ADHD: What Is It & Do I Have It?
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ADHD: What Is It & Do I Have It?





According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 6.1 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or ADHD).


Additionally, roughly 4.4 percent of American adults struggle with this condition as well.


Despite the prevalence, ADHD is confusing, and there’s a lot of misinformation circulating about it. So, for those who want to learn more, the answers to the following questions can shed light on this condition, its symptoms, and potential treatments.





What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?


The National Institute of Mental Health defines ADHD as a neurological disorder characterized by the following:

  • Inattention: A person with ADHD might have difficulty sustaining focus, may show a lack of persistence, and may not pay attention to details. In turn, they might have poor time management skills
  • Hyperactivity: A person with ADHD might constantly feel the need to move around, even when it seems inappropriate. Thus, they may be extremely restlessness or fidgety, too
  • Impulsivity: A person with ADHD might make hasty decisions without thinking carefully. Because of this, they may show an inability to delay gratification, too


Symptoms of ADHD


Some people with ADHD show more symptoms related to inattention. On the other hand, others show symptoms that more closely align with hyperactive impulsivity.


First, symptoms of inattention include:

  • Overlooking or missing details/instructions
  • Have trouble paying attention at school, work, in conversation, etc.
  • Not seeming to listen when spoken to
  • Difficulty staying organized
  • Disliking or avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort
  • Frequently losing things


Second, symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity including the following:

  • Constantly fidgeting or squirming
  • Leaving one’s seat or desk when they’re not supposed to
  • Feeling restless
  • Being unable to sit quietly
  • Non stop talking
  • Blurting out answers, finishing other people’s sentences, frequently interrupting




At What Age Can ADHD First Start to Show?


Some children show signs of ADHD as early as age 3. Further, most symptoms show up before age 12.


Most children exhibit behaviors that align with an ADHD symptom at certain points. However, not all of these children will go on to receive an ADHD diagnosis and treatment.


Children who show signs of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsiveness in certain places but not others (e.g., at school but not at home) likely are not struggling with ADHD.



What Causes ADHD?


Experts aren’t sure at this time what causes ADHD. But, they’ve identified some potential risk factors, including the following:

  • Genetics (a child whose blood relatives have ADHD or other mental health conditions may be more likely to be diagnosed)
  • Environmental Toxins (lead, which can be found in the paint and pipes of old buildings, appears to be the main culprit)
  • Maternal drug use, as well as alcohol use or smoking while pregnant
  • Premature birth



None of these issues directly cause ADHD, though. Instead, these are related events.



Is There a Difference Between ADD and ADHD?


These days, the term ADD is considered outdated. As such, it isn’t used in medical advice/diagnosis.


ADHD is the official term, even when a patient doesn’t show symptoms of hyperactivity. ADHD is also divided into the following categories:

  • Inattentive Type
  • Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
  • Combined Type (patient shows both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms)



A person’s treatment plan will vary depending on which type of ADHD they’re diagnosed with.




How Is ADHD Diagnosed?


There is not one specific ADHD test doctors run before offering medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.


For a doctor to diagnose ADHD, a patient must exhibit at least 6 of the symptoms outlined above. Also, the patient must also have shown these symptoms before age 12 and show symptoms in two or more settings.


There must be evidence that the symptoms interfere with one’s functioning at school, work, or social events, too. In turn, the patient’s doctor must also verify that the symptoms aren’t caused by another condition (such as learning disabilities).


ADHD symptoms


Does ADHD Go Away or Does it Need Treatment?


ADHD does not go away, nor do people grow out of it as they get older. Symptoms sometimes become less obvious, but ADHD still influences a person’s brain just as much as an adult as it does when they’re a child.



Some adults do seem to experience milder ADHD symptoms compared to when they were children. However, that’s likely because they’ve been forced to develop coping mechanisms over the years.



It’s important to understand that untreated ADHD can wreak havoc  on an adults life. People with untreated ADHD are more likely to experience depression, relationship problems, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, and divorce.





What Kind of Therapy Is Best for ADHD?


Therapy is one of the best ADHD treatment options.


Behavioral therapy with a mental health professional is one of the most popular types of therapy for children with ADHD. However, adults and children need to be approached differently. For instance, using different rewards and praise to reinforce desired behaviors. Another difference includes using different limits and consequences to decrease problem behaviors.


This type of therapy also works for adult ADHD as well as children. The biggest difference is simply the types of rewards and consequences used to reinforce specific behaviors.



Which Medication Is Best for ADHD?


There are a handful of different types of medication used to manage ADHD symptoms. Luckily, they can be broken into 2 main categories: Stimulants and non-stimulants.


Firstly, stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin stimulate certain brain cells to produce the transmitter norepinephrine. Also, norepinephrine is often low in people with ADHD.


Next, non-stimulants like Clonidine and Strattera increase norepinephrine concentrations in the prefrontal cortex. Because of this, they help to regulate behavior and, in turn, minimize ADHD symptoms.


In conclusion, it is recommended that you work with a prescriber who is trained in mental health medication.





Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals.  However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.




Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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