Everything you need to know about ADHD, Including How to Deal with It (Counseling, Medication and Be
ADHD, short for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a mental health condition that has become quite rampant across the world in the past several years. Formerly referred to as ADD, ADHD is more profound in children than adults, with nearly 11 percent of American kids struggling with the attention disorder. Even so, it is estimated that 4-5 percent of adult Americans have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Some specialists argue that even though there is a prevailing notion that individuals these days are over-diagnosed, the oppossite might be true: Many adults with ADD / ADHD are not diagnosed till this day.
Further research shows that more than half of the children with ADHD carry their symptoms to adulthood. Again, the condition has become one of the most common mental health issues in the US, and often characterized in children by hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and difficulty paying attention. While most of the symptoms of ADHD often lessen as the person gets older, some of the major signs can be carried on to adulthood. Thankfully, most children manage to outgrow this condition during teenhood when their brains undergo rigorous development.
Memory loss, difficulty focusing, and attention problems characterize ADHD in adults, all of which can have insurmountable side effects to one’s quality of life. More often than not, those who suffer from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder find it hard to maintain a steady job or relationship.
Thanks to years of studies and dedicated research, a lot is now known about ADHD. Accordingly, the world of science and psychology has developed several different ways of managing and treating the attention condition, including ADD counseling, ADHD therapy, medication, and exercises, to name a few.
In this blog post, I will furnish you with important things you need to know about ADHD, including:
What are ADHD Symptoms, Types, and Signs?
Challenges Children and Adults with ADHD Face
What’s the Difference between ADD and ADHD?
Coping Tips -- How to Deal with ADHD
And if you're here just because you're asking yourself "do I have ADHD?" you can start with the following quick online ADD / ADHD test, that can point you in the right direction:
Now, let’s get cracking, shall we?
For most people, the term ADHD can be quite confusing, but it shouldn’t be. Seen primarily in children, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a mental health condition that’s characterized by above-normal levels of impulsive and hyperactive behaviors. It is uncommon for people with ADHD to have difficulty focusing their attention on a given task, with some finding it hard to sit still for extended periods.
As mentioned above, ADHD can affect both children and adults. Unfortunately, adults with ADHD often find it difficult to keep a healthy relationship, and most of them have marital problems. Oftentimes that’s because inattention, memory problems, and impulsive behaviors can put adults with ADHD at odds with others. To their partners, however, adults with ADHD seem not to care or pay enough attention to their feelings.
From the medical point of view, ADHD is not a behavioral disorder, but rather an impairment in brain development. It’s not a breakdown in one single spot of the brain --
it has to do with immaturity in brain’s communication networks and disruption in their connectivity. As such, this immaturity in brain networking affects several facets of the brain function, including arousal, behavior, emotion, and, more importantly, attention.
It is important to note, however, that while there’s no single authoritative test for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it is a diagnosis fully recognized by APA (the American Psychiatric Association) nonetheless.
Types of ADHD
According to DSM V, the most current APA manual, ADHD can be categorized into three types: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and a combination of the two. The symptoms and signs displayed by people with ADHD vary depending on the type.
a) Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type
As the name suggests, individuals with this form of ADHD show mainly impulsive and hyperactive behaviors. These hyperactive or impulsive behaviors include interrupting others while they are speaking, fidgeting, and not being able to sit still for an extended period. As such, people with predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD have a hard time focusing on tasks.
Common Signs/Symptoms of Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD Type:
Fidgeting and restless: children with this type of ADHD often tap hands, fidget, thumb legs or squirm restlessly in their seats.
Often finds it hard to remain seated for a long period. If the child is expected to stay seated, they often find themselves leaving their seats. In adults, they often leave their positions, office or cubicle when they are supposed to be working.
Restless running and inappropriate climbing: children with hyperactive ADHD often run about or climb in inappropriate situations. While adults with this type of ADHD might not act that way, they tend to feel restless and fidgety.
They have difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
Temper tantrums: children with ADHD can act out at home, in school or even in a restaurant. They are always on the move as if powered by a ceaseless motor.
They talk or interrupt unnecessarily. Some of them blurt out answers at school even before the questions have been completed. In other words, they cannot seem to wait for their turn. Some adults and adolescents find themselves taking over what others are doing.
b) Predominantly inattentive
Quite common among adults, people with this type of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder have extreme challenge focusing, following instructions, and completing tasks. Because they don’t disrupt others, children with this type of ADHD often don’t get diagnosed. It is diagnosed seen more often among young girls with ADHD.
