Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, popularly known as ADHD, can be a bit hard to diagnose. I mean, how many times we dismiss our kids’ lack of concentration, restlessness, and disobedience as “just a phase?”
Here’s some news: it’s never just a phase. ADHD is a serious mental disorder that goes unnoticed in children and adults alike because of its innocuous symptoms. The sad reality is that without treatment, the symptoms of ADHD can impact negatively on an individual’s social, personal, and work life.
Like all mental disorders, managing ADHD is a full-time job. The most important thing is to be proactive about it. Catching the symptoms of ADHD during the early stages makes the condition easier to manage, especially since it gets harder to deal with as kids grow older.
This go-to guide has everything you need to know about managing ADHD, including how to spot the signs and symptoms, the most effective treatment methods, how to manage the condition on your own, and much more. Also included are some ADHD facts and figures to highlight how the condition affects kids and adults, plus practical tips on how to self-diagnose and manage the symptoms of ADHD.
Without further delay, let’s dive in!
1. An Introduction to ADHD
This introductory chapter talks about what ADHD is and how it affects a person’s life. Along with some elementary definitions, it contains some statistical insights that paint a picture of just how many people deal with ADHD in their lifetime and the various ways we define and address the mental disorder.
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a mental disorder that’s characterized by symptoms like impulsivity and hyperactive behavior. The most challenging thing about ADHD is that it makes it impossible for you to sit still or focus on one task for hours.
The lack of impulse control associated with ADHD may be misinterpreted as a mere lack of self-control. That’s why most of its symptoms are written off as childish behavior or disobedience. And while the condition is prevalent in kids, ADHD can affect adults just as severely. Even worse is that it gets harder to diagnose as the patient grows older.
To understand its origins and why it affects us the way it does, we have to step into the body’s central processing unit: the brain.
How Does ADHD Come About?
It all starts in the brain, the body’s control center. The brain is responsible for all systemic functions, psychological and cognitive processes, motor skills, memory, and speech. We can say it is divided into several different “compartments,” each of which is tasked with one of the following jobs:
- Mood regulation
- Sending, receiving, and processing sensory stimuli
- Coordination of both voluntary and involuntary motor skills
- Behavioral control
Of course, this is just a shortlist of what the brain does every day to keep us alive under normal circumstances. A particularly crucial function of the brain is the transmission of information across the neural network, which is accomplished through neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that carry nervous stimuli across synapses. Think of them as the body’s mail couriers, transporting information from the brain to the rest of the body.
ADHD is caused by the action, or rather unavailability, of two neurotransmitters: dopamine and noradrenaline. These hormones traverse between the prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia. When their levels are dangerously low, the brain’s impulse-control faculties start to fail, giving rise to the classic symptoms of what we know as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The first victims of ADHD are usually mood, behavior, and performance. It’s not uncommon to feel more forgetful than usual, although the first symptom you’re likely to notice is a lack of focus or inability to concentrate on any given task for longer than a few minutes. Another telltale sign of ADHD is incessant fidgeting. It’s almost impossible to sit still when you have ADHD.
ADHD tends to fly under the radar because most of its symptoms can be written off under behavioral issues. However, if you feel like you’re always late, disorganized, forgetful, unfocused, and overwhelmed by your daily responsibilities, the chances that ADHD is the underlying cause of your problems is extremely high.
Some Eye-Opening ADHD Facts and Figures:
- ADHD is commonly diagnosed in children aged seven and under.
- Men are three times more likely to get ADHD compared to women.
- Thirteen percent of all men may experience ADHD in their lifetime; in contrast, only 4.2 percent of women get mental disorders.
- Symptoms of ADHD start to appear between 3 and 6 years of age.
- About 4 percent of the adult population in America (people aged 18 and over) are diagnosed with ADHD, which means it is not a childhood disease.
The reality is ADHD is taken too lightly by the adult population. The mental condition is always waved off as a childhood disease, usually at the expense of people’s mental wellbeing.
And even though there is no definitive evidence that ADHD elevates the risk of other mental diseases, it is known to exacerbate existing medical conditions, particularly in children. ADHD can trigger or balloon the following cognitive and mental disabilities:
- Bipolar disorder
- Learning disabilities
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Anxiety disorder
- Behavioral problems (oppositional defiant disorder, antisocial behavior, etc.)
