There are more and more people being diagnosed with ADHD on a yearly basis. Most of these diagnoses are during childhood, but they can also take place in adulthood too. It’s a mental health condition that there is no cure for. However, there are treatments to help manage it and it is possible for some people to outgrow it.
If you’re worried that your child is suffering from ADHD or someone close to you has is given the diagnosis, you’ll want to take steps to understand more about the disorder. It’s something that researchers are still trying to fully understand, like many other mental illnesses.
Here’s everything you need to know about ADHD. It’s based on all the information we currently have available.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s a mental disorder that affects the impulse control and active state of the brain. Those with ADHD will be hyperactive and impulsive in ways that are considered above normal. Many patients find it hard to sit still for long periods of time, concentrating on a single task, and focusing on one item.
While ADHD is usually considered something that happens in childhood, it can also affect adults. In fact, there is a growth in the number of adults being diagnosed with it, as it was missed in childhood for one reason or another.
You may hear some people refer to ADHD as ADD. The terms aren’t quite interchangeable. ADD stands for attention deficit disorder and doesn’t include the hyperactive element of the mental disorder. However, the term ADD is considered outdated and is one of the types of ADHD that a person can suffer from.
There are three types of ADHD. ADD has been replaced with predominantly inattentive ADHD. This is when there is difficulty in focusing on tasks, so finishing them becomes hard. People with this type of the disorder will also find it harder to follow instructions laid out. There are many children who likely suffer from this type of ADHD without getting an official diagnosis. They’re usually considered the disruptive and “naughty” children in the classroom. It’s the most common among girls.
The second type is known as predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. This is when people mostly show the hyperactive behavior. They struggle with their impulse control and find it much harder to sit still and remain on the spot. Many will interrupt people while talking because they find it extremely hard to wait for their turn. A lot of people with this disorder type will also find it hard to focus on tasks, which makes it hard to complete them.
Finally, there is the combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive type of the disorder. This is the most common of the three types and shows symptoms of both the above forms of the disorder. Patients find it hard to pay attention. They are impulsive, don’t wait their turn, and fidget a lot of the time.
Once you know which type your child or you have, it’s much easier to find the right treatment. There are different medications to help manage the hyperactive nature, impulsive behavior, and the lack of focus and attention.
Diagnosis ADHD in Children and Adult
Around 10% of children will get an ADHD diagnosis between the ages of 5 and 17. Before the age of five, it’s hard to tell whether it’s ADHD or just normal childhood behavior. After all, children naturally don’t have impulse control and it’s something they learn and develop over time. Many of the children diagnosed are in school and it’s their school behavior that prompts a diagnosis.
While the predominantly inattentive type of ADHD mostly affects girls, boys are 50% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. This could be linked to the fact that the hyperactivity side of the disorder is the easiest symptom to stop. Many girls are more likely to show some of the more internal symptoms, such as daydreaming, depression, and anxiety. They can also be over-talkative and over-emotional, rather than hyperactive.
Around 40% of children with ADHD won’t have any symptoms in their adult years. However, the other 60% can find that their symptoms decrease or no longer affect them as badly as they did in adulthood. There are still some who will maintain their original symptoms. Adults can be diagnosed with the condition, but it’s not as common as children being diagnosed.
If ADHD is left untreated, adults can struggle in life. They’ll suffer from forgetfulness, impatience, and time management issues. Their work, home, and relationship lives are all affected by the condition.
What Is the Cause of ADHD?
Right now, researchers are still trying to figure out the reason for people to suffer from ADHD. While there are plenty of people being diagnosed, there is very little understood about the disorder. This could be linked to the fact that it’s a neurological problem and research into mental illnesses and disorders is still relatively new.
Most researchers believe that ADHD has a neurological origin. However, there may be a genetic issue involved.
Most research has shown that those with ADHD have a lower level of dopamine in their body. This is the chemical in the brain that helps to move signals throughout the body. It triggers movements and emotions, so if there isn’t enough someone can become too emotional or struggle with the need to move a lot more.
Some studies have shown that ADHD may be caused by a lack of gray matter in the brain. This is the element that helps to control the speech and muscles, develop impulse control, and help to make decisions.
Genetics is certainly one of the links researchers have found. Studies have shown that those who have a close relative with the condition are more likely to also be diagnosed. This is especially the case if a parent or sibling has been diagnosed. The exact gene mutation isn’t currently known, although there are studies looking into the DRD4 gene. This is a gene linked to the production of dopamine.
The genetic link isn’t foolproof, as there are many individuals without a family link diagnosed with the condition. Some researchers believe that there are also neurotoxin and lifestyle links. People who are exposed to organophosphate pesticides are more likely to develop the condition. There are also strong links to smoking during pregnancy, as it can stunt the growth and affect the brain development. So far studies suggest that ADHD develops before the baby is born, so using some chemicals during pregnancy can be an issue.
There are currently no studies that show preservatives and food dyes cause the health problem. However, artificial colorings are still being explored. What is known is that watch TV, consuming sugar, playing video games, and poor parenting certainly doesn’t cause ADHD.
What Are Symptoms of ADHD?
While there are three types of the condition, there are certain signs that are noticed more than others. They tend to be noticed by the teachers more than the parents, as teachers put children into situations that force them to sit for long periods of time. However, parents can also notice that something just isn’t quite “normal.”
Children and adults with ADHD will have trouble completing tasks. They can get bored and move onto something else, forget that they were in the middle of a task, or even get distracted by something else happening. The hyperactive part of the disorder leads to them being unable to sit down long enough to do some tasks. The attention problems make it harder to focus on the tasks, so they look for something else to do.
