ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders and is characterized by difficulty paying attention and staying focused, impulsivity (difficulty controlling behavior), and hyperactivity. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a brain condition that can continue through adolescence and adulthood. It is usually first diagnosed in school-aged children when they have problems with schoolwork or cause disruption in the classroom. While some children seem to either outgrow the disorder or learn to live with and compensate for the symptoms, others do not. Approximately five percent of children in the U.S. suffer from ADHD.
The number of adults in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with ADHD is lower (2.5%) and that may be because getting an accurate diagnosis can be tricky. It was only in the 1980’s that mental health professionals realized ADHD could persist in adults. Some adults who are not treated may experience negative consequences such as a higher incidence of substance abuse, more automobile accidents, and difficulties with their careers and personal lives. However, many who have the disorder have developed skills to compensate for their distractability.
ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is the term now used for a condition that has had several names. Science recognizes three subtypes of ADHD: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominately inattentive, and combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. A diagnosis of one type or the other depends on specific symptoms. Some people, including many professionals, may still refer to the condition as ADD (attention deficit disorder), but this term is no longer in widespread use. (Those who have been diagnosed with ADD would be considered “ADHD, predominantly inattentive type.”)
Inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are the main symptoms of ADHD. While all children can have these symptoms at one time or another, they occur more often and are more severe in children with ADHD. To be diagnosed with the disorder, symptoms must be present for six or more months and to a greater degree than in other children of the same age:
Sometimes, children with symptoms of inattention are not correctly diagnosed because they are often quiet and less likely to act out. Also, children who are hyperactive and impulsive can be thought to simply have emotional or disciplinary problems.
ADHD can continue into adulthood and many adults who have the disorder don’t know it. Even daily tasks such as getting up in the morning and getting ready for work can be challenging for them.
Studies have suggested that genetics play a role in ADHD, but there is not a definitive answer. Like many illnesses, there are probably a combination of contributing factors.
Current medications do not cure ADHD, but they can help control the symptoms so that people with ADHD can be successful in school and lead productive lives. Treatments include various types of psychotherapy, education or training and medication. Each treatment program should be completely individualized.
The most important thing in dealing with ADHD is to know that it can be mistaken for other problems; a professional diagnosis is absolutely necessary.
Effective treatments and actions can be taken to help treat this disorder. For example, learning coping skills and changing behaviors can allow patients to work around their shortcomings and harness their talents.
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