What Is ADHD?

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Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV.

What Is ADHD

You may have heard of the term ADHD - but what IS ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD, is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders that occur during childhood - this is because the disorder is typically first diagnosed in childhood. However, adults can also be diagnosed with ADHD, as ADHD typically lasts throughout adulthood.

ADHD Symptoms

ADHD can present in a variety of ways, and it may present differently in adults than in children. However, in children, adults and teenagers, ADHD can be placed into two main categories: inattentiveness, and hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

ADHD Symptoms in Children

Symptoms of ADHD in children will often become noticeable before the age of 6 - and can affect home life as well as school life.

As previously mentioned, ADHD impacts attentiveness and hyperactivity - although it’s possible to have symptoms of just one of these behaviours.

In children, some hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms can include:

  • Fidgeting frequently
  • Difficulty remaining still/ moving excessively
  • Trouble concentrating and difficulty focusing
  • Difficulty sustaining attention
  • Excessive talking
  • Lack of a sense of danger
  • Impulsive behaviours (acting without thinking)
  • Interrupting people and being unable to wait their turn

Some signs of inattentiveness may include:

  • Careless mistakes (noticeable in school work)
  • Trouble organising tasks
  • Forgetting or losing things
  • Short attention span
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Not sticking to tasks/ switching activities regularly
  • Not following instructions or listening

These symptoms can negatively affect various aspects of a child’s life, such as school, homework, and relationships with other children.

ADHD Symptoms in Adults

ADHD can present slightly differently in adults than in children, and it can be harder to define the symptoms as there is less research on adult ADHD than on child ADHD.

Some signs of ADHD in adults include:

  • Trouble concentrating/ trouble focusing
  • Difficulty organising workload
  • Trouble managing time
  • Issues with memory/ forgetfulness
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Falling behind with work
  • Mood swings
  • Short-tempered
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble dealing with stress
  • Impatience
  • Risk-taking activities (e.g dangerous driving).

How to Diagnose ADHD

ADHD can not be diagnosed with a physical test such as an x-ray - instead, medical health professionals will use an evaluation process to reach an ADHD diagnosis.

Many adults have reported that it can be a long process to get ADHD diagnosed. If you suspect ADHD, be sure to book an appointment with your GP.

They will ask for information about yourself or your child to assess how your symptoms compare to the criteria for ADHD - referring to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

Currently, the conditions involve:

  1. Symptoms interfering with daily life
  2. Symptoms not being explained by other medical/ mental health conditions
  3. More than one symptom is present before the age of 12
  4. Symptoms being present in a variety of different settings (e.g classroom setting/ home)

In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, you must meet several of these conditions.

Getting an ADHD diagnosis can be beneficial in several ways - first of all, it can be the first step to getting help, whether you choose medication or not.

It can also give you a sense of relief knowing that there is a medical reason that you have been experiencing these symptoms throughout your life.

Once you have a diagnosis, you can adjust your life to accommodate and manage your ADHD - and can begin a course of treatment to help manage the symptoms.

In the case of childhood ADHD, you may also wish for your child to attend regular checkups with a doctor.

Your child’s doctor will ensure that the treatment provided works correctly. Read on to learn more about how ADHD is treated.

Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD and they are under 6 years of age, behaviour management techniques may be recommended to you before medication is prescribed.

However, in children older than six but under the age of 12, medication and behavioural therapy may be recommended.

You may also undergo psychoeducation - this is where you or your child will discuss the effects of ADHD. This can help you process the ADHD diagnosis, and give you tools to cope with the disorder. Behavioural training can be beneficial in treating many symptoms of ADHD.

A common form of therapy for ADHD is CBT - cognitive behavioural therapy. This is used to treat depression and anxiety, but can also be adapted to treat ADHD.

A course of CBT with a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist can help you to change how you feel or react to a situation.[vi] You can also attend group CBT sessions.

Treatment in adults may look slightly different to treatment for ADHD in children. As an adult, you may be prescribed ADHD medication to help manage the behavioural symptoms of ADHD.

However, it is important to note that medication does not cure ADHD - it simply helps you manage the symptoms. For example, it can make you feel calmer, control impulsivity, and help you to concentrate better.

There are currently five ADHD medicines that can be used in treatment:

  • Guanfacine
  • Atomoxetine
  • Methylphenidate
  • Lisdexamfetamine
  • Dexamfetamine

You will usually begin ADHD medications on a small dose at first and gradually increase to a higher dose if necessary.

People with ADHD tend to combine both medication and therapy - however, everybody is different - what works for you may not work for somebody else and vice versa.

ADHD and Mental Health

ADHD is associated with a mental illness and a variety of mental health issues - for example, anxiety disorders or depression.

In fact, research suggests that many mental health disorders are linked, which means that it’s more likely that you have more than one at the same time.

Roughly two-thirds of people with ADHD will have another co-occurring condition such as GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) or depression.

Some other mental health conditions that a child or teenager may experience as well as ADHD include anxiety disorder, depression, as well as sleep problems.

ADHD and Addiction

Just like somebody with ADHD may experience other coexisting mental health issues, a person with ADHD may also be more likely to abuse drugs, have an alcohol addiction, or have a substance use disorder.

Roughly 25% of those with substance use disorder/ substance use problems fit the criteria for ADHD. Research has shown that people that have ADHD have a higher risk of developing alcohol addiction, other addictions and disorders such as alcohol addiction/ alcoholism or substance abuse.

If you think you may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, you are not alone. At Help4Addiction, we can find the right rehab treatment centre for you. Contact us today to discuss your treatment options today.

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