ADHD presents itself with persistent pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, or the combination of all three. Living with ADHD makes you feel like you’ll never be able to get your life under control. If the symptoms are getting in the way of your life, it may be time to seek professional help. Adults and children with ADHD can benefit from a number of treatments.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is known as both ADD and ADHD. Both terms refer to the same condition however, technically the term ADD is no longer used. All attention disorders are now under the term ADHD and have subcategories with inattentive and hyperactivity as differential diagnoses.
In the United States, the definition of ADHD has been updated in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to more accurately characterize the experience of affected adults. This revision is based on nearly two decades of research showing that ADHD, although a disorder that begins in childhood, can continue through adulthood for some people. By adapting criteria for adults, DSM-5 aims to ensure that children with ADHD can continue to get care throughout their lives if needed.
ADHD presents itself with persistent pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, or the combination of all three. ADHD makes it difficult to manage the multiple tasks of daily life, especially complex tasks that require organization, planning, and sustained focus. ADHD can result in performance issues in social, educational, or work settings.
Yes, ADHD is a real, brain-based medical disorders causing significant problems in several major life areas such as work, school, or relationships. It is a common myth that ADHD is just a lack of willpower and anyone with adequate intelligence can overcome these difficulties. The truth is, ADHD is essentially a chemical problem in the management systems of the brain and affects people of all levels of intelligence. Although everyone sometimes has symptoms of ADHD, only those with chronic impairments from these symptoms warrant an ADHD diagnosis.
In DSM-V, ADHD symptoms are divided into two categories: inattention and hyperactivity/ impulsivity. For diagnosing ADHD the patient must meet certain criteria. The number of criteria need to be met vary by age: children must have at least six symptoms from either (or both) the inattention group of criteria and the hyperactivity/impulsivity criteria, while older adolescents and adults (over age 17 years) must present with five. Several of the individual’s ADHD symptoms must be present prior to age 12 years. ADHD symptoms in children must be present for at least six months, be disruptive, and inappropriate for their developmental level.
A child or adult may have inattentive signs of ADHD if he or she often:
A child or adult may have a hyperactive or impulsive symptoms of ADHD if he or she often:
Along with meeting the aforementioned criteria for inattentive and impulsive signs of ADHD, a child or adult must meet the following conditions:
There are 3 main types of ADHD. In all ADHD types, the symptoms must be present for more than six months. But, as symptoms can change as a person ages, he or she may change subtypes over a period of time.
ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders with an estimated 5.4 million diagnosed children in the U.S. ADHD in girls is less common, boys are diagnosed two to three times as often as girls. It’s normal for children to occasionally forget their homework, daydream during class, or act without thinking, but ADHD can affect your child’s ability to learn and get along with others.
ADHD typically appears before the age of 12. However, it can be difficult to distinguish between attention deficit disorder and normal “kid behavior.” If your child shows a number of the aforementioned ADHD signs that are present across all situations—at home, at school, and at play—it’s time to consider possible solutions such as therapy. Making this diagnosis correctly requires a comprehensive evaluation, however, and should only be made by a qualified health care provider.
A common misbelief is that all kids with ADHD are hyperactive and can never pay attention. The truth is, some children with ADHD are hyperactive, while others are not. Some put too much focus on a task and have trouble shifting it to something else. Others are only mildly inattentive, but overly impulsive. As mentioned before, the three primary characteristics of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The signs of ADHD in children depend on which characteristics predominate (see above).By the time children reach school age, those with ADHD stand out in all three behaviors.
Most children who are diagnosed with ADHD still have it as teens. Symptoms of ADHD in teens are similar to those of ADHD in children. They include:
During teen years, especially as the hormonal changes of adolescence are going on, ADHD symptoms may get worse. Because of problems with distractibility and poor concentration, many teenagers with ADHD have problems in school (falling grades, poor performance, ostracism) especially if they are not getting ADHD treatment.
Whether or not your child’s symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are due to ADHD, they can cause many problems if left untreated. Children who can’t focus and control themselves may struggle in school, get into frequent trouble, and find it hard to get along with others or make friends. These frustrations and difficulties can lead to low self-esteem as well as friction and stress for the whole family.
Options to start with include getting your child into ADHD therapy, implementing a better diet and exercise plan, and modifying the home environment to minimize distractions. Effective treatment for childhood ADHD involves behavioral therapy, parent education and training, social support, and assistance at school. ADHD medication may also be used, however, it should never be the sole ADHD cure. Adderall and Ritalin are perhaps the two best-known ADHD medications.
While attention deficit disorder is not caused by bad parenting, there are effective parenting strategies that can go a long way to correct problem behaviors. Children with ADHD need structure, consistency, clear communication, and rewards and consequences for their behavior. They also need lots of love, support, and encouragement.
Attention deficit disorder affects many adults, and its wide variety of frustrating symptoms can hinder everything from your relationships to your career.
Adults with ADHD have typically had the disorder since childhood, but it may not have been diagnosed until later in life. But even if you were never diagnosed with ADHD as a child, that doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by it as an adult.
Adults can be diagnosed with any of the three subtypes of ADHD discussed above. However, due to the relative maturity of adults, as well as physical differences between adults and children, adult ADHD symptoms can be somewhat different from those experienced by children.
The good news is that the challenges of attention deficit disorder are beatable. You can learn to manage the symptoms of adult ADHD—even turning some of your weaknesses into strengths. It’s never too late!
The following categories highlight common symptoms of adult ADHD:
Adults with ADHD are much less likely to be hyperactive than their younger counterparts. Only a small percent of adults, in fact, suffer from prominent symptoms of hyperactivity. Remember that names can be deceiving and you may very well have ADHD if you have one or more of the symptoms above—even if you lack hyperactivity.
No one knows exactly the causes of ADHD, but certain things are known to play a role.
The effects of ADHD can lead to embarrassment, frustration, hopelessness, disappointment, and loss of confidence. Living with ADHD makes you feel like you’ll never be able to get your life under control. That’s why a diagnosis of adult ADHD can be an enormous source of relief and hope. It helps you understand that attention deficit disorder is not the result of personal weakness or a character flaw and that you’re not to blame.
If the symptoms of ADHD are getting in the way of your life, it may be time to seek professional help. Adults with ADHD can benefit from a number of treatments, including behavioral therapy, individual therapy and many more. The treatment of ADHD for adults (just like treatment for children) should involve a professional, along with the person’s family members and/or spouse.
ADHD professionals can help you:
Adult ADHD doesn’t have to hold you back! Seek professional help today!
Frank Gillespie has a Master's Degree in Counseling from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. He is a nationally Certified Counselor (NCC). He has provided therapy for over 23 years. During his career, he has helped more than 10,000 people move past their obstacles towards reaching their potential and fulfillment in their lives. He practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with a warm and nurturing approach. In addition to being a therapist, Frank has been an adjunct college professor teaching social work, a clinical consultant, a clinical director, and a seminar speaker. Frank has recently retired from his full time practice to focus on a part time online practice. He is married. He enjoys listening to music, watching sports, power walking, swimming, reading and writing.