Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
All of us have periods in our lives when we have problems with attention, concentration, memory, impulsivity or organization. We also have times when our physical activity levels vary. Although many of the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, (ADHD) occur from time to time in everyone; people with ADHD, exhibit these symptoms of inattention, impulsivity and/or hyperactivity at a much higher and consistent frequency and are significantly impaired by these behaviors. The “attention deficit” component of ADHD refers to inattention, or difficulty focusing for long periods and being easily distractible. The “hyperactivity” portion of ADHD is used to describe behavior that is restless, agitated, and difficult to resist. It is the most common mental disorder that develops in children. It has a neurological basis, and can persist into adulthood. Children with ADHD have impaired functioning in multiple settings, including home, school, and in relationships with peers. To be considered for the diagnosis of ADHD the impairment must occur in multiple settings and must be observed for at least six months. If untreated, the disorder can have long-term adverse effects into adolescence and adulthood.
Symptoms of inattention:
- Being easily distracted, missing details, forgetting things,
- Difficulty focusing attention or organizing and completing a task or learning something new
- Trouble completing or turning in work or homework assignments,
- Often losing things (e.g., keys, pencils, assignments)
- Not seem to listen when spoken to or struggle to follow instructions
- Daydream, become easily confused, and move slowly
- Have difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
Symptoms of hyperactivity:
- Fidget and squirm in their seats
- Talk nonstop
- Dash around, touching or playing with anything and everything in sight
- Have trouble sitting still during dinner, school, and story time
- Be constantly in motion
- Have difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities.
Symptoms of impulsivity:
- Act very impatient
- Blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for consequences
- Have difficulty waiting for things they want or waiting their turns in games
- Often interrupt conversations or others’ activities.
As with many other psychiatric and medical disorders, the formal diagnosis can only be made by a qualified professional in the field based on a set number of criteria. ADHD is diagnosed with a comprehensive evaluation because there currently is no physical examination for it. Trained psychiatrists, psychologists, developmental/behavioral pediatricians, and behavioral neurologists can only conduct the evaluation. After ruling out other possible reasons for the adult or child’s behavior, the specialist checks developmental, school or work and medical records. For children, discussion with teachers and parents who have filled out a behavior rating scale for the child is standard practice. A diagnosis is made only after all this information has been thoroughly and carefully considered.
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