Every October, ADHD organizations unite to raise awareness about this highly treatable condition. This year’s theme for ADHD awareness month is “Understanding a Shared Experience.”
ADHD is Real
While the subject of ADHD has sparked disagreement over the years, clinical research studies have proven that ADHD is real!
Every mainstream medical, psychological, and educational organization in the U.S. long ago concluded that ADHD is a real, brain-based disorder. They also concluded that children and adults with ADHD benefit from appropriate treatment.
A Long History
ADHD was first described in 1795 by the German physician Melchior Adam Weikart in his medical text book in a chapter titled, “Deficits.” It was studied extensively in the 1970s with over 10,000 scientific papers published on the disorder.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting between 9-11% of school-aged children and almost 5% of all adults. ADHD, AD/HD and ADD all refer to the same disorder, the only difference being that some have hyperactivity and others don’t.
According to the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition, the ADHD diagnostic subtypes are the primarily inattentive presentation, primarily hyperactive impulsive presentation, and the combined presentation.
Challenges of ADHD
Challenges people with ADHD face may include hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention, as well as the belief that they can’t reach their goals because of their ADHD. Individuals may struggle with difficulties at school and work, time management, distractions, procrastination, disorganization, paper nightmares, emotional outbursts, poor planning, losing things, unfinished projects, household chores, and sensory processing issues.
ADHD by the Numbers
ADHD is not a behavioral disorder. It is a disorder of self-regulation and frequently can be a hidden disorder. Individuals may experience upwards of a 30% developmental delay in age-appropriate skills and emotional development. For example, a 10-year-old may act more like a 7-year-old. Most children, teens, and adults with ADHD have trouble with executive function, a set of cognitive skills needed for self-control and managing behaviors. Up to 70% of children with ADHD have at least one other coexisting condition, such as a learning or language disorder, anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). We know that 90% will struggle academically. Up to 67% of children will carry ADHD into adulthood, and the family impact is often significant. According to the National Resource Center on ADHD, one quarter to one half of parents of children with ADHD suffer from a sleep disorder.
In some cases, the coexisting conditions are “secondary” to ADHD, meaning that they are triggered by the frustration of living with ADHD, according to Dr. Larry Silver, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, D.C. A person may have clinical anxiety, but in addition struggle with situational anxiety that comes from the inability to manage their ADHD symptoms.
The Importance of Diagnosis
No single test diagnoses ADHD. A comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, is necessary to establish the diagnosis and to rule out other causes. A complete evaluation will include a comprehensive history, ADHD symptom checklists, a standard behavioral rating scale, screening for possible coexisting conditions, a review of past evaluations and school records, and psychometric testing as seen necessary by the clinician. It is the individuals who seek help, embracing their ADHD, that go on to experience success. The good news is that you are identifying the problem. ADHD gets smaller and the rest of your life gets bigger!
How to Treat ADHD
When speaking about the treatment of ADHD, the key word is multimodal. This means that the best outcomes occur when many interventions work together as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. A team approach may include medication, parent training, behavioral Intervention such as cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, academic and work support, ADHD education, ADHD coaching and connecting oneself to the ADHD community.
We know that ADHD is a performance deficit, not an intelligence deficit. It is important that we maintain not only a strength-based approach, but a disability perspective. Having ADHD does not equal “being” ADHD! ADHD is one of the most treatable disorders in psychiatry. With early identification and treatment, children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD can be among the most successful.
- ADHD Awareness Month.org
- CHADD is the premier association for families and adults with ADHD. Membership includes the latest information on treatment, education, and rights for people with ADHD. It links one to others living with ADHD and engages in federal and state advocacy on behalf of all people with ADHD.
- The National Resource Center on ADHD, also run by CHADD, is the national clearinghouse of information and resources on ADHD. Information from the NRC is reliable, scientific, research- and evidence-based.
- The Attention Deficit Disorder Organization: ADDA is an advocacy organization for adults with ADHD. Contact them today!
- ADDitude Magazine is an outstanding quarterly publication for families and adults with ADHD. Contact ADDitude and receive a free magazine.
- “When it’s not just ADHD: Symptoms of comorbid conditions” Dr. Larry Silver, M.D.
ADD Joy of Life Coaching, LLC is a strength-based company dedicated to empowering young people and adults to experience success with ADHD through coaching, education and resources. Discover where your ADHD shows up AND what to do about it.
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