- Sleep disorder
- Substance abuse
The ADHD awareness month is celebrated worldwide every October. It is a time to acknowledge that the mental condition can dramatically affect a person’s quality of life and interfere with daily activities, and social and familial relationships if left untreated.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a grave condition that you should never take lightly. In all fairness, most people don’t realize that they have ADHD until it’s destroying their life. The next chapter talks about the major signs and symptoms of the mental disorder, so if you would like to learn how to identify the condition in yourself and others, stick around.
2. Types of ADHD, the Signs, and Symptoms
Even though the underlying cause is a hormonal imbalance, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not just a mental imbalance. Understanding how it affects one’s life is to learn how to live with it, and sometimes managing the condition is the best you can hope for.
First, let’s talk about the main signs and symptoms of ADHD. ADHD doctors categorize the condition into three:
- Type 1 – Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD
- Type 2 – Inattentive ADHD
- Type 3 – Hybrid ADHD (contains both hyperactivity-impulsivity and inattentiveness)
Type 1 ADHD
As its name suggests, this type of ADHD is characterized mainly by inattention. People who suffer from this type of ADHD may feel like it’s impossible to concentrate on one task, especially if it requires long hours of focus. As a side-effect, they may have difficulties following instructions too.
Type 1 ADHD usually goes unnoticed in children because it doesn’t come with the expected disobedient behavior. A child with Type 1 ADHD may seem peaceful and compliant when, in reality, they find it difficult to complete basic tasks, which is frustrating. Incidentally, this type of ADHD is more commonly witnessed in girls.
Signs and Symptoms
- Disorganized thought patterns
- Difficulty gaining and processing new information
- Slow work rate
- Appears to be constantly daydreaming
- Inattentive to what people say
- Prone to losing items such as school equipment
- Easily bored
- Easily distracted
- Forgets or misses the details of tasks assigned
- Difficulty concentrating on one task for long hours
- Prone to mistakes
- Not good at following directions
Type 2 ADHD
This is the type of ADHD that’s associated with extreme hyperactivity. It is characterized by behaviors like ceaseless fidgeting, impatience, and an inability to sit still. People with this type of ADHD may not be perpetually unfocused, but they still find it hard to sit still and concentrate on a given task for a long period.
Signs and Symptoms
- Trouble sitting still
- Constant squirming and fidgeting
- Impulsively touches objects
- Speaks without a “filter,” i.e., blurts out their thoughts without consideration of the consequences
- Interrupts others while they’re talking
- Excessively talkative
- Trouble listening to instructions
- They are always running even in inappropriate locations
- Too impatient to wait their turn
- Usually noisy when performing tasks
Type 3 ADHD
ADHD that causes both inattentiveness and hyperactivity is the most common type. People that have this type of ADHD tend to have a high-strung attitude. They suffer from an inability to pay attention for prolonged periods and can react vigorously to mild situations. They are high-energy individuals that are always flitting from activity to activity without focusing long enough to complete a single task.
Signs and Symptoms
If you have type 3 ADHD, the chances are that you will exhibit the symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 ADHD.
Depending on the type of ADHD you have, the treatment methods may vary. Keep in mind that having one type of ADHD doesn’t rule you out from having the other types. It is very common for one type to escalate into another, or for a person to go from type 1 to type 2 ADHD due to environmental and genetic influences. Staying on top of the condition sometimes means changing the course of treatment as is necessary.
Although it manifests in different degrees of severity, treatment is usually considered after the symptoms begin to interfere with your normal life.
3. ADHD Management in Kids
This chapter explores the impact of ADHD and ways to manage mental disorders in kids. At any age, ADHD can be managed effectively if the parents are aware of it and take proactive measures to stop it from developing into an irreversible problem.
