ADHD

Mental Health, Neurological

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and trouble paying attention. Children and adults can both have ADHD. People with ADHD have trouble with focusing their attention on a single task or sitting still for extended periods. They may also fail to notice the passage of time and forget about completing needed tasks. Even with being reminded, people with ADHD may struggle to redirect their attention and focus – which may make it seem like they are being oppositional.  ADHD has several types and will affect people differently depending on the uniqueness of the individual. While this disorder cannot be cured, treatment can help to reduce symptoms.

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Symptoms

Symptoms of ADHD initially manifest between 6 and 12 years of age and may last into adulthood.

Children with ADHD may:

  • Move around constantly
  • Fidget or squirm often
  • Talk excessively
  • Have trouble listening when spoken to
  • Appear restless
  • Lose things often
  • Interrupt conversations or games
  • Have trouble taking turns
  • Be easily distracted
  • Have trouble organizing tasks
  • Have trouble finishing tasks
  • Be forgetful
  • Have trouble focusing on one task at a time
  • Experience difficulty paying attention and miss details
  • Daydream often

Adults with ADHD may:

  • Struggle with time management
  • Become easily frustrated
  • Be impulsive
  • Have a hard time multitasking

Types

Symptoms of ADHD also depend on type:

Predominantly inattentive type. Those with predominantly inattentive type ADHD are easily distracted and have a poor attention span. Difficulty completing tasks and daydreaming are common complaints. This type of ADHD is also commonly referred to as attention deficit disorder (ADD), however, this is not an officially accepted term.

Hyperactive-impulsive type. Patients with this form of ADHD are typically hyperactive, restless, and fidgety.

Combined type. A combined type also exists in which patients have a combination of symptoms from the aforementioned varieties.

Risk Factors

  • Psychosocial adversity (i.e., child abuse, severe marital conflict, poverty)
  • Premature birth
  • Family history of ADHD
  • Temperament (i.e., negative emotions or difficulty controlling impulses)
  • Exposure to neurotoxins (i.e., lead)
  • Complications during pregnancy or delivery
  • Prenatal exposure to tobacco, alcohol, or drugs
  • Head injury

Diagnosis

Before diagnosis, your physician will take a thorough medical history and give you a physical examination. If you are testing for ADHD with your child, your child’s physician may determine if your child is having trouble hearing or with vision. Some conditions may also cause similar symptoms to ADHD. These include speech disorders, learning disabilities, seizure disorders, and psychological conditions, such as anxiety or depression.  Your physician will rule these out before continuing to determine if you (or your child) have ADHD.

A single test to diagnose ADHD does not exist. It is typical for children without ADHD to be restless or hyperactive from time to time. To be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms must present in children 12 years old or younger, persist for at least 6months, and should interfere with the child’s ability to function in school, at home, or in other social situations. Diagnoses are based on the criterion outlined in the DSM IV.

Treatments

Treatments for ADHD typically consist of some combination of medication and behavior therapy. These treatment plans should be individually determined and prescribed by a medical professional. If you have a child with ADHD, you have resources available to you in how to manage your child’s treatment. There are educational programs at schools and training programs to help build your toolkit in helping your child.

Alternative Treatments and Home Remedies

Remember to check in with your healthcare team before trying any alternative treatment or home remedies. Medications and herbal/dietary supplements can interact with each other. Some natural approaches to treatment can help improve symptoms while helping with anxiety and other psychological effects of having ADHD. These include:

Exercise. 30-60 minutes a day of aerobic activity is important for all people, especially those with ADHD. Frequent breaks should be given to students with ADHD, with time to move and stretch.

Sleeping routines and environment. Establish a set sleeping routine with limited access to technological distractions before bedtime. Sleep in a cool, dark room with warm, comfortable bedding. Avoid violent or aggressive television shows before bedtime. Diffuse lavender or chamomile essential oils in the room, but not too strongly scented.

Daytime activities. Practice vigorous exercise activity early in the day. In the latter parts of the day, practice gentle activities like an afternoon stroll or yoga.

Nutrition. Eat a healthy breakfast and do not skip meals. Complex carbohydrates and protein snacks optimize blood sugar levels to help taper highs and lows. Avoid artificial colors, sweeteners, and additives.

Herbal remedies. Calming herbs help to reduce agitation and promote sleep. These include chamomile, lemon balm, kava kava, passionflower, and valerian. These herbs will not calm hyperactivity, compulsivity, nor impulsive behaviors. Use accordingly.

Massage. Massage helps to relax the body, lower stress, and improve attention. Massage therapy may help improve mood and lower hyperactivity while encouraging a relaxed state of concentration.

Stress-reduction techniques. Practice stress management strategies that promote patience and relaxation. Stress only makes attention worse. Help your child with ADHD by focusing on the positive and allow mistakes to flow with constructive learning comments that build on attention and self-acceptance.

References

CDC. (2020, October 23). What is ADHD? Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html

Harvard Medical School. (2018, November). Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd-a-to-z

Kemper, K. J. (2009). Treating ADHD naturally. NaturalTriad.com. Retrieved from:https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264961382_ADHD_Naturally

Mayo Clinic.(2019, June 22). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Retrieved from Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adult-adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350878

National Institute of Mental Health. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health:https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml

Parekh, R. (2017, July). What is ADHD? Retrieved from American Psychological Association: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/adhd/what-is-adhd

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