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Topic » Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a psychiatric disorder in which a person suffers from a lack of attention and hyperactivity. It is a very common disorder, worldwide, and can be easily managed with pharmacological and psychiatric treatment.

What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental, cognitive, and behavioral condition that is characterized by attention deficiency and hyperactivity. According to a 2010 study 1, “ADHD is often chronic with prominent symptoms and impairment spanning [from childhood] to adulthood.”

Individuals suffering from this disorder show 1 “patterns of developmentally inappropriate levels of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, or impulsivity”.

ADHD symptoms begin at a young age and include:

  • Lack of attention and concentration
  • Problems in task performance
  • Hyperactivity
  • Forgetfulness
  • Problems with regulating emotions

The disorder is incurable and grows severe with time. It spells serious developmental and cultural consequences for its “trouble-making” sufferers, often resulting in disrupted social interactions, poor academic performance, loss of reputation and financial opportunities, and decreased quality of life.

Nonetheless, ADHD is a very common disorder that can be effectively managed with medication, therapy, and other training programs. But, if left untreated or misdiagnosed, people with ADHD can develop:

  • Behavioral and conduct disorders
  • Mental disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Anti-social personalities
  • Criminal tendencies

In fact, severe ADHD is often linked to the long-term inability to work, increased car accidents, theft, assault, etc.

What Are The Symptoms Of ADHD?

Symptoms Of ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

The primary signs of ADHD are attention deficiency and hyperactivity. Accompanying them are a bevy 1 of other ADHD symptoms such as:

  • Aggression
  • Excitability
  • Fidgeting
  • Impulsivity
  • Irritability
  • Lack of restraint
  • Persistent repetition of words or actions
  • Absent-mindedness
  • Difficulty in focusing and concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Low moods like anxiety, boredom, etc.
  • Mood swings
  • Presence of mental disorders like depression, eating disorders, intellectual disability, substance abuse, etc.

Read More About Aggression Here

Prevalence Of ADHD

According to recent research 2, 18.3% of the global population suffers from ADHD to various degrees. It was also seen that the disorders exist in a 2:1 male to female ratio 3 and have their onset in early childhood in about 3%-6% of the adult population. Though the predominant signs of ADHD are lack of attention and hyperactivity, ADHD symptoms and the difficulties associated with them vary according to age, sex, and environmental factors.

The prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is broadly categorized into two groups, namely:

1. Childhood

ADHD typically has its onset in childhood and late teenage years and it impacts everyday functioning, social relationships, academic performance, learning experiences, and extracurricular activities.

The childhood ADHD symptoms include:

  1. Lack of attention
  2. Lack of concentration
  3. Disorganization
  4. Learning difficulties
  5. Difficulties in completing tasks
  6. Forgetfulness
  7. Losing toys or other things
  8. Increased risk-taking behavior
  9. Motor dysfunction
  10. Extreme talkativeness

Read More About Childhood Here

2. Adulthood

ADHD in adulthood is simply untreated ADHD that had its onset in the sufferer’s childhood years. This type of ADHD is more severe and, therefore, is more difficult to treat.

The general signs of ADHD in adults include:

  1. Impulsiveness
  2. Restlessness and impatience
  3. Mood swings
  4. Disorganization
  5. Problems related to prioritization of tasks, decisions, etc.
  6. Problems related to task performance and task completion
  7. Troubled multi-tasking
  8. Poor planning and decision-making
  9. Frustrated behavior
  10. Low tolerance levels
  11. High temper and volatile behavior
  12. Problems in emotional regulation
  13. Forgetfulness
  14. Difficulty holding on to jobs
  15. Mental disorders like depression, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, anti-social disorders, etc.

Read More About Mood Disorders Here

Interestingly, recent research 4 reveals the role gender orientation plays in the development of ADHD. It is found that the signs of ADHD in women and men vary to a certain extent, despite the uniformity of ADHD symptoms in adults.

For instance, men tend to have symptoms related to hyperactivity, such as talkativeness, mood swings, always being on the go, etc. Women, on the other hand, have more ‘internalized’ symptoms that border on attention deficiency and cognitive shortcomings like disorganization, listening problems, etc.

What Are The Types Of ADHD?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), there are 3 types of ADHD, including:

1. Predominantly Inattentive Presentation

People with this type of ADHD suffer from attention deficiency. They have a difficult time paying attention to details, concentrating during tasks, following instructions, or communicating through conversations.

2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation

People suffering from this type of ADHD experience problems related to hyperactivity, impulsivity, restlessness, and motor dysfunction. For example, children with this type of ADHD fidget and talk a lot, interrupt conversations frequently, move about a lot, and are prone to accidents and injuries.

3. Combined Presentation

People with this type of ADHD show symptoms of both attention deficiency and hyperactivity, because of which this type is considered the most severe form of ADHD.

What Causes ADHD?

Causes Of ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

There is no single cause of ADHD, and what research 5 has unveiled so far are risk factors that set down a pattern of behaviors from the very early years. For instance, a 2012 study 6 says that “risks such as chromosomal microdeletions, extremely low birth weight, and prematurity appear to affect a range of different neurodevelopmental and psychiatric phenotypes.”

Research 7 attributes the causes of ADHD to:

1. Genetics

According to a 2012 study 8, ADHD “appears to share an inherited liability with other neurodevelopmental and psychiatric problems”. Its mean heritability is almost 74%.

2. Traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury that brings about structural and functional changes 9 in the brain enhances the risk factors of ADHD.

3. Premature birth

One 2011 study 10 states that “preterm and early term birth increases the risk of ADHD by the degree of immaturity”.

