Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interfere with daily functioning. ADHD can affect people of all ages, but it is most commonly diagnosed in children. Symptoms of ADHD can include:
- Inattention: People with ADHD may have difficulty focusing on tasks, daydreaming frequently, or making careless mistakes.
- Hyperactivity: People with ADHD may have difficulty sitting still, fidgeting, or talking excessively.
- Impulsivity: People with ADHD may act without thinking, blurt out answers without waiting for questions to be finished, or have difficulty following rules.
People with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention, but not significant hyperactivity or impulsivity. Others have significant hyperactivity and impulsivity, but do not have significant inattention. Some people have significant symptoms of all three types of ADHD: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
There is no single cause of ADHD, but some factors are:
- Genetics: ADHD is believed to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
- Brain differences: Studies have shown that there are differences in the brain structure and function of people with ADHD.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to certain environmental factors, such as lead or pesticides, may increase the risk of developing ADHD.
Diagnosis of ADHD There is no single test for ADHD. Diagnosis is typically based on a combination of factors, including:
- Symptoms: A doctor will assess the child’s symptoms to see if they meet the criteria for ADHD.
- Medical history: The doctor will ask about the child’s medical history, including any family history of ADHD.
- Behavioral observation: The doctor may observe the child in a variety of settings, such as at home, at school, and in the doctor’s office.
- Psychological testing: The doctor may order psychological testing to assess the child’s cognitive functioning and rule out other potential causes of the child’s symptoms.
ADHD affects about 3 to 5 percent of individuals in childhood and about 50 percent those diagnosed continue to have problems in adulthood. Common problems include work problems, school/academic problems, difficulty in relationships, poor time management, organizational skills, short-term memory, behavioral problems, and the list goes on. Research does suggest that combination treatment (medication plus psychotherapy) is most effective. Medication is not sufficient treatment in most cases since it does not teach new skills. Evidence-based psychotherapy in the form of parent training or behavioral family therapy can teach parents and caregivers skills that are helpful in managing problem behaviors and improve attentive behavior. Individual behavioral or cognitive-behavioral therapy is evidence-based for individuals in adulthood and is similar to coaching, teaching organizational skills, time management skills, and motivational skills. All of these evidence-based psychotherapies are available from the comfort and convenience of your own home.