Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
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 (overactivity).
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has three subtypes (source National Institute of Mental Health):
- 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 Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Signs & Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
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.
Who Is At Risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder ?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood. The average age of onset is 7 years old.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects about 4.1% American adults age 18 years and older in a given year. The disorder affects 9.0% of American children age 13 to 18 years. Boys are four times at risk than girls.
Studies show that the number of children being diagnosed with ADHD is increasing, but it is unclear why.
Diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Children mature at different rates and have different personalities, temperaments, and energy levels. Most children get distracted, act impulsively, and struggle to concentrate at one time or another. Sometimes, these normal factors may be mistaken for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) . Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms usually appear early in life, often between the ages of 3 and 6, and because symptoms vary from person to person, the disorder can be hard to diagnose. Parents may first notice that their child loses interest in things sooner than other children, or seems constantly “out of control.” Often, teachers notice the symptoms first, when a child has trouble following rules, or frequently “spaces out” in the classroom or on the playground.
No single test can diagnose a child as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) . Instead, a licensed health professional needs to gather information about the child, and his or her behavior and environment. A family may want to first talk with the child’s pediatrician. Some pediatricians can assess the child themselves, but many will refer the family to a mental health specialist with experience in childhood mental disorders such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) . Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Some children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) also have other illnesses or conditions including:
- A learning disability. A child in preschool with a learning disability may have difficulty understanding certain sounds or words or have problems expressing himself or herself in words. A school-aged child may struggle with reading, spelling, writing, and math.
- Oppositional defiant disorder. Kids with this condition, in which a child is overly stubborn or rebellious, often argue with adults and refuse to obey rules.
- Conduct disorder. This condition includes behaviors in which the child may lie, steal, fight, or bully others. He or she may destroy property, break into homes, or carry or use weapons. These children or teens are also at a higher risk of using illegal substances. Kids with conduct disorder are at risk of getting into trouble at school or with the police.
- Anxiety and depression. Treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may help to decrease anxiety or some forms of depression.
- Bipolar disorder. Some children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may also have this condition in which extreme mood swings go from mania (an extremely high elevated mood) to depression in short periods of time.
- Tourette syndrome. Very few children have this brain disorder, but among those who do, many also have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) . Some people with Tourette syndrome have nervous tics and repetitive mannerisms, such as eye blinks, facial twitches, or grimacing. Others clear their throats, snort, or sniff frequently, or bark out words inappropriately.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) also may coexist with a sleep disorder, bed-wetting, substance abuse, or other disorders or illnesses.
Recognizing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms and seeking help early will lead to better outcomes for both affected children and their families.
Treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Currently available treatments focus on reducing the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and improving functioning. Treatments include medication, various types of psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of treatments.
Treatments can relieve many of the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)’s symptoms, but there is no cure. With treatment, most people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (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.
Medications for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
The most common type of medication used for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is called a “stimulant.” which actually has a calming effect on children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) . Many types of stimulant medications are available. A few other Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medications are non-stimulants and work differently than stimulants. For many children, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medications reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve their ability to focus, work, and learn. Medication also may improve physical coordination.
Psychotherapy for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Different types of psychotherapy are used for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Behavioral therapy aims to help a child change his or her behavior Behavioral therapy might involve practical assistance, such as help organizing tasks or completing schoolwork, or working through emotionally difficult events. Behavioral therapy also teaches a child how to monitor his or her own behavior. Learning to give oneself praise or rewards for acting in a desired way, such as controlling anger or thinking before acting, is another goal of behavioral therapy. Parents and teachers also can give positive or negative feedback for certain behaviors. In addition, clear rules, chore lists, and other structured routines can help a child control his or her behavior.
Therapists may teach children social skills, such as how to wait their turn, share toys, ask for help, or respond to teasing. Learning to read facial expressions and the tone of voice in others, and how to respond appropriately can also be part of social skills training.
At Bergen Pediatric Therapy we combine all of the therapies together with a team centered by collaborating with physicians, therapists, and others involved in the child’s care of their Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Please call us or contact us to learn how we can help your child or schedule a complimentary evaluation of your child’s needs and free facility tour.