Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
WHAT IS ADHD?
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that involves problems paying attention. It also involves acting on impulse. Many people think ADHD is just a childhood illness, but it can continue into adulthood.
ADHD may also be called attention deficit disorder (ADD).
WHAT IS THE CAUSE?
The exact cause of ADHD has not yet been found. ADHD seems to run in families. If a parent, uncle, or grandparent has ADHD, other family members may also develop it. People with ADHD have several differences in the brain. These differences are in the front part of the brain (an area involved in self-control) and in some parts in the center of the brain. Much research has looked at whether ADHD is caused by sugar or things added to foods such as preservatives and coloring. The evidence has not connected these with ADHD. Allergies are not a common factor in causing ADHD either.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
There are 3 main symptoms of ADHD: distractibility, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity.
A person with ADHD:
· Is distracted by what is going on around him or her.
· Starts many projects but doesn’t finish things.
· Acts or reacts to things quickly and without thinking of the outcome.
· Talks when other people are talking.
· Is quick to anger.
· Fidgets and cannot sit still.
· Gets bored very quickly.
Adults may also have compulsive eating, insomnia, and restlessness during sleep.
Symptoms may change from childhood to adulthood. The most common changes during the teen years are less hyperactivity and better self-control. Being restless and very easily distracted are the most common features of the adult disorder. For many people, childhood ADHD may be associated with other problems. Other problems include:
· anxiety disorders
· substance abuse
· learning disorders
· bipolar disorder
· personality disorders (such as borderline personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder)
· impulse control disorders (such as gambling addiction)
· explosive anger.
About half of children with ADHD also have serious behavioral problems such as defiance or aggression. Many adults who have ADHD continue to have behavior problems.
About one-third of children with ADHD have trouble learning to read or do math. Some adults with ADHD continue to have problems with reading, writing, or math.
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
There are no lab tests to diagnose ADHD.
Your personal healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and observe your behavior for signs of ADHD. To be diagnosed with ADHD, your symptoms must persist and interfere in a major way with your daily life. You and others close to you may complete questionnaires or rating forms about ADHD symptoms. You may see a mental health professional for psychological tests to check for problems in addition to ADHD.
There are 3 types of ADHD:
· In the combined type, you have all of the main symptoms: distractibility, poor impulse control, and hyperactivity.
· In the predominately inattentive type, you have problems with focusing and attention. Often, there is very little hyperactivity or impulsivity. This form is especially common among girls and women.
· In the predominately impulsive-hyperactive type, poor self-control is the major problem.
HOW IS IT TREATED?
The treatment of ADHD may involve 3 types of treatment:
· Learning coping skills: You will learn to manage situations that distract and over-excite you. Read and work in quiet places and take frequent breaks. You may want to use day planners or pocket computers to organize your life. You tend to need more structure and daily routine than most people.
· Behavioral training: Behavior programs may help you develop a longer attention span and be able to sit still.
· Medicines: The same medicines used for children are effective for adults. Stimulants appear to stimulate the self-control areas of the brain. These medicines do not slow you down, but rather increase self-regulation. The most common side effects are loss of appetite and trouble getting to sleep. Your dosage will be gradually adjusted to reduce side effects. Sometimes, medicines are used only on workdays. When these medicines are not effective, there are other medicines that can help with ADHD.
Claims have been made that certain herbal and dietary products help control ADHD symptoms. Omega fatty acid supplements and certain vitamins and minerals may help symptoms of ADHD. No herb or dietary supplement has been proven to consistently or completely relieve symptoms. Supplements are not tested or standardized and may vary in strength and effects. They may have side effects and are not always safe.
Exercising and learning ways to relax may help. Yoga and meditation may also be helpful. You may want to talk with your personal healthcare provider about using these methods along with medicines and psychotherapy.
HOW LONG DO THE EFFECTS LAST?
Some people with ADHD seem to “grow out of it” by their early twenties. However, they are often left dealing with relationship problems, a poor education, and a reputation as a troublemaker. Men and women may have trouble keeping up with the things they need to do at home and at work. An adult with ADHD may have problems with poor planning, messiness, dangerous driving, and lateness. Adults with ADHD may lose jobs because of their illness. People with ADHD can excel at jobs that reward high energy and multi-tasking.
HOW CAN I TAKE CARE OF MYSELF?
There are many ways to help manage ADHD:
· When you need to read or concentrate, arrange tasks to be done away from the sounds of television, radio, or others talking.
· When you need to concentrate, try having low-level background sound such as white noise or instrumental music.
· Do tasks in short blocks of time with breaks in between.
· Follow a very structured daily routine for basic home and work events.
· If you have trouble slowing down at bedtime, a planned quiet time before bedtime and even background music when falling asleep are often helpful.
· Carry along worry beads or worry stones that can be played with when you are restless.
· Get support. Talk with family and friends. Consider joining a support group in your area.
· Learn to manage stress. Ask for help at home and work when the load is too great to handle. Find ways to relax, for example take up a hobby, listen to music, watch movies, walking. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed.
· Take care of your physical health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet. Limit caffeine. If you smoke, quit. Avoid alcohol and drugs, because they can make your symptoms worse. Exercise according to your personal healthcare provider’s instructions.
· Check your medicines. To help prevent problems, tell your personal healthcare provider and pharmacist about all the medicines, natural remedies, vitamins, and other supplements that you take.
· See your personal healthcare provider or therapist if you have any questions or your symptoms seem to be getting worse.