ADHD, or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a mental health condition that affects children as well as adults. It is characterized by difficulties paying attention and focusing, controlling behavior, and hyperactivity. The disorder makes everyday functioning and routines difficult, and it can be very debilitating for some.
Rehab centers for ADHD provide counseling and medication, two important elements in the treatment of ADHD. Treatment for children and adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is similar, though some coping techniques and medications are only appropriate for children.
Types of ADHD and Associated Symptoms
There have been observed to be three different types of ADHD that are related but have different predominate symptoms, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The symptoms of ADHD are divided into categories based on their general definition and then grouped into different types based on the most prevalent symptoms.
The key symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. While it is recognized that most children’s behavior can be described by these three things normally, children with ADHD display these behaviors to a severe degree and more often than other children. For ADHD to be officially diagnosed, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that the child must exhibit symptoms for six months or more and to a degree that is greater than other children.
The signs of ADHD usually appear early, often between the ages of 3 and 6. Symptoms vary a lot from person to person and can be hard to distinguish between normal behaviors, making the disorder difficult to diagnose.
Specific behaviors to look out for are listed below.
Children displaying inattention may:
- Be easily distracted, forget things, switch from one activity to another frequently
- Have difficulty focusing
- Become bored with a task after only a few minutes
- Have difficulty focusing and organizing enough to complete a task or learn something new
- Often losing things, especially things needed to complete tasks or activities
- Not seem like they listen when spoken to
- Daydream often, become easily confused
- Have difficulty processing information as well as others
- Struggle to follow instructions
Symptoms of hyperactivity may be seen when children:
- Fidget/squirm in their seats
- Talk nonstop
- Dash around playing with everything in sight
- Have trouble sitting still when it’s asked of them (dinner, story time, etc)
- Be constantly in motion
- Have difficulties doing quiet tasks or activities
Children showing symptoms of impulsivity may:
- Be extremely impatient
- Blurt out inappropriate comments, act without regard for consequences and show their emotions without restraint
- Difficulties waiting for things, waiting for their turn in games and other activities
- Often interrupt the conversations of others
Types of ADHD
The three ADHD types relate to the symptoms and behaviors above.
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive: Most symptoms (six or more) are in the hyperactivity and impulsivity categories. Fewer than six inattention symptoms are present, though inattention could still be present.
- Predominantly inattentive: The majority of symptoms are in the inattention category with fewer than six in the hyperactivity-impulsivity categories, though these behaviors could be present. Children with this type of ADHD are less likely to have trouble getting along with other children and are less likely to act out. Instead, they are more likely to sit quietly, not paying attention to what they’re doing.
- Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive: Six or more symptoms of both hyperactivity-impulsivity and inattention are present. This is the most common type of ADHD.
While ADHD does occur in adults, it is more common for individuals to be diagnosed with the disorder in childhood, and for that reason there are different – though similar – diagnostic procedures for childhood ADHD and adult ADHD.
There is no single test for ADHD, and it is necessary to consult a mental health professional if you think your child is displaying the signs of ADHD. The health professional will first try to see if other disorders are causing your child to act in this way. They will conduct an assessment based on the child, their behavior, and their environment. To do so it may be necessary to access school and medical records and to talk with parents, teachers, babysitters, and other people who know the child well.
For adults an official assessment by a mental health professional is necessary as well. A wider range of symptoms may be considered as ADHD symptoms for adults are less clear cut than those in children. According to the National Institutes of Health, for a diagnosis to be made an adult must have symptoms that started in childhood and continued throughout adulthood. A physical exam and various psychological tests will be conducted in addition to a review of the person’s behavioral history.
Causes of ADHD
The exact cause of ADHD is unknown at this time, but the National Alliance on Mental Health and others report that it is very likely to be caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors. It is a brain-based disorder for sure and is inherited through genes, but parenting styles are not thought to affect the disorder’s development.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention write that other possible causes that are being looked into are brain injury, environmental exposures such as lead, alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, premature delivery, and low birth weight.
