Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Do you find it hard to pay attention? Do you feel the need to move constantly during times when you shouldn’t? Do you find yourself constantly interrupting others? If these issues are ongoing and you feel that they are negatively impacting your daily life, it could be a sign of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
ADHD is a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control impulsive behaviors. He or she may also be restless and almost constantly active.
ADHD is not just a childhood disorder.
Although the symptoms of ADHD begin in childhood, ADHD can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Even though hyperactivity tends to improve as a child becomes a teen, problems with inattention, disorganization, and poor impulse control often continue through the teen years and into adulthood.
Causes of ADHD
Current research suggests ADHD may be caused by interactions between genes and environmental or non-genetic factors. Like many other illnesses, a number of factors may contribute to ADHD such as:
- Cigarette smoking, alcohol use, or drug use during pregnancy
- Exposure to environmental toxins, such as high levels of lead, at a young age
- Low birth weight
- Brain injuries
Symptoms of ADHD
- Signs of Inattention
- Overlook or miss details, make careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities
- Have problems sustaining attention in tasks or play, including conversations, lectures, or lengthy reading
- Seem to not listen when spoken to directly
- Fail to not follow through on instructions, fail to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace, or start tasks but quickly lose focus and get easily sidetracked
- Have problems organizing tasks and activities, such as doing tasks in sequence, keeping materials and belongings in order, keeping work organized, managing time, and meeting deadlines
- Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork or homework, or for teens and older adults, preparing reports, completing forms, or reviewing lengthy papers
- Lose things necessary for tasks or activities, such as school supplies, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, and cell phones
- Become easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
- Forgetful in daily activities, such as chores, errands, returning calls, and keeping appointments
Signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity:
- Fidgeting and squirming while seated
- Getting up and moving around in situations when staying seated is expected, such as in the classroom or in the office
- Running or dashing around or climbing in situations where it is inappropriate, or, in teens and adults, often feeling restless
- Being unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly
- Being constantly in motion or “on the go,” or acting as if “driven by a motor”
- Talking nonstop
- Blurting out an answer before a question has been completed, finishing other people’s sentences, or speaking without waiting for a turn in conversation
- Having trouble waiting his or her turn
- Interrupting or intruding on others, for example in conversations, games, or activities
Showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean a person has ADHD. Many other problems, like anxiety, depression, and certain types of learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms. If you are concerned about whether you or your child might have ADHD, the first step is to talk with a health care professional to find out if the symptoms fit the diagnosis.
Although there is no cure for ADHD, currently available treatments may help reduce symptoms and improve functioning. ADHD is commonly treated with medication, education or training, therapy, or a combination of treatments.
- Medications can reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and help improve ability to focus, work, and learn. Medications utilized in treatment include stimulants, non-stimulants, and sometimes antidepressants which act on dopamine.
There are many different types and brands of these medications—all with potential benefits and side effects. Sometimes several different medications or dosages must be tried before finding the one that works for a particular person. Anyone taking medications must be monitored closely and carefully by their prescribing doctor.
Call your doctor right away if you have any problems with your medicine or if you are worried that it might be doing more harm than good. Your doctor may be able to adjust the dose or change your prescription to a different one that may work better for you.
- Therapy modalities have been tried for ADHD. Research shows that adding therapy to an ADHD treatment plan may help patients and families better cope with daily challenges.
For Children and Teens: Parents and teachers can help children and teens with ADHD stay organized and follow directions with tools such as keeping a routine and a schedule, organizing everyday items, using homework and notebook organizers, and giving praise or rewards when rules are followed.
For Adults: A licensed mental health provider or therapist can help an adult with ADHD learn how to organize his or her life with tools such as keeping routines and breaking down large tasks into more manageable, smaller tasks.