What is ADD/ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), sometimes referred to attention deficit disorder (ADD), is a condition that is characterized by problems paying attention, poor impulse control, restlessness, and hyperactivity. Some degree of these characteristics is normal for most people. However, AD/HD causes serious disruptions in a person’s daily life, and often interferes with their ability to focus or complete tasks. There are three subtypes of AD/HD: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and combined (inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive).
It is estimated that about 8 million adults and about 5 million children in the U.S. suffer from AD/HD. Although the average onset age is 7 years old, AD/HD can occur in both children and adults. Individuals who have AD/HD are likely to continue suffering from the symptoms throughout their lifetimes. There are many treatment options for AD/HD, and many health care professionals recommend a combination of therapy, counseling, and medication as the most effective way to manage symptoms.
What are the signs/symptoms of ADD/ADHD?
There are three categories of symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The National Institute of Mental Health lists the signs and symptoms of ADHD as:
- Be easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from one activity to another
- Have difficulty focusing on one thing
- Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless they are doing something enjoyable
- Have difficulty focusing attention on organizing and completing a task or learning something new
- Have trouble completing or turning in homework assignments, often losing things (e.g., pencils, toys, assignments) needed to complete tasks or activities
- Not seem to listen when spoken to
- Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
- Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
- Struggle to follow instructions.
- Fidget and squirm in their seats
- Talk nonstop
- Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
- Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
- Be constantly in motion
- Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.
- Be very impatient
- Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
- Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
- Often interrupt conversations or others' activities.
What are the risk factors for ADD/ADHD?
- Having a family history of AD/HD
- Environmental toxin exposure (ex: lead)
- Premature birth
- Maternal drug or alcohol use during pregnancy
- Maternal exposure to certain environmental toxins
What are treatment options for ADD/ADHD?
There are a variety of treatment options available for AD/HD. While medication is one of the ways attention and focus can be improved, it is only one way symptoms can be managed, it is most effective when used in conjunction with therapy and counseling. In some cases, individuals with AD/HD may be able to successfully control their symptoms without medication, instead focusing on lifestyle changes and the cognitive/behavioral aspects. Some alternatives to medication include dietary changes, exercise, and relaxation/meditation techniques.