Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder. It affects your ability to sit still, focus, and control behavior. ADHD is commonly associated with a few other conditions such as learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, sensory processing disorder, autism spectrum disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and oppositional defiant disorder. 

This condition is not only a childhood problem; it can affect people of any age. Children with this disorder may find themselves in frequent trouble at school, simply because of their inability to focus and follow instructions. Left untreated, adults with ADHD may experience problems with employment, managing finances, and maintaining relationships. It can significantly disrupt your life and cause significant struggles to perform daily tasks. 

Pathophysiology and Risk Factors

This condition may result from a chemical imbalance in the brain, although the exact cause is unknown. ADHD is associated with lower activity levels in some regions of the brain (the parts that control attention and focus). Many studies have indicated that these brain areas may be smaller and less prominent than a brain without this disorder.

This disorder also has a strong genetic component. A child with this brain disorder will likely also have a parent with it. Sometimes parent and child are both diagnosed simultaneously as this disorder is becoming more and more well recognized. Other risk factors include premature birth and a significant head injury.

Symptoms

Symptoms of this disorder present very differently based on age, gender, and environment. 

Symptoms in Boys 

Boys tend to present with the hyperactivity and impulsivity component of this disorder. They may appear to be constantly on the go. They often struggle to sit still and will be fidgety. They are more prone not to wait their turn and will often blurt out answers in school. 

Symptoms in Girls

ADHD symptoms in girls include daydreaming, disorganization, difficulty following instructions, and being easily distracted.

Symptoms in Women

Symptoms of ADHD in women are high energy levels, extreme talkativeness, and ADHD mood swings. Left untreated in women, anxiety and ADHD depression often occur alongside this condition.

Symptoms in Men

This condition can result in procrastination, difficulty controlling emotions, tardiness, and challenges maintaining relationships in men.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis in Children

Diagnosing this disorder in children can take some time and should involve input from multiple sources. Your child's doctor will want to hear from their teachers, family, and any other care providers they may have. 

The evaluation process typically includes questionnaires that capture observations from the adults in your child's life. It can also be helpful to track symptoms, behaviors, and any other relevant information that may help your healthcare provider understand your child's situation. Because of all the supporting materials required to get a complete picture of your child's symptoms, the diagnosis process can be lengthy.

Your child's doctor will also complete a physical exam to rule out other conditions that can have similar symptoms to differentiate ADHD vs autism. Other disorders included in the differential diagnosis are bipolar and ADHD, and OCD symptoms. Many practitioners and child educators feel that ADHD is overdiagnosed. For this reason, your child must be thoroughly evaluated against the criteria for this condition to ensure they receive the proper care and treatment.

Diagnosis in Adults

While there are many online ADHD tests, a healthcare provider must formally diagnose this disorder. Your doctor will review your symptoms and may have you complete an ADHD self assessment or adult ADHD self report scale. 

Treatment

Treatment in Children

Finding a treatment plan that works for your child may involve several interventions. Common medications given to children with this condition are stimulants. Finding the right dose can take time and is different for each child. As your child grows, the amount they take may have to be adjusted. Mood stabilizers and non stimulant ADHD medications can also be used. 

Alternatives to ADHD medication are behavioral therapy for ADHD, educational support in school, and counseling. Your child may also benefit from social skills training. You may find it helpful to explore the most effective parenting style for your child through parent training.

Treatment in Adults

Medication therapy is most beneficial to adults when combined with lifestyle changes. Ensure adequate sleep and daily exercise. Avoid stimulant or depressant substances; caffeine and ADHD, and alcohol don't mix well. Eating a nutritious and healthy diet and practicing mindfulness techniques and meditation to reduce anxiety and stress are also beneficial. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for ADHD or ADHD support groups can help you learn to live with this condition. Other treatment options are natural ADHD supplements or essential oils for ADHD. However, there is limited evidence that these are helpful.

SEE A DOCTOR

Prevention

ADHD is not curable but is manageable with continued treatment. With early intervention and the proper support and medication, children with this condition can thrive and are often highly creative. Unfortunately, if early symptoms are left unaddressed, children can struggle in school and social environments. These struggles can intensify as your child gets older and can lead to more serious behavioral issues

Though it may look different in adults, ADHD is equally challenging for all ages. Left untreated, it can result in employment instability, relationship obstacles, and emotional distress. However, as with children, early and ongoing treatment can help you live a full and successful life. Let one of our online doctors help you better manage your ADHD today!

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