(ADD) is a neurological disorder that causes a range of behaviour problems such as difficulty in attending to instruction, focusing on schoolwork, keeping up with assignments, following instructions, completing tasks and social interaction.
Problems Often Associated With ADD
“ADD may also involve hyperactivity with behavior problems. In addition, students with ADD may have learning disabilities and are often at risk for repeated disciplinary problems in schools. In fact, adults and peers alike may conclude that such students are lazy because of their inattention to tasks and failure to follow through with assignments. While ADD is extremely common, misperceptions about the disorder continue to circulate.”
ADD VS ADHD
ADD is a term used for one of the presentations of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as defined in the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” It is officially, “attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly inattentive presentation.”
ADD does not manifest itself in the same way that ADHD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type or ADHD combined type do. Students with these presentations have different symptoms.
Children with the other two presentations of ADHD, for example, tend to act out or exhibit behavior problems in class. Children with ADD are generally not disruptive in school. They may even sit in class quietly, but that doesn’t mean their disorder isn’t a problem and that they’re not struggling to focus. In addition, not all children with ADD are alike.
Symptoms of ADHD
The primary symptoms of ADHD are focusing difficulties, hyperactivity (excessive activity), and impulsivity (acting before considering the consequences). The behavior must be excessive, appear before age 7, and seriously handicap at least two areas in a person’s life (home and school, for example).
The three main categories are:
- Inattentive: difficulty focusing or staying focused on a task or activity
- Hyperactive-impulsive: excessive activity and impulsivity
- Combined: focusing problems plus excessive activity and impulsivity
Causes of ADHD
Like all mental disorders, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder results from a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. Several studies have shown that a small molecule responsible for communication between neurons—dopamine—plays an important role in attention, task orientation, and action. In fact, the drugs used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder increase its level between certain neurons. It is therefore possible that an imbalance in dopamine-related nervous system activities may play a role in the development of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Since 30 to 40 percent of people diagnosed with ADHD have relatives with the same disorder, genes are thought to be at least partially involved. Although parents, teachers, spouses etc. do not cause ADHD, they can greatly affect the person’s ability to cope with their disorder.
Treatments of ADHD
Available treatments are adapted to meet the needs of the individual child following a biopsychosocial assessment. Treatments include specific medications, psychoeducation, social skills training, special supervision at school, and individual psychotherapy.
Parents may also receive help to better understand attention deficit disorder and improve their parenting skills. This therapy is offered in group sessions on Saturdays or at specialized summer camps.
All children are also assessed to determine their response to drug treatments in terms of both behaviour and possible side effects.
Consequences of ADHD
A cruel consequence of these attention disorders is the tendency towards low self-esteem. Not being able to sit still, to wait your turn, to control your ability to focus – all these things make children stand out in a crowd when they don’t want to! In addition, most of these children have great difficulty in reading the same social cues that most children learn automatically, so they may inadvertently appear gauche or “weird”. These children also are at greater risk for having additional psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and conduct disorder (a tendency to be chronically disruptive, disobedient, often aggressive).
As adults, they are at a greater risk for divorce, job conflict and suicide than the general population. Approximately 3-5% of children have ADHD and approximately 50% of those children will carry significant challenges into adulthood.
Fortunately, these children can be very creative, and evolve into highly accomplished adults. Perhaps because their thoughts tend to jump around more than most, they tend to approach problems in unique ways. In fact, Mozart, Einstein and Edison are suspected by many of having an attention disorder. It is important, as well, to realize that the intellectual potential of these children is no different from that of the rest of the general population.
There are lawyers, doctors, school principals – people from all walks of life – who have successfully dealt with their ADHD challenges. Fortunately, many of the problems with social awkwardness, chronic inattentiveness, and intrusiveness often respond well to counseling and group therapy. In addition, if these children are raised in a loving home and have an understanding school environment structured to meet their needs, their chances of having a positive outcome as adults rise significantly
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition with symptoms such as inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. The symptoms differ from person to person. ADHD was formerly called ADD, or attention deficit disorder. Both children and adults can have ADHD, but the symptoms always begin in childhood. Adults with ADHD may have trouble managing time, being organized, setting goals, and holding down a job.
There are three groups of symptoms:
Get the facts on all of them, and learn examples of behaviours that can come with each.
You might not notice it until a child goes to school. In adults, it may be easier to notice at work or in social situations.
The person might procrastinate, not complete tasks like homework or chores, or frequently move from one uncompleted activity to another.
They might also:
- Be disorganized
- Lack focus
- Have a hard time paying attention to details and a tendency to make careless mistakes. Their work might be messy and seem careless.
- Have trouble staying on topic while talking, not listening to others, and not following social rules
- Be forgetful about daily activities (for example, missing appointments, forgetting to bring lunch)
- Be easily distracted by things like trivial noises or events that are usually ignored by others.
