When is it ADHD, and when is it simply being human? We all have moments when we question our children’s behaviors or wonder about our own.
Symptoms like disorganization are sometimes chalked up to laziness, lack of motivation or poor discipline. Restless preschoolers are often assumed to be too young to have ADHD, or expected to outgrow it on their own. Teens or adults with extreme difficulty multitasking might think it can’t be ADHD if they have a job or can focus on video games for hours.
The complicated nature of ADHD gives rise to misconceptions like these, but it’s a very real diagnosis. According to the American Psychiatric Association 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD. It can affect all aspects of life, including relationships, academic and professional achievement and daily functioning. Symptoms include:
- Inattention (not being able to keep focus)
- Hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting)
- Impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought)
We can all be inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive at times. A diagnosis of ADHD is based on the noticeable and persistent presence of these symptoms over a period of time.
ADHD Signs & Symptoms
What do ADHD symptoms look like in everyday life? Common complaints I hear in the clinic from parents and patients include:
- Disorganization and problems prioritizing
- Poor time management skills
- Problems focusing on a task
- Trouble multitasking
- Excessive activity or restlessness
- Poor planning
- Low frustration tolerance
- Frequent mood swings
- Difficulty following through and completing tasks
- Hot temper
- Problems coping with stress
When these symptoms lead to significant suffering and/or cause problems at home, school, work and in relationships, that’s when a diagnosis of ADHD is considered.
Treatments for ADHD
The good news is we have treatments we can prescribe for children and adults, including psychotherapy and psychosocial therapy and medications.
Psychotherapy and Psychosocial Therapy
- Stimulants – Improve overall impulsivity and ADHD symptoms and fast acting.
- Non-stimulants – Improve overall concentration and impulse control with few side effects, not fast acting.
- Antidepressants – Some antidepressants in combination with a stimulant can be helpful for some patients, especially if anxiety or depression are also suspected.
Deciding on a treatment approach is an individual process and providers can guide you through the process.
Advice For Those With ADHD
Regardless of whether medication and/or therapy is prescribed, several habits can help with everyday functioning. Some tips I offer include:
Advice for children/parents
- Keep a routine
- Organize everyday items
- Use homework and notebook organizers
- Be clear and consistent
- Give praise or rewards when rules are followed
Advice for adults
- Keep a routine
- Make lists for tasks and activities
- Use a calendar for scheduling events
- Use reminder notes (sticky notes/phone notes)
- Assign special places for keys, bills, and paperwork
- Break down large tasks into more manageable smaller tasks
My most important message is this: don’t hesitate to ask for help or bring up your concerns. Providers can help you better understand ADHD and partner with you to find the best treatment for you or your child. Reach out to a CHI Health provider for more info.