Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

 

The following information was extracted from the National Institute of Mental Health website.

 

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder?

 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity).

 

ADHD has three subtypes:

  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive

  • Most symptoms (six or more) are in the hyperactivity-impulsivity categories. 

  • Fewer than six symptoms of inattention are present, although inattention may still be present to some degree.

  • Predominantly inattentive

  • The majority of symptoms (six or more) are in the inattention category and fewer than six symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present, although hyperactivity-impulsivity may still be present to some degree.

  • Children with this subtype are less likely to act out or have difficulties getting along with other children. They may sit quietly, but they are not paying attention to what they are doing. Therefore, the child may be overlooked, and parents and teachers may not notice that he or she has ADHD.

  • Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive

  • Six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity are present.

  • Most children have the combined type of ADHD.
     

Treatments can relieve many of the disorders symptoms, but there is no cure. With treatment, most people with ADHD can be successful in school and lead productive lives. Researchers are developing more effective treatments and interventions, and using new tools such as brain imaging, to better understand ADHD and to find more effective ways to treat and prevent it.

 

What are the symptoms of ADHD in children?

 

Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. It is normal for all children to be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive sometimes, but for children with ADHD, these behaviors are more severe and occur more often. To be diagnosed with the disorder, a child must have symptoms for 6 or more months and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

 

Children who have symptoms of inattention may:

  • Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another

  • Have difficulty focusing on one thing

  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable

  • Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new

  • Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities

  • Not seem to listen when spoken to

  • Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly

  • Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others

  • Struggle to follow instructions.
     

Children who have symptoms of hyperactivity may:

  • Fidget and squirm in their seats

  • Talk nonstop

  • Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight

  • Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time

  • Be constantly in motion

  • Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.
     

Children who have symptoms of impulsivity may:

  • Be very impatient

  • Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences

  • Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games

  • Often interrupt conversations or others activities.
     

ADHD Can Be Mistaken for Other Problems

 

Parents and teachers can miss the fact that children with symptoms of inattention have the disorder because they are often quiet and less likely to act out. They may sit quietly, seeming to work, but they are often not paying attention to what they are doing. They may get along well with other children, compared with those with the other subtypes, who tend to have social problems. But children with the inattentive kind of ADHD are not the only ones whose disorders can be missed. For example, adults may think that children with the hyperactive and impulsive subtypes just have emotional or disciplinary problems.

 

How is ADHD diagnosed?

 

If ADHD is suspected, the diagnosis should be made by a professional with training in ADHD. This includes child psychiatrists, psychologists, developmental/behavioral pediatricians, behavioral neurologists, and clinical social workers. After ruling out other possible reasons for the child’s behavior, the specialist checks the child’s school and medical records and talks to teachers and parents who have filled out a behavior rating scale for the child. A diagnosis is made only after all this information has been considered.

 

How is ADHD treated?

 

Currently available treatments focus on reducing the symptoms of ADHD and improving functioning. Treatments include medication, various types of psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of treatments.

 

If unsure where to go for help, talk to someone you trust who has experience in mental health—for example, a doctor, nurse, social worker, or religious counselor. Ask their advice on where to seek treatment. If there is a university nearby, its departments of psychiatry or psychology may offer private and/or sliding-scale fee clinic treatment options. Otherwise, check the Yellow Pages under "mental health," "health," "social services," "crisis intervention services," "hotlines," "hospitals," or "physicians" for phone numbers and addresses.

 

In times of crisis, the emergency room doctor at a hospital may be able to provide temporary help for a mental health problem, and will be able to tell you where and how to get further help.

 

 

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