Prevalence of ADHD
The American Psychiatric Association reports that 5% of children have ADHD though the number may actually be higher. The prevalence of ADHD in children has been increasing throughout the years, though the actual numbers vary considerably by state. Boys are more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. In fact, 13.2% of American boys have the disorder while 5.6% of girls do, too.
Approximately 60% of the children with ADHD become adults with ADHD. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America this amounts to 4% of the adult population. Furthermore, it is unclear how many adults with ADHD have been properly diagnosed, but the same source estimates that the number is a mere 20%.
Treatment at ADHD Rehab Centers
Though there is no ‘cure’ for ADHD it can be successfully managed with the proper treatments. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ADHD is best treated with a combination of behavioral therapy and medication. These treatments focus on reducing the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and improving functioning.
Medication is a valuable part of ADHD treatment, and can help individuals improve their daily functioning. There are different types of medications used, and each has different side effects.
- Stimulants: Stimulants, despite their name and nature, have a ‘calming down’ effect for people with ADHD and they are the most common medications used to treat the condition. Between 70 – 80% of children respond well to stimulants. They come in different forms, including pills, capsules, liquid, and skin patches and also vary in their dosage with some being short-acting, others long, and others being extended release types. Deciding which is best for you or your child will depend on your personal situation.
- Nonstimulants: These medications were approved to treat ADHD in 2003. They can last up to 24 hours and have fewer side effects than stimulants.
Some common names of ADHD medications include Adderall, Ritalin, Focalin, Concerta, and Vyvanse. There are many medications for the disorder because what works for one child may not work for another. When finding the right treatment for a particular individual the doctor may try several different medications and doses.
It is of note that stimulants carry side effects that may affect you or your child. The most common side effects of stimulants are decreased appetite and sleep problems. These can both be effectively managed with certain schedules and routines in most cases.
Behavioral therapy is the most common and effective therapeutic technique for treating ADHD in children. The aim of this is to help a child change their behavior. This may be done in a few different ways. First a counselor may offer assistance, helping the child get organized, complete schoolwork, and work through complex emotional times.
They will also help the child learn to monitor his or her own behavior. Helping a child recognize times when they may deserve praise or reward for doing things like controlling their anger, limiting outbursts, and thinking before speaking or acting is important to helping them regulate their behavior. Some social skills may be taught, such as how to share, ask for help, and recognize the tone of voice and expression in others and how to respond appropriately.
What You Can Do to Help Your Child
- Create a routine. For things like bedtime, homework, playtime etc. it is good to follow the same daily schedule.
- Get organized. Doing your best to keep things organized will help your child do the same.
- Avoid distractions. In situations when your child is doing homework or focusing on another task, turn off the TV, radio, computer, or any other thing that may distract them from what they are doing.
- Limit choices. Don’t overwhelm your child with too many choices (of things to do, eat, watch, etc.) and instead offer them two options to choose from.
- Change your interactions. Use brief explanations and directions when explaining things to your child or telling them to do something.
- Use goals and rewards. Tracking and rewarding positive behaviors with a list of goals is a great way to motivate your child and to work on normalizing desired behaviors.
- Discipline effectively. Try not to yell at or spank your child when they behave badly. Instead, use timeouts and privilege removals as consequences for bad behavior.
- Help them discover a skill or talent. Finding out what your child does well and helping them work on that can boost their self esteem and social skills.
Parents are an important part in managing ADHD in children. It is important that the parents understand what they can do to help their child, and that what they do will certainly be able to have an impact on and help their child. In some cases the entire family may need to be involved in therapy and/or to have their own sessions of so-called ‘parent education’ where they are taught these skills and others. In other cases, support groups are also encouraged for parents to share with other about their experiences.
ADHD Treatment for Adults
Adult ADHD is treated very similarly to childhood ADHD, with medication, therapy, or a combination thereof. Not all of the medications that are approved for children are also OK for adults, however. Antidepressants are sometimes used to treat adults with ADHD, thought they are not specifically intended for the purpose. In addition, stimulants may react badly with other prescriptions that adults could be on, such as blood pressure, diabetes, or anxiety medications.
Psychotherapy for adults with ADHD also focuses on organizational skills and task management. Counselors, if appropriate to the situation, may help change an individual’s poor self image.