Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Home Psychiatry Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopment condition mainly characterized by a behavioral change in the affected person. This condition is identifiable through restlessness, trouble concentrating, or tendency to act on impulse. ADHD usually develops during an early age and becomes more profound with the change in the child’s circumstances, such as when they start school.

ADHD usually loses its intensity with age. Hence, the affected children may show little to no symptoms when they grow adults. But, some adults continue to face issues.

Additional problems that may accompany ADHD include anxiety and sleep issues.

3 Types of ADHD

The three main types of ADHD are as follows:

  • Inattentive type: As the name suggests, this ADHD type is characterized by a lack of attention. The affected individual usually gets distracted easily and has trouble concentrating and organizing tasks.
  • Hyperactivity/impulsive type: The person with this type of ADHD shows fidgety behavior. They usually talk more and never seem to slow down. They also face difficulty staying on the task at hand. Moreover, people affected by this type of ADHD are more likely to fall to their urge to take unnecessary risks.
  • Combined type: This ADHD type involves both hyperactive and inattentive behaviors.

What is the difference between ADHD and ADD?

ADHD refers to a mental condition that affects a person’s mental concentration, the ability to stay calm and composed, or both. On the other hand, ADD, or attention deficit disorder, is an outdated term, which is now called Inattentive Type ADHD. In other words, ADD is only characterized by a lack of attention and poor organizational skills, not hyperactivity or impulsivity.

What causes ADHD?

The exact reason for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not yet known. However, experts have determined various factors that could play a significant role in developing this condition. Let’s have a quick look at those factors.

  • Genetics: According to research, children or siblings of ADHD patients are more likely to have this problem. This may be because of the genes you inherit from your parents.
  • Brain Function and Structure: The structure and function of the brain are also thought to be major determinants of ADHD. However, the significance of the difference between the brain of an ADHD-affected person and a normal person is not clear. But in general, the brains of people with ADHD are found to be smaller than the rest of the people. Some other studies suggest the imbalance of neurotransmitter levels as a significant factor contributing to this condition.

Some other risk factors of ADHD include premature birth, epilepsy, and brain damage.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

The ADHD diagnosis depends on the type of condition they have. Hence, these symptoms can be categorized as inattentiveness-related or hyperactivity/impulsiveness-related signs.

The main signs of inattentive type ADHD are:

  • Inability to remain unresponsive to distractions
  • Being forgetful
  • Lack of ability to stick to time-consuming or tedious tasks
  • Lack of organizational skills
  • Failing to listen and follow instructions
  • More prone to losing things

And the primary symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity type are:

  • Difficulty sitting still, particularly in a relatively calmer environment
  • Fidgety behavior
  • Excessive talking
  • Excessive physical movement
  • Tendency to act without thinking of consequences
  • Impatience

Moreover, both children and adults may have different problems alongside ADHD.

ADHD-affected children and teens may also have problems such as:

  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  • Depression
  • Conduct disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Sleep issues
  • Epilepsy
  • Dyslexia
  • Learning difficulties
  • Tourette’s syndrome

On the other hand, adults with ADHD may also have the following conditions:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Personality disorders

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Because there is no simple test to diagnose ADHD, your practitioner may perform a detailed assessment comprising several tests and measures. A typical ADHD assessment involves:

  • A physical exam, during which the doctor will see whether your symptoms are due to another condition
  • A detailed interview of the patient
  • Discussions with other people, such as parents or partners

The diagnostic procedure may differ between children/teens and adults.

Diagnosing ADHD in Children and Teens

The doctors and psychologists check for ADHD signs in children and teens only when certain conditions are met. For instance, your child must show at least six symptoms of inattentiveness or six symptoms of hyperactivity to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Here is a list of conditions that must be met before the doctor checks your child for ADHD:

  • Your child has been showing ADHD symptoms for six months or longer.
  • They have started to show these symptoms before turning 12.
  • They have been showing these symptoms in at least two different circumstances: such as at home and at school. The doctor will ensure that these signs haven’t occurred due to people’s behaviors in the surroundings.
  • They show symptoms that have made their lives more difficult among their areas of interaction.
  • They show symptoms that do not point more aptly to another condition.

Diagnosing ADHD in Adults

Adults can have ADHD for a myriad of reasons. Therefore, their ADHD diagnosis is often more complicated than children’s. Generally, doctors look for at least five symptoms of inattentiveness or five symptoms of hyperactivity to diagnose this condition in adults. You will also be asked if your symptoms are present from childhood. Your doctor may also ask your parents this question if you do not remember the problems you had as a child.

Your doctor would rule out ADHD in your case if you didn’t show its symptoms regularly in the past. This is because ADHD doesn’t have its onset in adulthood, according to the most recent studies.

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ADHD Treatments

ADHD treatment may involve medications and psychotherapy. Here is a brief overview of both treatment options.

Medication

Medications for ADHD are primarily prescription drugs. Therefore, it is strictly recommended against self-medication. Below are the medications that help to treat ADHD.

  • Stimulants: Stimulants are a preferred option to treat ADHD. These medications include amphetamines and methylphenidate.
  • Non-stimulants: Patients who do not respond to or cannot tolerate stimulants are more likely to benefit from non-stimulants. The most common non-stimulants used to treat ADHD are guanfacine, atomoxetine, and clonidine.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is another approach used alongside medication treatment to manage ADHD. According to studies, stimulant medication can help treat core symptoms of ADHD but may fail to address self-management issues, mental distress, and impairments originating from ADHD. These issues are managed effectively with counseling and social skills training provided during psychotherapy. A few psychological therapy sessions may help alleviate these problems.

Can ADHD be cured permanently?

You cannot prevent or cure ADHD. However, early diagnosis and timely treatment of this condition can help you or your child manage its symptoms.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder FAQs

What is the most effective treatment for ADHD?

Every person responds differently to different ADHD treatments. A treatment plan comprising medication and psychotherapy can help manage this condition most effectively.

How can I control my ADHD without medication?

Lifestyle changes are one of the ways to control ADHD without medication. You can also discuss cognitive behavioral therapy options with your psychologist during the next visit. In general, incorporating the following into your life can help treat ADHD without medication:
A good night's sleep.
Physical workout.
Mindfulness through meditation.
Consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids.

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    Dr. Bahjat Balbous

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    Dr. Bahjat Balbous is a DHA-licensed psychiatrist having more than 25 years of experience. He uses the latest Neurofeedback therapy in treating ADHD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other related disorders.

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