What is ADHD?

So, what is this thing called Attention Deficit Disorder (with or without Hyperactivity)?

ADD (or ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder characterized by developmentally inappropriate impulsivity, inattention, and in some cases, hyperactivity.  It is the most commonly diagnosed childhood behavioral disorder, with the number of parent-reported cases amounting to 9.5 percent of all kids age 4-17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Everyone has occasional difficulty sitting still, paying attention, or controlling impulsive behavior. For some children and adults, however, the problem is so pervasive and persistent that it interferes with their daily lives at home, at school, at work, and in social settings.

Until recently it was believed that children outgrew ADD in adolescence. This is because hyperactivity often diminishes during the teen years. However, we now know that many symptoms continue into adulthood. If the disorder goes undiagnosed or untreated, adults with the disorder may experience trouble at work and in relationships, as well as emotional difficulties such as anxiety and depression.

People with ADD can be very successful in life. But without appropriate identification and treatment, ADD can have serious consequences, including school failure, depression, conduct disorder, failed relationships, substance abuse, and more. Early identification and treatment are extremely important.  An ADD Coach can help with problem solving, intervention, monitoring, and daily help at home and at school.  My approach is very simple; find the person’s strengths, then expand upon them.

The people affected are usually of normal or above average intelligence and are often found to be very creative.  The condition is 10 times more prevalent in boys than in girls, New data shows that the symptoms of ADD continue into adulthood in up to 30 to 50 percent of people with childhood ADD.

Research has demonstrated that ADD has a very strong neurobiological basis. Although precise causes have not yet been identified, there is little question that heredity makes the largest contribution to the expression of the disorder in the population.  New research is now suggesting that the conventional SAD (Standard American Diet) laden with pesticides, additives, preservatives and wheat, may have a strong connection.  We also have many contaminants in our water and toxic substances in our environment that may also contribute to the high numbers of children with ADD.

In instances where heredity does not seem to be a factor, difficulties during pregnancy, prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco, premature delivery, significantly low birth weight, excessively high body lead levels, and postnatal injury to the prefrontal regions of the brain have all been found to contribute to the risk for ADD to varying degrees.

Increasingly, researchers are studying ADD in the context of executive functions—the brain functions that activate, organize, integrate, and manage other functions. Impairment of these executive functions is considered highly interrelated to symptoms associated with ADD.

There are three primary subtypes of ADD, each associated with different symptoms.

ADHD—Primarily Inattentive Type:

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention
  • Does not appear to listen                                                                              
  • Struggles to follow through on instructions
  • Has difficulty with organization
  • Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful in daily activities

ADHD—Primarily Hyperactive/Impulsive Type:

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair
  • Has difficulty remaining seated
  • Runs around or climbs excessively
  • Has difficulty engaging in activities quietly
  • Acts as if driven by a motor
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Has difficulty waiting or taking turns
  • Interrupts or intrudes upon others

ADHD—Combined Type:

  • Meets both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive criteria

Accurate diagnosis is made only by a trained clinician after an extensive evaluation.  This evaluation should include ruling out other possible causes for the symptoms involved, a thorough physical examination, and a series of interviews with the individual (child or adult) and other key persons in the individual’s life (for example, parents, spouse, teachers, and others).

by (CHADD) Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder © 2012    http://www.chadd.org/