Then there are the issues with daydreaming. Children are more likely to lose concentration and not necessarily because something else is happening. They find themselves in their own world, whether it’s because they look out the window or find their minds trail away.
Those with the hyperactive element will find it harder to sit still and wait their turn. They struggle with patience in lines, won’t be able to wait their turn to talk, and can fidget a lot while sitting down.
Not everyone will have the exact same symptoms. It will depend on the type and it will depend on severity. Over time the symptoms can minimize to the point where they’re almost invisible or ineffective on the body.
If you are worried about the symptoms, the best people to talk to first will be teachers and others who look after your children regularly. It’s important to look at the pattern of behavior. Teachers sometimes tend to downplay symptoms at first. Ask them to look at your child objectively, especially if your child has been considered the “naughty child.”
In many cases, ADHD patients also end up suffering from depression. Major childhood depression is five times more likely to occur in those with ADHD compared to those without and up to 31% of adults with the disorder will develop depression.
There are a few reasons for this. One of those is that it’s a symptom of one of the types of ADHD. However, it can also be a side effect of the condition and the way children are or have been treated by teachers and parents. More children are viewed as naughty and are told to control their behavior because they “should know better,” but find it extremely hard to ignore those impulses.
As children grow up they can also find themselves struggling in the workplace or have issues with their relationships and family members. It can leave them feeling alone and unwelcomed n the world.
Diagnosing and Testing for ADHD
There isn’t a single test to find out if someone is suffering from ADHD. If your child has any of the symptoms, your doctor will want to run a few tests to determine if the diagnosis is right and the type of ADHD your child has.
Most of the time, doctors will start with the symptoms. They’ll want to know about symptoms over the last six months to get a pattern of behavior. Your doctor will also talk to teachers, care providers, and other family members. This helps to get a full look at the symptoms throughout the day. Some children do act politely and well for other people but not for their parents, so doctors want to make sure the symptoms are there most of the time throughout the day.
Your doctor will use a checklist and a rating table. This helps to check all the symptoms and the severity of each one to determine the type of ADHD.
There may be some physical tests involved. These exams can help to rule out other health problems.
Getting the Right Treatment for ADHD
There isn’t currently a cure for ADHD, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to treat it. Not treating the condition can lead to severe consequences. Children with unmanaged ADHD struggle in school. They don’t have the concentration in lessons to learn and find it harder to complete their homework. They can struggle to keep up with their peers and may be disruptive in the classroom.
This can lead to problems in adulthood. Even those who have no symptoms anymore can find they struggle later in life. They don’t have the education they wanted and have a bad view of the educational system.
There are behavior therapies and medications involved in the treatment of the condition. Depending on the type and severity of the condition, your child may be offered one of them or both at the same time.
Behavior therapy uses a range of therapeutic treatments. These can involve talking, psychotherapy, and cognitive behavior therapy. Your child has the chance to open to someone and discuss their feelings. Their therapist can offer tips and tools to manage feelings and impulses. It’s possible for children to change the way they react in situations. They learn more about the signs of their symptoms playing up and will be able to take control sooner.
This is often used with medication to help add more dopamine and other chemicals to the brain. The aim is to help affect the reason for the symptoms, making it much easier to be less impulsive and hyperactive in situations. The medications can also make it easier to sleep and manage other conditions that ADHD makes worse.
There are two forms of medications available for use. The first is a stimulant for the central nervous system. These medications increase the norepinephrine and dopamine in the body. Adderall is one of the most commonly prescribed forms of the medication, with Ritalin the second most common. They help to focus the brain more, making it easier to concentrate on tasks and avoid distractions.
A non-stimulant medication may be prescribed when the stimulants don’t work. These help to increase the norepinephrine levels in the brain but don’t have the effect on the dopamine levels. Pamelor can be diagnosed for those who also have depressive symptoms and Strattera is another common option for doctors.
Doctors will keep an eye on your children to make sure there are no side effects to the medication. Your doctor will also want to make sure the dosage of the medication is always right.
Are There Natural Ways to Manage ADHD?
While there are plenty of medications, people want to find natural ways to cope with the disorder. The behavior therapies tend to be the best option. They involve talking and learning to manage the symptoms. However, studies have also shown that there are other ways to help manage the condition.
The diet is one of the best ways. Opting for a diet that is full of nutritious foods is an excellent way to improve the amount of dopamine released from the brain. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and some whole grains are packed with the good nutrients.
It’s also important to get plenty of physical exercises. Children need at least 60 minutes a day and this is worth following in adulthood. By getting the physical exercise, you can help to reduce the energy levels. This can help to contain the hyperactivity side of the disorder. Getting plenty of sleep is also important. A lack of sleep can disrupt the balance of hormones and make someone more hyper.
Researchers also suggest limiting the time spent on TV or on phones and computers. While TV time isn’t’ going to cause ADHD, it can affect the levels of hormones in the brain. It will also make it harder to get the right levels of exercise and sleep daily.
As children get older, they can start practicing meditation and other mindfulness techniques. These can be especially beneficial for adults that suffer from depression as well as some ADHD symptoms.
Getting support is extremely important. ADHD isn’t considered a learning disability, despite it having a direct effect on learning. Children need to know that their parents and teachers have their backs. They need someone who will help fight their corner and find ways to help them cope with the distractions and forgetfulness.
Using a calendar, having a schedule to follow, setting routines, and setting reminders can be excellent ways to cope with ADHD throughout life. Children should write down homework assignments and due dates as soon as they get them. Some children can leave their backpacks or items behind, so it’s important to have designated spots to help avoid confusion and problems.
It is possible to live with ADHD. You can even thrive with it. All you need to do is find ways to manage it and get support from those around to make it easier.