Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also called ADHD, is a mental health issue that affects children as well as adults. While it is a common disorder, it’s also complex. Just like the name suggests, individuals with ADHD are hyperactive and have problems maintaining focus. Another general symptom is that people with ADHD are impulsive.
No one knows what causes ADHD, although evidence suggests it is accounted for, in part, by inherited factors.
ADHD is often first detected when a child is in elementary school. However, that’s not always the case and some children won’t show ADHD symptoms until middle school or high school. Teachers may be the first to identify ADHD in a child, when they notice a student becoming habitually disruptive in the classroom or unable to sit still or maintain focus.
Some ADHD symptoms can improve as a child grows into an adult. However, most people don’t completely outgrow ADHD. In adults, some symptoms are similar to the ADHD symptoms children experience. However, they can be harder to identify in an adult, which means many adults may have ADHD, but not know it. According to the American Psychiatric Association, an estimated 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults have ADHD.
Note: Because ADHD is complex, treatment can be too. If you believe you, your child or someone you know may have an ADHD, see a doctor or mental health professional to be diagnosed and get the expert care you need.
To help a doctor or mental health provider properly diagnose you or your child, take note of your symptoms as well as when they are occurring. If any of the ADHD symptoms listed here are occurring frequently, make an appointment to see a mental health specialist or medical professional as soon as possible:
It can be difficult to tell the difference between ADHD and normal kid behavior. To further complicate the issue, not all kids have the same ADHD symptoms—for example, some kids with ADHD will mostly have problems related to being inattentive, while others have issues that focus around hyperactivity. If you recognize just a few symptoms or they only appear in certain situations, it may not be ADHD.
On the other hand, if a child exhibits several ADHD symptoms that are happening frequently across all situations—at home, at school, at play and in other social situations—it’s time to make an appointment with a doctor and get a diagnosis.
• Appearing not to listen when spoken to
• Can’t sit still
• Daydreams often
• Difficulty following instructions
• Difficultly making friends or getting along with others
• Difficulty taking turns
• Dyslexia (note an estimated 20-40% of kids who have ADHD also have dyslexia)
• Easily distracted
• Excessive talking
• Forgetful and loses items frequently
• Hard time managing emotions
• Loses focus/gets sidetracked easily
• Low self-esteem
• Trouble taking turns
• Difficulty finishing tasks or staying organize
• Feeling restless
• Learning disabilities
• Poor listening skills
• Poor time management or always late
• Relationship problems
• Unable to multitask
Treatment for ADHD usually involves a combination of approaches such as behavioral therapy, parent support and school support. Medication is also a key in helping most children and adults who have ADHD.
In short, there’s no way to know exactly which prescription drug will work best for a patient with ADHD—it’s often related to a person’s health history, their genetics and their metabolism. A medical or mental health professional can work with a patient to pinpoint the prescription medications that will help manage symptoms of ADHD. A care provider may try a stimulant, non-stimulant drug or antidepressant for a patient with ADHD, such as:
1. Adderall XR (amphetamine)
2. Concerta (methylphenidate)
3. Dexedrine (amphetamine)
4. Evekeo (amphetamine)
5. Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate)
6. Quillivant XR (methylphenidate)
7. Ritalin (methylphenidate)
8. Strattera (atomoxetine hydrochloride)
9. Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate)
Not everyone reacts to medications in the same way, and finding a safe and effective medication to treat ADHD may take some trial and error. In fact, up to half of all patients do not respond as desired (and some even experience adverse reactions) to the first psychiatric medication they are prescribed. This is due in part to their individual genetic makeup (their DNA).
In recent years, however, scientists have identified innovative ways to use genetic testing to help personalize treatment in order to better meet the needs of individual patients—and help get them medications that are more likely to be well tolerated and effective.
This science is now available to health care professionals to help them treat patients who have ADHD.
The information revealed by a patient’s DNA can also help a doctor better understand if a patient might experience negative side effects or adverse drug reactions, and avoid those options.
This remarkable science is already helping people suffering from ADHD, helping them gain peace of mind and better control of the lives, and be more informed than ever before.
With good information, you can better understand how these conditions may affect you, your loved one or your patient. The better informed you are, the better you can advocate. Learn more by clicking the topics below: