What is ADHD/ADD?
ADHD/ADD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a psychological brain condition. It is characterised by learning and behavioural problems. It is also called ADD or attention deficit disorder.
People with this condition may be hyperactive and impulsive. They could also have impaired or very short attention spans.
This medical problem usually affects children, the onset generally begins before 7 years of age. It is estimated that over 6 million children in the US are affected by this disorder.(1)
However, the condition can persist right through into adulthood. About 60 percent of children with ADHD/ADD in the become adults with the condition.(2)
Symptoms of ADHD/ADD often vary from person to person.
However, as a general rule they can be defined into three categories: hyperactive and impulsive behaviour or an inattentive attitude. The third group overlaps between the two and is often referred to as comorbid or combination. (3,4,5)
As this condition is diagnosed according to which group of symptoms most often experienced, they are described inline with their respective sub-type.
Hyperactive Impulsive ADHD/ADD Symptoms
Feeling fidgety or restless is a common symptom of this category. . Another sign is the frequent tapping of hands or the inability to remain seated without moving.You may also squirm around or change position often
Inability to Sit Still
Some people leave their seat when they are expected to remain sitting. A child can leave their place in the classroom when they should be sitting down. An adult might leave their office desk or workstation when they should be staying there.
Another sign of ADHD in children is feeling the need to run around or start climbing things when they should. It affects boths adults and adolescents as restlessness.
Inability to Keep Quiet
A child may find it impossible to play quietly. In adults, taking part in leisure activities with the volume turned down can also be a challenge.
Won’t Switch Off
This condition often makes people feel that they are constantly on the go. It’s like someone has put batteries in you and hit the on switch. A bit like a child’s toy that cannot be turned off.
Difficulty sitting for long periods of time is a classic sign of this condition.
A child will not stay at their desk in a classroom. An adult can find it hard to sit through a meeting or a meal in a restaurant. Other people may think you are hard to keep up with or very restless.
Talking too much is a symptom that affects children and adults.
You may also find that you are unable to stop yourself speaking when you shouldn’t. Both children and adults don’t wait until it’s their turn to speak. They talk across a conversation and cut other people off.
Adults and children often find it hard to wait for their turn in a queue. This could be at school or in line at the checkout at the grocery store.
Interruptive or Intrusive
Interrupting or intruding on other people may be normal for people with this condition. They butt in on conversations or activities.
They do not wait for permission or ask to use other people’s things. They try and take over something that someone else is doing without asking.
Inattentive ADHD/ADD Symptoms
Adults or children may frequently fail to pay attention to details. They can make careless mistakes. This could be in schoolwork or in the workplace.
It may be that things are missed or left out or that work is inaccurate.
Lack of Concentration
Difficulty in paying attention to any type of task for a long period of time applies to both adults and children. You might not be able to sit through a lengthy lecture or read for a long time. A child can appear to be easily bored when playing.
Adults and children with ADHD/ADD don’t seem to pay attention even when you are speaking directly to them. They are easily distracted which happens even when there are no external influences.
Lack of Compliance
Instructions are hard to follow. It is easy to lose focus and get side tracked. You may fail to finish what you have started. This could apply in the workplace, in school or at home.
Organisation is difficult. You cannot follow tasks in sequence. It is not possible to keep things tidy. Work is disorganised or messy. Management of your time poorly and you miss deadlines.
Aversion to Prolonged Concentration
Adults and children don’t want to do things that require them to concentrate for periods of time. They try to avoid doing things that require mental effort.
Children have an aversion to completing homework or schoolwork. Adults have problems completing reports or forms.
Adults and children can get distracted easily from what they are doing by things going on around them. For adults and adolescents this may be thinking about things other than focusing on the task in hand.
You may be forgetful in everyday life. Children could forget to run errands or do chores. Potentially adults forget to return calls, pay regular bills or even miss appointments.
Forgetfulness can also transpire into misplacing items. Children are often known to lose pencils, pens and school books. For adults it could be keys, wallets, glasses or mobile phones.