First, some statistics:
In the United States, an estimated 6.1 million children, accounting for 9.4 percent of the population, have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the 2016 National Parent Survey. Of the six-million-plus kids that are living with ADHD:
- 388,000 are aged 2 – 5 years
- 4 million are aged 6 – 11 years
- 3 million are aged 12 – 17 years
The telltale signs of ADHD start to show at the age of seven years, although there are many exceptions. In some children, they are noticeable as early as three years; in others, it may take up to 12 years. The severity of the condition also varies by patient, which, incidentally, determines whether the symptoms continue into adulthood or fade away during adolescence.
Although it takes seven years for the symptoms to appear in earnest, ADHD can manifest itself during your child’s preschool years. The signs to look out for a bit different:
- The child may be noisier or rowdier than kids their age.
- They may dislike any activity that requires focus or concentrating for two to five minutes.
- They may be drawn to climbing onto things even when warned not to.
- Their penchant for climbing and other risky behavior may consistently put them in harm’s way.
- They lose interest quickly and are consistently seeking new activities.
- They are overly aggressive, especially with playmates.
- They are perpetually restless.
- They are unable to hop on one foot by the age of four years old.
- Kicking or jiggling their feet whenever seated is a classic sign of latent ADHD.
- They may get cranky and insist on getting up after being seated for a few minutes.
- They may warm up to strangers rather quickly.
Noticing these signs in your toddler doesn’t necessarily mean that they have ADHD. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to consult a developmental expert or a pediatrician if you wish to learn more about your child’s symptoms. They could be indicative of a budding ADHD problem.
How is ADHD Diagnosed in Toddlers and Preschoolers?
Diagnosing ADHD in toddlers takes a collaborative effort from teachers, parents, and caregivers. Being a mental condition, early signs of ADHD can only be diagnosed through observation. The parties responsible are tasked with monitoring the child in different situations with an aim to single out any symptoms that indicate an ADHD problem.
For your preschooler to be diagnosed with ADHD, they have to display signs and symptoms consistent with the mental disorder for the length of the observation period, which is at least six months. Their ability to participate in age-appropriate activities will be gauged and used as a metric to establish:
- The child’s attention span
- Their propensity for impulsive behavior
- Their energy levels
- How quickly they get irritated
It may be necessary for the parents involved to undergo some training to give the diagnostic process any validity. In other cases, you will need to transfer your child to a qualified preschool program with trained clinicians to conduct the observation.
Why are More Boys Diagnosed with ADHD than Girls?
According to the numbers, boys are more likely to get diagnosed with ADHD than girls. The figure for boys with ADHD stands at 12.9 percent, whereas only 5.6 percent of girls get diagnosed with a mental disorder.
The reason behind it makes sense too. Boys are more likely to display the classic external symptoms of ADHD, like running inappropriately and impulsive behavior. Girls, on the other hand, suffer from less obvious symptoms of the condition like self-esteem issues and inattentiveness.
The findings suggest that the physically prominent symptoms of ADHD are much easier to diagnose than the more subtle signs like verbal aggression. These differences create a disparity in the diagnosis of the condition in the two genders, making male children more likely to be pegged with ADHD than female children.
It would not have been such a big deal if the symptoms of ADHD consistently dwindled with age. The reality is, sometimes, they get worse the longer the disease is left untreated. Childhood ADHD can inspire cognitive disabilities and mental illnesses like depression and anxiety in adulthood. ADHD can also have severe social repercussions. Kids with ADHD struggle with making friends and learning new concepts, which isolates them and induces feelings of low self-worth.
It’s not uncommon to see them become victims of bullying for their apparent uniqueness. That doesn’t bode well for their self-confidence either. Catching the early signs of ADHD and taking your child in for evaluation can save them a lifetime of grief and, possibly, severe mental illness.
How Do you Know If your child has ADHD?
ADHD diagnosis doesn’t rely on a particular medical process. There are no specific tests that can definitively indicate an ADHD problem. Clinicians, instead, rely on data gathered from parents, teachers, pediatricians, psychiatrists, and observation of the child.
Some of the factors taken into consideration include the child’s family and peer relationships, their development, and their medical history. The child’s ability to interact socially in different settings and their level of irritability and tolerance also contribute to the final outcome. This evaluation process eliminates all other possible causes of the displayed symptoms, and by the method of elimination, a fairly accurate ADHD diagnosis can be made.
What Causes ADHD in Children?
