- Boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls;
- 6.4 million kids in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD;
- 85% of children with ADHD are at risk of having the disorder as adults;
- The number of ADHD diagnoses increased by 42% over the past 8 years.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. As you could have guessed from the name, it’s a disorder that leads to hyperactive and impulsive behavior. It’s most common for children and is usually diagnosed around 7 years old even though adults can suffer from ADHD as well. People with ADHD have problems with focusing and concentrating and might need to take medication just to cope with their everyday life, school tasks, work, etc.
What Are the ADHD Symptoms in Children?
ADHD is not the easiest disorder to diagnose as its symptoms can often be confused with the normal children’s behavior — it happens when kids run back and forth or don’t want to do their homework and it’s not always a signal of something going wrong. The difference is that the symptoms of ADHD don’t just go away after some time and cause a serious threat to a kid’s school performance and social activities. If you have a kid with ADHD, you might notice that he or she:
- can’t concentrate on doing one thing even if it’s something they like (i.e. playing). Doing homework turns into a super-challenging task;
- often loses or forgets things;
- can’t sit still. Children with ADHD can often interrupt classes as they start to walk or run around, distracting others;
- talks too much, often some gibberish;
- can’t take turns. It’s hard for them to just sit and wait for their turn to come;
Children with ADHD might have some or all of these symptoms or have some other ones as well, depending on the disorder type (please, see the information about ADHD types below).
What Are the ADHD Symptoms in Adults?
Even though ADHD is mostly considered to be a “child” diagnosis, it doesn’t go away when not treated so adults can struggle with ADHD as well. The basic symptoms of adult ADHD are the same as the ones in children though they might experience some additional ones as well. If you are an adult with ADHD, you more likely:
- can’t manage your time. You are always late or have serious troubles with procrastination and leave important tasks till the last minute;
- experience hyperfocus. While most of the people with ADHD have trouble focusing, some can also be hyperfocused on their tasks which makes them lose a track of time and become unresponsive. It may lead to relationship problems and misunderstandings.
- have emotional problems. People with ADHD are more prone to mood swings and depression.
- struggle with anxiety. Anxiety is a very common symptom of ADHD in adults. It often leads to fidgeting — repeated movements, tapping fingers, etc.
What Are the Types of ADHD?
Not all patients with ADHD are the same and not all of them have the same symptoms. That’s why it was decided to distinguish three different types of the disorder, depending on the prevalent symptoms.
It’s a self-explanatory name. Kids and adults with the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD have big troubles with focusing on doing something and paying attention to one thing at a time. It’s hard for them to keep up with conversations and to follow instructions which may turn them into D-students despite their intellect and knowledge. It’s a “quiet” type of ADHD mostly typical for girls and thus rarely diagnosed as kids with this type of the disorder don’t call a lot of attention to themselves by disrupting classes.
Even though patients diagnosed with this type of ADHD may still have some problems with concentration, it’s not the biggest problem in this case. Kids with the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation of ADHD can’t stay at one place for long — they are constantly running, jumping, climbing things regardless of what they are supposed to do. They might interrupt others, grab things, and make it totally impossible for teachers to conduct a class. Adults with the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation of ADHD require constant movement, i.e they can’t sit still while having a meal or during a work meeting. They tend to make impulsive decisions which they’ll regret later and get into accidents more often than others.
It’s the most common type of the disorder. People with the combined presentation of ADHD represent both hyperactivity and inattentive symptoms.
The ADHD type is not a final verdict — the symptoms may change at the hands of time and treatment should be adjusted accordingly.
What Causes ADHD?
For many years, doctors have been trying to understand the main reasons and causes of ADHD. Some theories included that ADHD might be triggered by consuming too much sugar, bad parenting, and even watching too much TV. It’s known today that none of them are real. Studies are still being conducted but as for today, researchers believe that the reasons for ADHD might be the following:
- Genetics. It looks like genetics plays an important role in your or your kid’s chances to get diagnosed with ADHD.
- Dopamine. It looks like the level of dopamine is different in those with ADHD so the “hormone of pleasure” might be one of the reasons.
- Brain injuries.
- Premature delivery and low birth weight.
There were signals that smoking and substance abuse during pregnancy might lead to ADHD as well but there are no final results on this theory yet.
How Is ADHD Diagnosed?
ADHD is not a disease you can diagnose with a single blood test. It might also be difficult to tell ADHD from other mental disorders as some symptoms are similar to those of depression or anxiety. More likely, you or your kid will have to undergo a series of tests which include hearing/vision tests and various checklists on symptoms and behavior. It might be useful to collect information from teachers and school counselor as well. Consultations with neurologists and psychologists might also be needed.
How Is ADHD Treated?
Treatment of ADHD is, in most cases, a combination of medication and behavioral therapy. Sometimes, just therapy is enough to help a kid manage ADHD symptoms, sometimes, taking medication is inevitable. It’s a long and rather complicated process that should include training for parents, regular check-ups and treatment adjustments. Even though there is no evidence of a special diet to affect symptoms of ADHD, it’s still recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle which includes daily physical activity (both for kids and adults), normal sleep schedule, reduced amount of screentime, and balanced diet.