NB: Information presented here is only for educational purposes. While the information is accurate and up to date, it should NOT be used for self-diagnosis; only a trained psychiatrist is able to offer a mental illness diagnosis.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. ADHD also affects many adults. Symptoms of ADHD include inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought).
The symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be categorized into 2 types of behavioral problems: inattentiveness, and hyperactivity and impulsiveness.Most people with ADHD have problems that fall into both these categories, but this is not always the case.For example, some people with the condition may have problems with inattentiveness, but not with hyperactivity or impulsiveness.
The main signs of inattentiveness are:
Hyperactivity and impulsiveness
The main signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are:
Scientists have not yet identified the specific causes of ADHD. There is evidence that genetics contribute to ADHD. For example, three out of four children with ADHD have a relative with the disorder. Other factors that may contribute to the development of ADHD include being born prematurely, brain injury and the mother smoking, using alcohol or having extreme stress during pregnancy.
Diagnosing ADHD in children
If you are concerned about your child, see your doctor. They can refer your child to a doctor who specializes in child and youth health (a pediatrician), a child psychologist or a child psychiatrist, who can assess your child.
There is no test for ADHD. A specialist can only diagnose ADHD after making a detailed assessment. They need to collect a range of information about the child –especially from parents or caregivers and the child's school. For ADHD to be diagnosed, the symptoms of ADHD must be obvious in most areas of the child’s life.
The assessment can include a history of the child’s behaviors, any trauma or illness they have experienced, and their relationships and family.
Doctors and psychologists use a variety of tools, scales and criteria when diagnosing ADHD.
The above mentioned symptoms may suggest ADHD in children.
Diagnosing ADHD in Adults
It is not easy for a health care professional to diagnose ADHD in an adult. Sometimes, an adult will recognize the symptoms of ADHD in themselves when their child is diagnosed. Other times, they will seek professional help for themselves and find that their depression, anxiety, or other symptoms are related to ADHD.
In addition to symptoms of inattention and impulsiveness, adults with ADHD may have other problems, including:
If these difficulties are not managed appropriately, they can cause emotional, social, occupational and academic problems in adults.
In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, an adult must have persistent, current symptoms that date to childhood. ADHD symptoms continue as problems into adulthood for up to half of children with ADHD. For an accurate diagnosis, the following are recommended:
Types of treatment for ADHD include:
Treatment recommendations for ADHD
For children with ADHD younger than 6 years of age, professionals recommend parent training in behavior management as the first line of treatment, before medication is tried. For children 6 years of age and older, the recommendations include medication and behavior therapy together — parent training in behavior management for children up to age 12 and other types of behavior therapy and training for adolescents. Schools can be part of the treatment as well. Other recommendations also include adding behavioral classroom intervention and school support.
Good treatment plans will include close monitoring of whether and how much the treatment helps the child’s behavior, as well as making changes as needed along the way.
Medication can help children manage their ADHD symptoms in their everyday life and can help them control the behaviors that cause difficulties with family, friends, and at school.
Several different types of medications are approved to treat ADHD in children as young as 6 years of age:
Medications can affect children differently and can have side effects such as decreased appetite or sleep problems. One child may respond well to one medication, but not to another.
ADHD in Adults
ADHD lasts into adulthood for at least one-third of children with ADHD. Treatments for adults can include medication, psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of treatments.