ADHD Basics: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Understanding this condition
ADHD is a brain-based disorder that is very common among children, teens and adults. While people develop it before the age of seven, it often stays with them into adulthood.
It’s difficult for people with ADHD to pay attention and focus on one thing for a long time. As a result, tasks that they find boring or complicated can be difficult for them. One of the major symptoms of ADHD is inattention. Others include being impulsive and hyper. People with ADHD can have a hard time:
- Making good decisions
- Solving problems
- Controlling their behavior
Children with ADHD
Kids with ADHD are restless and often fidget a lot. They can have a hard time listening to and following directions. This can cause them to act out. They may cause trouble at home and school. They often talk when they shouldn’t and don’t like to sit still for any length of time.
Teens with ADHD
Teenagers with ADHD often begin to show less outward overactive behavior, but often explain that they still feel hyperactive “inside.” So, while their activity level may decrease with age, a substantial proportion of teens do not outgrow the disorder as once thought. Instead their symptoms change. It is important to continue treatment during this time.
Adults with ADHD
While they can learn to live with the disorder, adults with ADHD can also have problems at home, work, or in their communities. It can cause them to feel restless or uncomfortable, and often makes it hard for them to pursue quiet activities like reading. ADHD sometimes goes hand in hand with other conditions like depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and some learning disabilities.
How do you know if it’s ADHD?
First, visit your health care provider, school psychologist, or other ADHD specialist. Your symptoms will be reviewed and compared to a researched standard of set criteria. Your provider will consider a number of things before making a diagnosis including:
How long have the behaviors occurred? A person needs to have symptoms for more than six months in order to have ADHD. The symptoms must have started (or been noticed) before age 7. If not, it is likely (but not always) that the behavior is not ADHD and could be the result of a temporary problem. Oftentimes, a person who has compensating skills, environmental supports, or high intelligence may go unnoticed until school or work demands overtax their attentional capacity.
Is this behavior happening more often than it does in the person’s peers? The person must exhibit symptoms more often than people in their peer group for ADHD to be classified.
What causes ADHD?
While scientists are studying the disorder, no one yet knows exactly what causes it. However, much of the research points to decreased amounts of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Most researchers agree that ADHD is genetic and children can inherit it from their parents.
ADHD treated using a combination of therapies. Medicine designed specifically to treat ADHD is also used. Most health care providers will use medicine and behavior management. This is true for both children and adults with ADHD.
In short, having ADHD doesn’t mean that a person can’t live a normal life. The disorder presents a unique set of problems that, if dealt with, can be managed. In fact, many people learn to cope and lead happy lives.
1. National Resource Center on AD/HD. (2008, February). The Disorder Named ADHD – What We Know – Info Sheets on AD/HD. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://www.help4adhd.org/about/what/WWK1.
2. National Institute of Mental Health. (1994). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Publication No. 96-3572). Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/adhd.cfm.
3. WebMD. (n.d.). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Topic overview. Retrieved August 13, 2010, from http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd-topic-overview.