4. Low birth weight

Research 11 shows that 13.8% of all ADHD cases can be attributed to low birth weight (LBW). Such cases are usually linked to preterm and early-term birth.

5. Lead poisoning

Lead poisoning 12 and contamination 8 by pesticides and fertilizers lead to cognitive impairment and, in some cases, trigger ADHD.

6. Unhealthy diet

According to a 2019 study 13, “a diet high in refined sugar and saturated fat can increase the risk” of ADHD.

7. Maternal consumption of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, antidepressants, etc. during pregnancy

Studies find maternal stress and prenatal substance use 14 expose the offspring in the womb to ADHD risks.

8. A family history of ADHD

If a person has a family history 15 of ADHD and/or neurodevelopmental or learning problems—he/she is more vulnerable to ADHD.

9. Psychosocial adversities

In other cases, a number of psychosocial adversities contribute to a person developing ADHD. These include:

  • Bullying
  • Poverty
  • Domestic violence
  • Family discord, etc.

Read More About Bullying Here

How To Get Diagnosed With ADHD

The criteria for ADHD diagnosis have been laid out by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and usually involve:

  • A physical examination of the brain (using neuroimaging and EEG)
  • Interviews with the patients and their families
  • Differential diagnosis of ADHD

If it is seen that the concerned patient is suffering from mental conditions, he/she is advised to seek help from a mental health professional (MHP). The patient undergoes a differential diagnosis to separate out ADHD symptoms from similar symptoms associated with different disorders 2 like hearing disorders, learning disorders, and developmental disorders.

This is done through several ADHD tests, such as:

  • Conners rating scales (CRS) 16
  • Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) 17
  • Continuous performance tests (CPTs) 18
  • Swanson, Nolan, and Pelham-IV Questionnaire (SNAP-IV) 19
  • Conners Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scale (CBRS) 20
  • Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS) 21
  • Adult ADHD Clinical Diagnostic Scale (ACDS) 22
  • Brown Attention-Deficit Disorder Symptom Assessment Scale (BADDS) for Adults 23
  • ADHD Rating Scale-IV (ADHD-RS-IV) 24

Successfully and correctly diagnosing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at the earliest makes better treatment outcomes possible. However, because the majority of the sufferers are children who cannot articulately communicate their difficulties, ADHD goes unidentified or misdiagnosed. Experts say that this severely curtails the prognosis rates of the disorder.

Check Out Our Autism Spectrum Disorder Test Here

Availing ADHD Treatment

The mainstay of ADHD treatment is pharmacological therapy, which is sometimes supplemented by psychosocial treatment and training methods.

The types of treatment used in ADHD include:

1. Pharmacological therapy

This treatment method uses medications to treat ADHD symptoms. It primarily aims to correct the hormonal imbalances that cause the disorder, targeting the brain’s secretions of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, etc.

It makes use of two types of medical drugs, including:

  • Stimulants (like amphetamines and methylphenidates)
  • Non-stimulants (like antidepressants and alpha agonists)

However, recently, experts have warned that pharmacological therapy in ADHD treatment is linked to several side effects 25 like cardiovascular diseases (CVD), weight gain, dizziness, substance abuse, sleep loss, and risks of dependency.

Read More About Dopamine Deficiency Here

2. Psychosocial treatment and training

Psychosocial training and treatment in ADHD involve:

  • Cognitive-behavioral training programs
  • Trigeminal nerve stimulation system (for children) 2
  • Stress management techniques
  • Mindfulness training activities
  • Group therapy
  • Relaxation activities like yoga, meditation, etc.
  • Antecedent/consequence interventions
  • Neurofeedback
  • Cerebellar training
  • Attention or memory training
  • Ophthalmic manipulation
  • Classroom or educational remediation
  • Psychoeducation (like deterrence and patient education)

Read More About Group Therapy Here

Prognosis

The prognosis of ADHD depends on the age of the patient experiencing the symptoms and the timely and correct diagnosis of the disorder. According to a 2022 study 2, ADHD cannot be cured completely and it persists throughout a person’s lifetime, mostly affecting the social and academic domains of life.

However, with timely diagnosis and treatment, “the symptoms of the patients with [ADHD] decrease in adulthood by about 50%” and they are able to achieve their goals related to education and/or career. In some cases, ADHD goes away without treatment and this can be attributed to structural brain changes and occupational factors that do not require attention.

Takeaway

ADHD is a complex but common disorder that mostly affects children and youth. If untreated, ADHD symptoms can grow more severe and negatively impact a person’s mental and physical health, social relationships, employment and financial prospects, and quality of life. Thankfully, many ADHD treatment methods are available that can help a person effectively manage his/her ADHD symptoms and live a normal and happy life.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) At A Glance

  1. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, characterized by attention deficiency and hyperactivity.
  2. It is most common in children and young adults.
  3. There are three types of ADHD.
  4. The symptoms of ADHD include impulsivity, restlessness, forgetfulness, mood swings, motor dysfunction, irritability, aggression, etc.
  5. It is caused by brain injury, premature birth, low birth weight, lead poisoning, a family history of ADHD, etc.
  6. It can be easily treated with therapy and medication.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is ADHD a mental illness?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children.

2. Who are some famous people with ADHD?

Michael Phelps, Karina Smirnoff, Howie Mandel, Adam Levine, Justin Timberlake, Paris Hilton, and Simone Biles are some famous people who are apparently diagnosed with ADHD.

3. Why is ADHD often misdiagnosed?

ADHD mostly occurs in children with symptoms overlapping with other disorders like anxiety, intellectual disabilities, etc. The tender age of its sufferers and its clinical misidentification often leads it to be misdiagnosed.

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