not necessarily be associated with significant impairment in mental functioning.
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.