What is ADHD?


ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

…is the name of a neurobiological condition. This condition effects 4.4% of American children and adults as reported in a 2006 survey by Ramsay and Rostain. About 85% of adults with ADHD are undiagnosed, and untreated.

Challenges of ADHD are consistently experiencing Hyperactivity, Impulsivity, and inattention (distractibility). It is unknown what causes ADHD, but we do know that it affects how you process information. The Executive Functions are our highest level brain processes. These are the processes that enable us to make good decisions, control impulses, prioritize, plan, organize, access memory, hold and shift focus, gain understanding, and apply logical balance to our emotions. In simple terms, ADHD is a weakness of the Executive Functions of the brain.

Dr Russell Barkley, PH.D. in his book “Taking Charge of ADHD” describes ADHD as the “inability to inhibit”. In other words, people with ADHD often fail to inhibit their behavior. This is often times described as an inability to have foresight into the consequences of their actions.

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV the symptoms of ADHD are listed. To be diagnosed, a person must meet six or more the the symptoms to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level for at least six months. The symptoms are:

Often fails to pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes

Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks

Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly

Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace.

Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities

Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort

Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (toys, school assignments, pencils, books, tools)

Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli

Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Hyperactivity:

Often fidgets with hands of feet or squirms in seat

Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected

Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate. (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)

Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly

Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”

Often talks excessively

Impulsivity:

Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed

Often has difficulty waiting turn

Often interrupts or intrudes on others

Some symptoms that are known but are not listed in the DSM, which is geared more toward children, can be found in the book “More Attention, Less Deficit” by Dr. Ari Tuckman. A few of them I will list below.

They have poor organization skills even though they can work hard at trying to organize.

They don’t live up to potential, and others may assume that they could do better if they only tried harder or cared more.

Poor time management

They hyperfocus on enjoyable activities and can do so to the point of ignoring or forgetting other important tasks.

Leave many projects unfinished, both at home and work

May have a tendency to blurt things out, based on a fear that otherwise they will forget their thought.

May read many books simultaneously and probably not finish most of them.

Poor money management.

Engage in thrill seeking behavior.

These symptoms over a life time can create other issues of negative self belief, anxiety, and depression. If you believe that these symptoms may apply to you, I recommend that you talk to your primary care provider, or a behavioral health specialist.

There is no cure for ADHD/ADD, but there are treatments for managing it. Treatments include Psychotherapy, Medications, Education, and ADHD coaching. Other ways to help manage ADHD are peer support groups, family, hiring an organizer, a good diet, exercise, and cognitive memory practice.

Treatment for ADHD is the personal choice of the individual.

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