What is ADHD?
People with ADHD often get misdiagnosed. They also suffer from misunderstandings that lead to stigma and self-blame.
For a person to be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms must have been present before age 12, be causing dysfunction in multiple settings (home, school and work), and persist over time. Read on to learn more about what is adhd and how it’s treated.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
ADHD can affect people of all ages and genders. Children can begin showing signs as early as preschool. However, it’s more common for kids to be diagnosed in elementary school. Adults may have been misdiagnosed or have never received a diagnosis. ADHD can have serious consequences if it is not treated. Symptoms can lead to difficulties in school and work, problems with family or other relationships, and depression. Without treatment, symptoms can also lead to substance abuse or even accidents and injuries.
Some people with ADHD have a predominantly inattentive presentation of the disorder, while others have a predominantly hyperactive-impulsive or combined presentation of the disorder. Individuals with a predominantly inattentive presentation struggle with staying focused on lectures, conversations or reading; have trouble following instructions and making sense of information; and are often forgetful and disorganized.
People with the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation of ADHD have trouble sitting still, waiting their turn or paying attention. They are often fidgety or restless, have trouble keeping track of their belongings and tend to blurt out answers or make inappropriate comments. They have difficulty controlling their emotions and may be prone to lying or reckless behavior. They find it difficult to wait for things, to make friends and are prone to being easily distracted.
Types of ADHD
When a child shows symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, doctors look for them to be chronic or long-lasting and cause significant difficulty with functioning and development. Symptoms must also occur in more than one setting, like at home and school.
Children with ADHD have trouble concentrating, paying attention or keeping track of tasks, and may forget things easily. Their behavior can be disruptive to classmates, peers and their parents. They can also be more likely to have problems with relationships, work and school.
People with ADHD, both adults and kids, can have one of three types of the condition. The disorder is diagnosed if you meet six out of nine criteria, including a pattern of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with your functioning or development. The condition is classified as primarily inattentive, primarily hyperactive-impulsive or combined presentation, according to the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Adults with inattention symptoms may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, such as acceptance commitment therapy (A-CBT) and self-management skills. They can also try stimulant medications or natural supplements that stimulate the brain to pay attention, such as rhodiola, green tea and ginseng or the amino acid L-tyrosine, and extra physical activity.
Causes of ADHD
The cause of ADHD isn’t fully understood, but genetics and brain differences play a role. It is also thought that the way nerve cells work and the way certain chemicals in the brain transmit signals are different for people with ADHD.
Children who show signs of inattention or hyperactivity often have trouble at school or with friends and may be referred to a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, family doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist. A medical exam, questionnaires from teachers and caretakers and a screening for learning disabilities are usually part of the evaluation. It’s important to rule out other disorders that have similar symptoms, such as oppositional defiant or conduct disorder, anxiety or depression, Tourette syndrome, sleep disorders, substance abuse and other mental illnesses.
There are three subtypes of ADHD: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive and combined presentation. People with primarily inattentive ADHD struggle to concentrate during lectures, conversations and reading and have trouble staying organized and following instructions. They frequently forget things, make careless mistakes and have difficulty staying on task at home or in the workplace. They are fidgety and restless, unable to sit still or wait their turn and easily distracted. They often interrupt others and can’t wait for their turn in games or leisure activities.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
Diagnosing ADHD is a process that begins with a clinical interview with a mental health professional or primary care provider. This can include a discussion about your or your child’s symptoms, a psychiatric exam, the completion of rating scales and questionnaires by you or your child, and information about family and medical history.
During the clinical interview, your doctor will determine how severe your or your child’s symptoms are, according to current guidelines. They will also consider whether the symptoms interfere with work or social situations. In order for a diagnosis of ADHD to be made, your child’s symptoms must occur in two or more settings and cause significant problems with daily functioning.
A specialized doctor with experience treating ADHD will take their time during the clinical interview, and may use ratings scales and questionnaires to assess symptoms. They may also perform a physical exam and check for other conditions, like sleep apnea or thyroid disorders, that can sometimes present similar symptoms to ADHD. Some doctors may even conduct a brain scan to look for certain chemicals in the brain that play a role in ADHD. However, these tests are not often required in children and adults with ADHD.
Treatsments for ADHD
Treatment options for ADHD include psychoeducation (educational support to help children, teenagers and adults make sense of their diagnosis and cope with its effects), behaviour therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. In some cases, medication may be recommended as part of a treatment plan.
Medications for ADHD can reduce symptoms and improve functioning at school, work and home life. They can also protect against future problems, such as substance abuse and poor relationship and parenting skills.
Stimulant medications are typically the first treatment your doctor will recommend. They can be taken orally and come in different strengths. They can be long-acting (extended release) or short-acting (immediate-release). Many people choose to supplement their extended-release ADHD medication with a short-acting dose, such as methylphenidate or amphetamine, taken in the afternoon or evening, to cover the period when their extended-release medication wears off.
Talk therapy (psychotherapy) isn’t usually recommended for people with ADHD. However, it can be helpful for some people whose ADHD symptoms are related to depression or mood disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help by teaching strategies for managing difficult emotions and changing negative patterns of thinking. It can be carried out with a therapist individually or in a group.
ADHD in Adults
When someone has ADHD, he or she may struggle with keeping track of important details at work, school and home. He or she may also have trouble following instructions, staying organized and paying close attention to others in conversation. A diagnosis requires a mental health professional to examine a person’s history, including school records and information about childhood behavior and school experiences. The evaluation also includes a psychiatric examination and other tests, such as those that measure working memory, visual and spatial skills, and reasoning (thinking) abilities.
To be diagnosed with ADHD, a person must have symptoms that last for at least six months and cause difficulties in more than one setting. It is also required that symptoms begin before age 12.
Many people with ADHD have co-existing problems, such as anxiety or mood disorders. Treatments that address these co-existing conditions can help improve a person’s quality of life.
In addition to traditional treatments, people with ADHD can benefit from participating in clinical trials. Clinical trials are research studies that look for new ways to prevent, diagnose or treat diseases and conditions. Talk with your health care provider to learn more about clinical trials and whether you are a good candidate for a study.
People with ADHD often take medications to control their symptoms. There are many different types of medications, and a person’s healthcare provider will work with them to find the right one. They may need to try several medicines before finding the best one.
Stimulants are the most common medicines for ADHD. They help reduce symptoms by helping neurons pass along messages. However, they also have a potential for misuse and addiction. The FDA recommends talking to your doctor before starting any stimulant medication. Stimulants interact with some other medicines, such as antidepressants and some heart medicines. People should also tell their healthcare providers if they are taking any over-the-counter medicine or supplements, especially ones that affect blood pressure, cholesterol, or heart rhythms.
Children and adults with ADHD can have trouble at school, work, and in relationships. Counseling can help. Psychological counseling (psychotherapy) can teach you skills to manage your behavior and improve relationships. Marital and family therapy can help your loved ones cope with your ADHD and learn how to support you. Classes that teach communication skills and problem-solving techniques can be helpful, too.
Concerta is a drug often prescribed to treat ADHD. Like most prescription drugs, Concerta is very easy to become addicted to when abused. Long term abuse can be very dangerous and addicts can experience headaches, sinus congestion, nosebleeds, intense fatigue, insomnia, jaw soreness from grinding teeth, and other dental problems.
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