Comorbid (Combination) ADHD/ADD Symptoms
Symptoms may be displayed from both hyperactive impulsive and inattentive subtypes. Another mental disorder may also be diagnosed.
There are no specific stages for this disorder. Symptoms normally present themselves in children from as young as 3 years. It fact, children as young as 4 years may be diagnosed with the condition.(6)
Children may have trouble learning at school. They may also be disruptive.
The symptoms may affect relationships at home, school, college or work.(7)
There are a standard two categories of treatment available for this disorder. The ultimate aim of both is to try and help people function and cope with everyday life. (8)
The first line of treatment is medication. There are generally two types of medication used.
The first type are stimulants. These work by increasing activity in the brain. In particular the areas that play a part in controlling attention and behavior.(9)
The second type are non stimulants. These work on parts of the brain to control the symptoms of this disorder. They can help concentration and help control impulsive behavior.(10)
There are various forms of therapy which intend to help and involve both sufferers of ADHD/ADD and their families.(11)
Psychoeducation encourages both children and their parents to discuss the effects of ADHD. It may help them cope and live with the disorder.
Behavior therapy may involve parents and teachers. This treatment involves rewarding good behavior. Bad behavior may result in a removal of privileges.
Social skills training helps a child learn how to behave in various situations. It can help them see how their behavior affects other people.
Cognitive behavior therapy is aimed at changing the way you think about things. The aim is to help change negative behavior patterns
Experts have established a link between certain types of food and worsening ADHD symptoms.(12)
Sugar, caffeine, food colourings and additives are proven to aggravate hyperactivity. Intolerances to wheat or dairy products are another offending cause of symptom exaggeration.
Some supplements also help alleviate symptoms. However, the effects are thought to be minimal and do require further investigation.(13)
You should always consult with your physician before considering dietary changes as a treatment for ADHD.
What is ADHD/ADD? ADHD or ADD is a psychiatric disorder leading to learning and behavioural issues.
What are the signs of ADHD/ADD? The signs are based around behavioural and attention issues. They include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
How do you develop ADHD/ADD? The exact cause of this disorder is unknown, it is however thought to be genetic. There are other factors which may contribute. These include: premature birth and low birth weight. Smoking, drinking alcohol or drug abuse during pregnancy can also play a part.
How are you diagnosed for ADHD/ADD? There is no single test for this condition. The initial consultation would be with your primary care physician. They may refer you to a specialist. To be diagnosed as a child you would display at least 6 symptoms for six months or more in two or more settings. As an adult you would display 4 or 5 symptoms that moderately impair several aspects your daily life. Diagnosis would include several hours of talking and maybe some tests.
What is the best treatment for ADHD/ADD? There are medications available to regulate the brain and control symptoms. There are also alternative therapy options which may work as a stand alone or with medication.
What are the long term complications of ADHD/ADD? ADHD could lead to depression, mood or other behavioral disorders. It may increase chances of substance abuse. Adults may experience difficulties at work and in their personal and family lives. Difficulties with day-to-day responsibilities and relationship problems are also not uncommon.
Is ADHD/ADD considered a disability? It does not appear that ADHD/ADD is a disability per se. However, if your symptoms are severe as a child or an adult you may qualify for some help with social security benefits.(14)
Is there a cure for ADHD/ADD? There is no cure for ADHD/ADD. However, some people may experience an improvement of symptoms once they reach adulthood. The symptoms can also be managed with treatment.
Is ADHD/ADD life threatening? Whilst ADHD/ADD itself is not life threatening. The symptoms may lead to other conditions that are.(15)
ADHD/ADD can affect both children and adults. It has a detrimental impact on behavior and impulsiveness, and can also affect attention spans.
At this present time there is no known cure. Even though symptoms could improve with age, currently the condition is controlled by medication and alternative behaviour therapy.
Even with intervention, ADHD/ADD still remains a cognitive disorder which severely impacts the quality of life for both the sufferer and that of loved ones around them.