There is no specific cause for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. ADHD cannot be diagnosed in a medical lab. Its diagnosis is not reliant on blood tests and other physical health assessments. Instead, the diagnosis of ADHD is almost entirely based on behavioral assessments.
One thing’s for certain: the ongoing advancements in gene modification technology could help us better understand the origins of ADHD in children. Now, without an exact cause, ADHD is thought of as the product of several factors, the most crucial one being a neurodevelopmental disorder.
The particular neurodevelopmental condition that causes ADHD commonly occurs in kids below the age of seven. The disorder robs the affected child of the ability to manage impulsive and spontaneous responses that are responsible for attentiveness, movement, and speech.
The end result is something that we’ve all witnessed before: children that are incapable of sitting still for longer than two minutes, or blurt out inappropriate things, or have a hard time listening to and following simple instructions.
ADHD flies under the radar because many of its symptoms are written off as signs of disobedience. Children with the condition get labeled as undisciplined, lazy, and troublemakers even though their high-strung attitude is an unintentional consequence of a mental imbalance, not a behavioral issue.
As ADHD develops into adulthood, they get thrown into the same bandwagon that describes them as unproductive or unmotivated or childish. In reality, these criticisms fuel the fire of low self-esteem, making it harder for people with ADHD to understand that their behavioral issues are beyond their control.
Scientists have spent the last few decades trying to figure out what it is that causes ADHD, which has led to the formation of some theories. It is possible that ADHD is the product of:
The study of twins has brought new information to light that suggests ADHD has a strong genetic influence. Around 25 percent of the family members of ADHD patients also have the condition, hinting at the strong heritability of ADHD. At the forefront in the search for a definitive ADHD cause is the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Molecular Genetics Network, which was formed at the beginning of 1999 to explore findings on the genetic origins of ADHD.
Exposure to toxic levels of lead is suspected to be one of the environmental causes of ADHD. Lead paint, a common feature in buildings of the past, is extremely hazardous, and prior to the discovery of its toxicity, was widely used in paint and plumbing. Although times have changed, and lead is now on a list of banned substances, there is still a risk of exposure from old pipes that contain lead and from lead-painted structures.
Injury to the brain is another suspected cause of ADHD, even though only a small percentage of kids with the condition exhibit signs of past trauma. Any injury to the frontal lobe can result in issues with impulse control. The frontal lobe also controls our reactivity and emotional responses to external stimuli, which suggests that a deformity caused by significant trauma may cause symptoms that are consistent with ADHD.
The use of alcohol, cigarettes, and other intoxicants during pregnancy has been strongly linked to a host of developmental issues in children, one of which is ADHD. Substance abuse accounts for a huge percentage of congenital defects, and to a lesser degree, psychological deficiencies that could inspire an onslaught of grave mental illnesses, including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and depression.
Even when you take substance abuse out of the equation, poor nutrition and infections during pregnancy can also cause significant mental impairments in an unborn fetus. Infants that are born prematurely or with a low birth weight are a high-risk group for Type 1 ADHD, which is characterized by inattentiveness. Bear in mind that these are still associated risk factors, not definitive causes of ADHD. To date, there are no conclusive studies linking prenatal influences to the onset of ADHD in children.
Treating ADHD without Medication
There is no definitive cure for ADHD. The closest you can come to curing the condition is adopting a treatment method that reduces the frequency and intensity of its symptoms. After diagnosis, it is common for clinicians to first recommend non-pharmaceutical treatment avenues like behavioral therapy and psychotherapy. These techniques work for both child and adult cases of ADHD, but they need to be part of an ongoing routine.
Psychotherapy provides a platform for your children to open up and talk about how they feel. It makes sense that this should be your first course of action because you cannot treat symptoms that are yet to be acknowledged. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, allows the affected child to accept that their emotions and impulses are out of whack through no fault of their own.
Once they’ve established the root cause of their personal and social torment, psychotherapy gives them a platform to reveal all that they’ve gone through as a result of their mental disorder. For ADHD patients, it may mostly revolve around the friction it’s caused between them and their peers and authority figures.
Learning that their problem is no fault of their own is the crucial first step to managing some of the troubling symptoms of ADHD. Psychotherapy gives them a chance to understand how normal relationships work, and where their behavior can be adjusted to allow them to interact normally with others.