Common Signs/Symptoms of Predominantly Inattentive ADHD Type:
Poor attention to detail or making careless mistakes at work, in schoolwork or during other essential activities. For instance, a person with this type ADHD can omit details, overlook important elements or deliver grossly inaccurate work.
Extreme difficulty sustaining attention while working or playing. For example, a person with ADHD has great trouble maintaining focus in lengthy conversations, reading, or lecturers.
Poor listening skills and wandering mind. The person usually doesn’t seem to listen when talked to directly even when there are no apparent distractions.
Failure to follow instructions. A person with ADHD often starts tasks but quickly loses attention and get distracted easily. As such, people with ADHD have difficulty following directions and often fail to complete chores, schoolwork, and tasks at work.
Poor organizational skills: they often find it hard organizing activities and tasks. This is characterized by difficulty keeping belongings/office space in order, messy work, disorganized schedule, persistently fails to meet deadlines, and poor time management,
Avoids tasks/activities that call for sustained mental effort. Children with ADHD are reluctant to work on challenging homework or school, while adults shy away from preparing complex reports or reviewing lengthy papers.
Loses stuff: people with inattentive ADHD often forget or lose things necessary for school or work, such as paperwork, keys, pencils, books, eyeglasses, wallets, smartphones, etc.
Easily distracted by external factors like unrelated thoughts, noise, music, etc
Often forgetful especially when it comes to important things like running errands, completing chores, paying bills, returning calls, and even keeping appointments.
c) Combined inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive type
This is the most common type of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Needless to say, individuals with this type of ADHD show both hyperactive and inattentive symptoms and signs. Often, these symptoms include impulsive behavior, inability to concentrate, and above-normal levels of energy and activity.
Despite the fact that ADHD is quite common, the scientific world has not agreed on what actually causes the condition. However, a slew of recent studies seems to suggest that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder be caused by a combination of factors that include environmental, genetics, nutrition, brain trauma, and socio-environmental attributes. Some scientists believe that cigarette smoking pregnancy plays some role.
More importantly, neuroimaging research studies seem to suggest that the brains of individuals with ADHD function or operate differently those without the condition. More specifically, the difference is the way their brains handle neurotransmitters, neurochemicals that help transmit signals in the brain. Neurotransmitters that play a crucial role in ADHD include serotonin, adrenaline, and, more importantly, dopamine.
One particular study carried out by researchers at National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates that a reduction in the level of dopamine in the brain is a significant factor in the progression of ADHD. This is vital neurochemical that helps transmit signals from one nerve to another in the brain. Often called the “feel good” neurotransmitter, dopamine plays a prominent role in triggering movements and emotional responses. Whatever causes ADHD, it is has become apparent that it’s set in motion ways early in life when the brain still developing -- probably between ages three and six.
ADHD vs. ADD: What’s the Difference?
If you are here, the chances are that you’ve heard the terms ADHD and ADD thrown around. Have you ever wondered what the difference between the two is? How do ADD and ADHD symptoms differ? ADD, short for attention-deficit disorder, is an obsolete term that gained widespread use in the 1960s and 1970s.
As you might have noticed, the difference is “hyperactivity”. ADD is a term that was previously used to describe individuals who have difficulty paying attention. In today’s classification of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADD is much akin to inattentive ADHD.
With that said, ADHD is now the broad term that encompasses all these mental health disorders; it became the official name when APA adopted in their DSM V in May 2013. For the sake of clarity, DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) is what doctors and psychiatric professionals refer to when making a medical diagnosis.
Challenges Faced by Adults with ADHD
No two adults with ADHD show exactly the same symptoms. Some individuals require a little dose of stimulation to stay focused and pay attention to tasks, chores, and work at hand, while others might try to avoid it altogether. While most adults with ADHD tend to be withdrawn, others may be incredibly social and outgoing. Similarly, some people with the condition can thrive in relationships without a problem, while others shy away because of ADHD related self-esteem problems.
