According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, 5% of adults in the United States of America have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD). This is a brain-based disorder that usually begins in childhood but can persist into adulthood. It affects the brain activities known as executing function skills. This causes inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. It was previously known as Attention Deficiency Disorder (ADD) but this name was changed. ADD is now considered to be a type of ADHD.
The exact cause of ADD/ADHD still remains unknown. However, scientists have come up with a set of risk factors that contribute to ADD/ADHD. Here are some of them
The genes you inherit from your parents greatly determine whether or not you are likely to get ADD/ADHD. Research shows that siblings of people with ADD/ADHD are three to four times more likely to have it. Additionally, people whose parents have it are more likely to have it.
Being born prematurely and low birth weight
Babies born before their 37th week have been found to have higher chances of developing ADD/ADHD. Babies who have a low birth weight are also at risk.
Alcohol intake and drug abuse in pregnant women
Research shows that women who drink alcohol or abuse drugs during their pregnancy are more likely to have babies with ADD/ADHD.
Exposure to toxic chemicals
Research shows that children exposed to toxic chemicals such as lead may develop ADD/ADHD symptoms. Some insecticides are also suspected to increase the risk of ADD/ADHD. However, the evidence in this area is still inconclusive.
Traumatic brain injury
Traumatic brain injury while in the womb or earlier stages of life may lead to the development of ADD/ADHD. In fact, studies show that at least 30% of children who have experienced this type of trauma later on developed ADD/ADHD. This is mainly due to brain damage caused by the occurrence.
ADD/ADHD symptoms vary depending on which type of ADD/ADHD you have. Here are the different forms of and their symptoms.
Inattentive ADD/ADHD is characterized by the inability to concentrate. It is commonly referred to as ADD. People with this condition get easily distracted but are not hyperactive or impulsive. Inattentive ADD/ADHD in children presents itself in the following ways:
They make careless mistakes
They are not detail oriented
They tend to daydream a lot
They easily get confused
They avoid activities that are mentally draining
They ignore people speaking to them
They tend to ignore instructions
They are generally disorganized
They have problems with losing and forgetting things
Hyperactive and impulsive ADD/ADHD
This form of ADD/ADHD is characterized by tendencies of being overly active and impulsive. Hyperactive/impulsive ADD/ADHD in children may present itself though the development of the following set of behaviors:
They never seem to shut up
They never perform any activity quietly
They are fidgety and squirmy in their seats
They find it difficult to await their turn
They tend to intrude others a lot
Children with combined ADD/ADHD display symptoms of both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive ADD/ADHD.
ADD/ADHD in Adults
As you get older, ADD/ADHD presents itself differently. ADD/ADHD in adults is usually associated with the following character traits:
Constant lateness to engagements
Anger management issues
Propensity to depression
Serious mood swings
Propensity to substance abuse
High levels of disorganization
Unnecessary taking of risks
Inability to handle stressful situations
Criteria for diagnosis
It’s worth noting that you may experience some of the ADD/ADHD symptoms without necessarily having it. There are certain criteria you have to meet to even be diagnosed with this syndrome. First of all, you must have experienced ADD/ADHD symptoms between the ages of 6 to 12 for 6 months or more.
Secondly, they have to have been to a degree that is higher than that of other people of your age. Finally, these symptoms must have caused substantial functioning problems in two or more settings. These settings include social, home and school/work.
ADD/ADHD diagnosis can be done in several ways. Doctors can employ the use of interviews, physical exams, and relevant checklists. During the interviews, the doctor will generally ask about your symptoms and relevant medical background.
Children may also be asked to undertake verbal and written tests in order to make sure that the behavioral symptoms aren’t indicative of other syndromes. This is because ADD/ADHD usually affects learning skills.
For proper ADD/ADHD diagnosis, you should ideally seek out a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist with extensive experience in this field.
It’s worth mentioning that there is currently no cure for this syndrome. However, there are treatment plans available that reduce ADD/ADHD symptoms. These treatments include the use of ADD/ADHD medication, behavior therapy and even a combination of both.
In most cases, the best ADD/ADHD treatment is a combination of both medication and behavior therapy.
ADD/ADHD medication usually improves focus while suppressing hyperactivity and impulsiveness. The types of medication available mainly fall into two categories. These are stimulants and non-stimulants.
Stimulants increase the production of the brain chemicals known as dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals are responsible for the thinking and attention functions. Stimulants are the most popular type of ADD/ADHD medication.
However, they may have some undesired side effects such as anxiety, irritability, and sleep problems. When this happens, the doctor may decide to prescribe non-stimulants.
The use of non-stimulants as a form of ADD/ADHD medication is also quite efficient. However, non-stimulants don’t take effect as quickly as stimulants.
Behavior therapy is a kind of psychotherapy that aims to improve a patient’s behavior through learning of skills like communication and problem-solving. Family members are also taught how to use tools such as positive reinforcement.
Make sure to plan your day using lists and diaries
Release pent-up tension by use of exercise and other activities
Join a suitable support group
Learn relaxation techniques
Conditions associated with ADD/ADHD
When you have ADD/ADHD, you can easily develop a myriad of other conditions. These conditions include anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, personality disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The bottom line
In conclusion, although dealing with ADD/ADHD may seem stressful at first, the condition is highly manageable. Just take deep breaths and take it one day at a time.