SYMPTOMS OF ADULT ADHD
1: Trouble Getting Organized
“For people with ADHD, the responsibilities of adulthood — bills, jobs, and children, to name a few — can make problems with organization more obvious and more problematic than in childhood.”
“There are many reasons for this. First, adults with ADHD are often distracted on the way to an event, maybe realizing the car needs to be washed and then noticing they’re low on gas, and before they know it an hour has gone by. People with adult ADHD also tend to underestimate how much time it takes to finish a task, whether it’s a major assignment at work or a simple home repair.”
3: Restlessness, Trouble Relaxing
“While many children with ADHD are “hyperactive,” this ADHD symptom often appears differently in adults. Rather than bouncing off the walls, adults with ADHD are more likely to be restless or find they can’t relax. If you have adult ADHD, others might describe you as edgy or tense.”
4: Extremely Distractible
“ADHD is a problem with attention, so adult ADHD can make it hard to succeed in today’s fast-paced, hustle-bustle world. Many people find that distractibility can lead to a history of career under-performance, especially in noisy or busy offices. If you have adult ADHD, you might find that phone calls or email derail your attention, making it hard for you to finish tasks.”
5: Poor Listening Skills
“Do you zone out during long business meetings? Did your husband forget to pick up your child at baseball practice, even though you called to remind him on his way home? Problems with attention result in poor listening skills in many adults with ADHD, leading to a lot of missed appointments and misunderstandings.”
6: Marital Trouble
“Many people without ADHD have marital problems, so a troubled marriage shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a red flag for adult ADHD. But there are some marriage problems that are likely to affect the relationships of those with ADHD. Often, the partners of people with undiagnosed ADHD take poor listening skills and an inability to honor commitments as a sign that their partner doesn’t care. If you’re the person with ADHD, you may not understand why your partner is upset, and you may feel you’re being nagged or blamed for something that’s not your fault.”
7: Trouble Starting a Task
“Just as children with ADHD often put off doing homework, adults with ADHD often drag their feet when starting tasks that require a lot of attention. This procrastination often adds to existing problems, including marital disagreements, workplace issues, and problems with friends.”
8: Reckless Driving and Traffic Accidents
“ADHD makes it hard to keep your attention on a task, so spending time behind the wheel of a car can be hard. ADHD symptoms can make some people more likely to speed, have traffic accidents, and lose their driver’s licenses.”
9: Angry Outbursts
“ADHD often leads to problems with controlling emotions. Many people with adult ADHD are quick to explode over minor problems. Often, they feel as if they have no control over their emotions. Many times, their anger fades as quickly as it flared, long before the people who dealt with the outburst have gotten over the incident.”
TREATMENT OF ADULT ADHD
Many people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) don’t know they have it until they’re adults. It was there all along, but they never got tested for it. Others have known they had it since childhood. But the symptoms — and the stress it adds to life — can change with age.
For example, you might be less hyperactive as an adult. But there’s a good chance you still have symptoms that affect your quality of life. Adults can have problems with paying attention, controlling impulses, and staying organized. And that can affect your work, relationships, and self-esteem.
The same treatments used for kids with ADHD also treat adults. For most people, it’s a combination of medicine and talk therapy. Sometimes the meds you took as a child may work differently because your brain, body, and symptoms may have changed. As an adult, you also might need different skills to stay organized and manage your time. And you may need treatment for other issues like depression or anxiety.
CONTROLLING ADHD WITHOUT MEDICATION
“Parents often ask if they can try other treatments first before they turn to medication, and there are several methods that are effective,” says Richard Gallagher, PhD, of the Institute for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and Behavior Disorders at the NYU Child Study Center. He encourages parents to try other things while they look into the risks and benefits of medications.
Gallagher says that “behavior changes alone are most effective with kids who are only inattentive and unfocused, rather than those who are also impulsive and hyperactive. The most successful treatment for ADHD combines both meds and behavior management.”
For parents, this means creating small, manageable goals for their child, such as sitting for 10 minutes at the dinner table, and then giving rewards for achieving them. It’s also helpful for the teacher to send home a daily “report card,” letting the parents know whether the child met his behavior goals at school that day.
“From a young age, Sonia’s son was graded in school every 20 minutes on three goals: staying seated, staying on task, and being respectful of others. His reward for meeting the goals were more time shooting hoops later in the day – a more effective strategy than punishing him for misbehaving”, his mom says.
A coach or tutor can work with older children to come up with a system for keeping track of their books, papers, and assignments, says Edward Hallowell, MD, the author of Delivered from Distraction. “This is more helpful than Mom or Dad trying to help organize, because with a parent, it can come across as nagging,” he says.