Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD or ADD) is one of the most common childhood disorders, though it can continue into adolescence and adulthood. Those with ADHD struggle to stay focused and control their behavior.

The cause of ADHD is unknown. ADHD often runs in families, but researchers have not found one gene that predicts the disorder. Certain environmental factors, such as alcohol use during pregnancy or high exposure to lead as a preschooler, can increase one’s risk of developing ADHD.

If you suspect you have ADHD, you should be evaluated by a mental health professional.  To be diagnosed, you must currently have symptoms of ADHD that began in childhood. A history of childhood behavior and interviews with close family and friends will be assessed. You will also take a physical exam and psychological tests. Receiving a diagnosis might alleviate concerns. If you have symptoms since childhood that hindered your quality of life, putting a name and cause on those feelings will put you in control and give you a plan to treat persisting problems.

Symptoms of ADHD include impulsiveness, difficulty concentrating, procrastination, restlessness, forgetfulness, anxiety, and disorganization. People with ADHD have a tendency to lose things, have trouble finishing tasks, have a low tolerance for frustration, and have difficulty controlling anger. They are more likely to have a history of poor educational performance, experience difficulty keeping a job, and have driving violations.

ADHD is treated through medication, therapy, and education. Stimulants are the most common type of medication for treating ADHD. Stimulants tend to have a calming effect and reduce hyperactivity to improve ability to concentrate. Some side effects may include decreased appetite, anxiety, irritability, and sleep problems. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is commonly used to treat ADHD. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is also effective in treating ADHD. CBT works by helping you focus on thoughts, and understanding the effect of reacting to certain thoughts. Recognizing harmful thoughts is the first step towards changing those thoughts and changing corresponding behaviors.  Learning about ADHD with a professional will also help you become more organized. Understanding how to organize aspects of life through calendars, lists, and breaking down tasks can ease disorganization and make it more manageable. Routines are helpful to maintaining clarity and organization.