Help for ADHD


Help for ADHD

Author: Laura Williamson

ADHD, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is a much more complex condition than is commonly believed. Many people think of ADHD as nothing more than a label used to categorize children who misbehave or perform poorly in school, but while these are potential symptoms of ADHD, there’s a lot more to the disorder than simple misbehavior. And while a common misconception is that medication is a common, even over-used, treatment for ADHD, the reality is that therapy can be an extremely effective way of helping people manage their symptoms.

What Causes ADHD?

There are lots of myths about ADHD, and one of the most persistent is that the condition develops as a result of poor parenting, a diet high in sugar or processed foods, or factors relating to the modern lifestyle, such as watching TV or playing video games. In fact, while the exact biological factors that lead to ADHD are still unclear, there is plenty of evidence pointing to a clear neurological cause, and it’s certain that the condition is genetically inherited. The current line of thinking is that people with ADHD have an impaired response to a neurotransmitter called dopamine, and that much of the abnormal brain activity in a person with ADHD occurs in a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. This region of the brain is involved in things like planning and decision making, personality expression, and social behavior.

Complicating this is the fact that many people with ADHD have other neurological or psychological disorders, such as depression or anxiety, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder, but ADHD is not caused by these other conditions.

Signs and Symptoms

Another misunderstood facet of ADHD is the wide variety of symptoms that it can cause, and the somewhat misleading nature of these symptoms. People with ADHD are often mischaracterized as impulsive, flaky, flighty, unruly, aggressive, or rude, and as quitters, fidgeters, or procrastinators. Essentially, the symptoms of ADHD are, in many children and adults alike, mistaken for evidence of a poor character or flawed personality, and this has contributed to the myth of inadequate parenting as a cause of the disorder. Many parents do have a difficult time coping with and disciplining a child with ADHD, but as noted, the disorder is caused by biological factors, rather than social factors. While there are core symptoms that many people with ADHD have, it’s important to know that most people have some but not all of the symptoms, and the combination of symptoms can vary widely from person to person. For example, some people with ADHD have a tendency towards extreme hyperactivity, while some aren’t hyperactive, but have impaired concentration and attentiveness. In adults who are diagnosed with ADHD, the lack of hyperactivity is often the key reason why they didn’t receive their diagnosis as a child.

Symptoms can include:

  • Impatience and/or impulsive ness

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Easily distracted and/or bored

  • Tendency to daydream

  • Being talkative and/or interrupting others

  • Fidgeting, squirming, difficulty sitting still or standing still

  • Difficulty finishing tasks

  • Difficulty listening to and/or following instructions

Treating ADHD

Although many people believe that medication is the go-to treatment for ADHD—and some blame doctors and pharmaceutical companies for “over-medicating” children—it’s not always the case that children and adults with ADHD are treated with medication alone. It’s increasingly common that the disorder is treated with therapy, or a combination of medication and therapy. In particular, people who are diagnosed with ADHD as adults often choose to try therapy as a treatment rather than medication.

Treatment begins by identifying the symptom pattern of a person with ADHD. Some people have what is commonly thought of as “classic” ADHD, with symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and impatience, while others have a symptom pattern that relates to difficulty concentrating and paying attention. A third group of people have a symptom pattern that is a combination of the two.

Depending on the person’s symptoms, and their treatment preferences, treatment might include medication, talk therapy, cognitive and behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, or a combination of two or more different options.

Living with ADHD

ADHD is not curable, but with effective treatment, people with the disorder learn to manage the symptoms, and reduce their negative impact. Some people believe it’s possible to “grow out of” ADHD, but in fact what has usually happened is that the person has learned how to cope with or hide their symptoms well enough that they are no longer noticeable to others.

For more information on ADHD, here is a great guide:

Author: Laura Chapman