What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. It is one of the most common neurological disorders affecting children. However, ADHD also affects many adults.

Symptoms of ADHD include not being able to concentrate or hold focus, hyperactivity (showing excessive bodily movement that is not appropriate for a given environment) and impulsivity (acting without fully considering what might happen).

It is estimated that approximately 8-11 percent of children and 2-5 percent of adults suffer from ADHD.

Contrary to what many people believe, ADHD is not a behavior disorder. Nor is ADHD a mental illness. ADHD is not a specific learning disability either. Instead, ADHD is a developmental problem that affects the brain’s self-management system.

Symptoms of ADHD

Adults and children with ADHD often feel restless or fidgety, are easily distracted and find it hard to concentrate. Other symptoms include talking a lot, interrupting and saying or doing things without thinking.

However, there are different kinds or categories of ADHD. Each type comes with its own set of symptoms. The three types are inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive and combination type.

Inattentive type ADHD

People with this category of ADHD have great difficulty focusing on tasks, finishing projects/work, and following instructions.

Hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD

People with this type of ADHD display hyperactive and impulsive behavior. This can include fidgeting, the inability to sit still, not being able to wait for a turn and interrupting people who are speaking.

While less so than those with attentive-type ADHD, people with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD may still find it difficult to focus on tasks.

Combined type ADHD

This type of ADHD is the most common. Symptoms include an inability to pay attention, a tendency toward impulsiveness, and above-normal levels of activity and energy.

Some people with ADHD have fewer symptoms as they age, but many adults continue to have major symptoms that interfere with daily life.

In adults, the main features of ADHD may include difficulty paying attention, impulsiveness and restlessness. Symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Treatment of ADHD

There are many different treatment options for children and adults with ADHD. The best strategies often have multiple elements that work together to reduce symptoms. The best approach will depend on the kind of ADHD a person has, as well as their age.

Finding the right ADHD treatments — and managing them — takes research, planning, organization, and persistence. If you are the parent of a child with ADHD, it is best to talk to your doctor about the best approach.

ADHD medication

For children aged 6+ and adults, medication may help. The two main types of medication used to treat ADHD are stimulants and non-stimulants.

Stimulants can reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve functioning at school, home, and work. Examples of medicines in this category are Ritalin and Adderall, which are also among the most-prescribed ADHD medications. These medicines work by increasing the amounts of the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which help with focus and other brain functions. There are three types of stimulant drugs for ADHD:

  • Short-acting
  • Intermediate-acting
  • Long-acting

Non-stimulant ADHD medications are considered by some to be second-line treatments because the level of benefits and response rates are often lower.

Behavioral therapy and learning support for children

It is very important that children with ADHD have a supportive learning environment, and access to teachers who understand their unique learning needs. ADHD specialists can also work with children to manage their focus and hyperactivity.

Self-care

Those with ADHD also need to be sure to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle. This includes:

  • A healthy, balanced diet
  • Daily exercise
  • Enough, quality sleep
  • Limited screen time from phones, computers, and TV
  • Time outdoors
  • Studies have also shown yoga, mindfulness and tai-chi to help calm some symptoms

FAQs

What does ADHD stand for?

ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. It is important to remember that there are different categories of ADHD, too. These include inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined type. Different treatment strategies are recommended for each type.

Is ADHD a disability?

This depends. Under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), ADHD can be legally considered a disability for some people. But a diagnosis on its own isn’t enough to qualify for protection under the law. In addition to a diagnosis by a trained medical professional, a person’s symptoms must have a big impact on their daily life. If this can be proved, schools and workplaces are required to reasonably cater to the person’s needs.

Is ADHD a mental illness?

Some healthcare professionals think ADHD is a mental illness. Others believe it’s a behavioral problem. ADHD is, however, most correctly described as a developmental disorder. For those (especially parents) who are concerned about labels, it is important to remember that the terms people may use for ADHD don’t really matter. The important thing is getting the right help. With support, people with ADHD can be just as successful as those who don’t face those challenges.

What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?

ADD is an outdated term and no longer a medical diagnosis. However, it is often still used to refer to certain symptoms that fall under the umbrella term of ADHD. ADD (which stands for ‘attention deficit disorder’) is the term commonly used to describe symptoms of inattention, distractibility, and poor memory. ADHD is the term used to describe additional symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. However, both are included in the medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Patients who have trouble focusing on schoolwork, often forget appointments and easily lose track of time may have ADD — or what clinicians now call inattentive type ADHD.

Is ADHD hereditary?

ADHD tends to run in at least some families. Medical professionals today think that genes you inherit from your parents can cause ADHD. For example, research shows that parents and siblings of a child with ADHD are more likely to have ADHD themselves. However, the way ADHD is inherited is complex. Other factors also play a role in developing ADHD. These include:

  • Being born prematurely or with a low birth weight
  • Having epilepsy
  • Sustaining brain damage – which happened either in the womb or after a severe head injury later in life

Can you outgrow ADHD?

It was once thought that kids simply outgrow ADHD as they develop. However, we now know that troubling symptoms can continue into adolescence and beyond. It is true that some children do seem to outgrow the disorder (or no longer have major symptoms), but in most cases kids with ADHD grow up to be adults with ADHD.

One of the reasons people are suspected to ‘outgrow’ ADHD is because ADHD symptoms present in different ways as a person moves through different life stages. Some of the symptoms may even diminish as a person ages. For example, ​hyperactivity and fidgetiness may decrease with age. Other symptoms may persist.

What are the symptoms of ADHD in adults?

Many adults with ADHD don’t know they have it. They just know that everyday tasks can be difficult. Adults with ADHD may find it difficult to focus and prioritize, leading to missed deadlines and forgotten meetings or social plans. The inability to control impulses can range from impatience waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and outbursts of anger.

  • Adult ADHD symptoms may include:
  • Impulsiveness
  • Disorganization and problems prioritizing
  • Poor time management skills
  • Poor focus
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Excess activity or restlessness
  • Poor planning
  • Mood swings
  • Problems following through and completing tasks
  • Trouble coping with stress

Do ADHD and depression go together?

Yes. People who suffer from ADHD are more likely to have depression as well. Studies show that the rate of major depression in children with ADHD is many times times higher than in kids without ADHD. Adults with ADHD are also more prone to depression than non-sufferers.

Fortunately, treatments are available for both conditions. The treatments often overlap. For example, talk therapy can help treat both conditions. Also, certain antidepressants can sometimes help ease ADHD symptoms.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.