With that said, most adults with untreated ADHD are faced with one or more of the following challenges:
Problems and Issues at Work: Adults with ADHD are often struggling with symptoms like memory loss, extreme lack of attention on tasks that are perceived as boring or very challenging, and impulsiveness, all of which can impact significantly on their job performance and productivity. Oftentimes that means they are sad and have fewer or no career successes. Due to these problems, they may hop from one job to another, and cannot maintain a single position for long.
Problems at School: Adolescents with ADHD are often plagued by a history of academic underperformance, including the repeat of classes, failing in their grades, and so forth. Some of them even end up dropping out of school.
Marital Issues and Relationship Problems: Adults with ADHD often find it hard to keep healthy relationships due to their psychological issues. Most of their marriages end up in separation or divorce.
Life Challenges: Adults with ADHD can also find themselves entangled in many life challenges. They may develop an addiction to alcohol or drugs, while others are reckless drivers who get multiple speeding/reckless tickets. Even worse, most adults with ADHD may have financial difficulties and often suffer from anxiety and depression.
Getting Professional Help for ADHD -- How is ADHD Treated?
Behavioral therapy has proven to be quite effective for treating ADHD, and is the second most popular method of ADHD treatment, only trailing ADHD medication. But, unlike medication that often works on a neurological level, ADD counseling addresses particular problematic behaviors. ADHD therapy helps with structuring how time is spent at home/work, creating a routine, and sprucing up positive attention.
A cognitive form of ADHD therapy looks to alter negative thought patterns and make the person feel good about themselves, their future, and their abilities. This is a goal-oriented, short-term type of psychotherapy that is based on the premise that automatic thoughts and cognitions lead to emotional difficulties. When clients come to me for add counseling, I help them disrupt these damaging automatic thoughts and allow space for positive ones, many times by taking action and creating real life successes in their lives.
You’ve probably heard of popular ADHD medications like Adderall. Stimulant medications are often the most prescribed form of ADHD treatment -- and for good reason. You see, the key neurochemicals absent or deficient in the brains of most people with ADHD are dopamine and norepinephrine. Accordingly, the majority of medications used for ADHD treatment act by stimulating specific cells in the brain to increase the production of these neurotransmitters -- hence the descriptive name “stimulants.”
While ADD counseling and behavioral therapies have been proven to be effective, clinical practice manuals dictate that stimulant medication is the first-line treatment for the condition in school-going kids. Even so, medicine combined with ADD counseling, behavior therapy or ADHD Coaching is the optimal treatment for ADHD in both adults and children. Of course, stimulants aren’t the only option you have when it comes to treating ADHD.
Coping with ADHD -- Tips on How to Deal with ADHD
Tip #1: Watch what you eat
I must mention right off the bat that poor eating habits and nutrition don’t cause ADHD. But, nutritional changes can make a huge difference. Don’t get me wrong; whole foods and improved diet might not be a cure-all, but research has shown that what you consume has a direct relation to your brain function.
According to a recent study from Harvard, nutrition affects not only your mood and sleep, but also your attention and cognition. Another study from MIT adds to this. It reveals that a protein-rich diet stimulates the production of alertness-inducing neurochemicals in your brain. So, load up on good protein, veggies, fruits, and unprocessed foods.
Tip #2: Exercise More
Exercising, as they say, is a form of medication. It not only uplifts your mood but can also do wonders for your attention. For one, regular workouts have been known to trigger production of “feel good” chemicals called endorphins, which regulate pleasure, mood, and pain. The same bust of endorphins also stimulates secretion of happy-making neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
Tip #3: Try Supplements
For best results, supplement your diet with good-for-you brain nutrients such as herbs, vitamins, and foods that diminish symptoms of ADHD, including zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin C, iron, magnesium, melatonin, ginseng, and so on.
Tip #4: Practice Meditation and Mindfulness Exercises
Studies have shown that meditation, yoga, and mindful breathing can significantly reduce ADHD symptoms.
In the past, ADHD was thought to affect only children, but we now know that about at least 4 percent of adult Americans struggle with the condition every day. While there’s no exact cause of ADHD, several treatment options are available to you, including behavior therapy, medication, ADD coaching and ADD counseling.
Sasha Raskin, a therapist in Boulder, provides individual ,family, and couples therapy / counseling in Boulder, Colorado, and worldwide via video and phone calls, drawing from over ten years of clinical experience. Schedule your free 20-minute phone consultation with Sasha Raskin
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