What is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental (having to do with the way the brain grows and develops) disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active.

 

Signs and Symptoms

It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue, can be severe, and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.

A child with ADHD might:

  • daydream a lot
  • forget or lose things a lot
  • squirm or fidget
  • talk too much
  • make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
  • have a hard time resisting temptation
  • have trouble taking turns
  • have difficulty getting along with others

 

How can I find out if my child has ADHD?

If you are concerned about whether a child might have ADHD, the first step is coming to Compass Counseling and talk with a healthcare provider to find out if the symptoms fit the diagnosis. The diagnosis can be made by a mental health professional, like a psychologist, psychiatrist, primary care physician, and a pediatrician.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that healthcare providers ask parents, teachers, and other adults who care for the child about the child’s behavior in different settings, like at home, school, or with peers.

The healthcare provider will also determine whether the child has another condition that can either explain the symptoms better, or that occurs at the same time as ADHD.

ADHD can often occur with other disorders. Many children with ADHD have other disorders as well as ADHD, such as behavior or conduct problems, learning disorders, anxiety and depression.

 

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Healthcare providers use the guidelines in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5), to help diagnose ADHD.

Are there different types?

There are three different types of ADHD, depending on which types of symptoms are strongest in the individual:

  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: It is hard for the individual to organize or finish a task, to pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or conversations. The person is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines.
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: The person fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Smaller children may run, jump or climb constantly. The individual feels restless and has trouble with impulsivity. Someone who is impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times. It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others.
  • Combined Presentation: Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person.

Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well.

 

What are the treatment options for my child?

In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. For preschool-aged children (4-5 years of age) with ADHD, behavior therapy, particularly training for parents, is recommended as the first line of treatment before medication is tried. What works best can depend on the child and family. A good treatment plan can guide you through our holistic approach at Compass Counseling, which will include close monitoring, follow-ups, and making changes, if needed, along the way to help your child reach their full potential.

 

ADHD in Adults

ADHD often lasts into adulthood. Approximately 10 million adults have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In early adulthood, ADHD may be associated with depression, mood or conduct disorders and substance abuse.

Adults with ADHD often cope with difficulties at work and in their personal and family lives related to ADHD symptoms.  Many have inconsistent performance at work or in their careers; have difficulties with day-to-day responsibilities; experience relationship problems; and may have chronic feelings of frustration, guilt or blame.

Individuals with ADHD may also have difficulties with maintaining attention, executive function and working memory.  Recently, deficits in executive function have emerged as key factors affecting academic and career success. Executive function is the brain’s ability to prioritize and manage thoughts and actions. This ability permits individuals to consider the long-term consequences of their actions and guide their behavior across time more effectively.  Individuals who have issues with executive functioning may have difficulties completing tasks or may forget important things.

 

How do I know if I need an evaluation for ADHD?

Most adults who seek an evaluation for ADHD experience significant problems in one or more areas of living. The following are some of the most common problems:

  • Inconsistent performance in jobs or careers; losing or quitting jobs frequently
  • History of academic and/or career underachievement
  • Poor ability to manage day-to-day responsibilities, such as completing household chores, maintenance tasks, paying bills or organizing things
  • Relationship problems due to not completing tasks
  • Forgetting important things or getting upset easily over minor things
  • Chronic stress and worry due to failure to accomplish goals and meet responsibilities
  • Chronic and intense feelings of frustration, guilt or blame

 

Treatment for Adults with ADHD

Adults with ADHD can benefit by identifying the areas of their life that are most impaired by their ADHD and then seeking treatment to address them at Compass Counseling.

Adults with ADHD may benefit from treatment strategies similar to those used to treat ADHD in children, particularly medication and learning to structure their environment.  Medications effective for childhood ADHD continue to be helpful for adults who have ADHD.

Various behavioral management techniques can be useful.  Some adults have found that working with a coach, either formally or informally, to be a helpful addition to their ADHD treatment plans.

In addition, mental health counseling can offer much-needed support to adults dealing with ADHD in themselves or someone they care about.  Since ADHD affects the entire family, receiving services from mental health professionals with skills in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy can help the adult with ADHD learn new techniques to manage living with ADHD.