Psychotherapy forces introspection, which means the affected child will learn all about their behavior and how to control it, which leads to better decisions in the future. Including family members in these sessions may also give insights as to how you can help an ADHD patient cope with the disorder.
Where clinicians use psychotherapy, parents, teachers, and caregivers are encouraged to deploy behavior therapy. Behavior modification may be a way to make parenting ADHD patients easier, but it also gives them an opportunity to learn how to control impulsive behavior.
Behavior therapy involves using a reward and punishment system to control your child’s behavior. Rewards encourage good behavior, while punishments discourage impulsive actions. For instance, you can reward your child with extra playtime when they accomplish a task that needs focus. When they succumb to their impulses, you can punish them by sending them to timeout, which in itself, is a way to teach them patience and emotional control.
Behavior therapy is like putting a big screen in front of the patient, where they can monitor their own actions. The reward and punishment system shows them the aspects of their behavior that need modification.
For this treatment to work, teachers and parents have to work in tandem to enforce the therapy in all of the child’s social settings. If you’re unsure of the right strategy to adopt, you can speak to your clinician or healthcare provider to learn what works best depending on the type of ADHD your child has.
As important as it is for parents to understand that their child’s condition is unique, they’re not always prepared to handle it. It may be necessary to sign up for parenting skills training for ADHD patients as they sometimes require very specific methods to manage their child’s condition effectively.
Some of the skills you can learn at one of these parent training seminars include:
1. Instant rewards
Excellent behaviors or responses warrant an immediate reward plus praise to enforce the behavior and encourage them to continue in a similar fashion.
Timeouts allow you to check aggressive or impulsive behavior by removing the child from an over-stimulating environment/situation and allowing them to re-focus on managing their emotions. Timeouts eventually help teach them how to react in stressful situations, especially if you take the time to explain what they did wrong and what they can do better next time.
3. Intimate time
It is important to set aside some time every week to spend with your child. During this period, you can participate in enjoyable activities like storytelling or watching movies. Giving them your utmost attention during this special time is critical. Find ways to integrate behavioral modification during this period by praising their strengths and abilities.
Failing to plan is planning to fail, so neglecting to structure a routine can impede your attempts to improve your child’s mental health. Creating a routine and using it to structure and analyze behavioral changes is the only way to achieve success with ADHD management in kids.
5. Stress management
A key component of managing ADHD is trust. If your child doesn’t consider you a person they can confide in, you won’t make a lot of progress. It’s important to learn when to criticize and when to sit and listen compassionately. Stress management involves a lot of relaxation techniques such as meditation, plus the ultimate stress reliever, exercise.
Social Skills Training
If you don’t believe that ADHD is a mental handicap, consider the fact that most of those living with it don’t understand social cues like the rest of us. A crucial part of managing the condition is learning how to behave in social settings.
Social skills training involves teaching appropriate social behaviors and shunning inappropriate responses to stressful social situations. For example, a child with ADHD may need to be taught how to:
- Wait their turn
- Let other people talk without interruption
- Share toys or food
- Ask for help
- Speak when spoken to
- Avoid distractions in social situations
- Avoid reckless behavior like climbing trees and running
- Handle teasing and bullying
- Act interested in other people’s conversation
We see these as normal unspoken social rules, but to them, it’s rocket science until someone sits them down and explains why it is inappropriate to act certain ways in social settings.
Medical Treatment of ADHD in Children
Although it shouldn’t be your first action, sometimes it may be necessary to seek medical treatment of ADHD for your child. Wait for the green light from your pediatrician or family physician before putting your child on any prescription meds for ADHD.
Treating ADHD often revolves around two types of drugs: stimulants and non-stimulants.
When it comes to stimulants, your doctor may prescribe one of the following depending on the severity of your child’s condition:
- Immediate-release medication – Short-acting medicines like Dexedrine®, Adderall®, and Dextrostat® are the most commonly prescribed immediate-release ADHD medication.
- Extended–release medication – Medicines like Ritalin LA®, Metadate CD®, and Adderall XR® usually have a long-lasting effect and are thereby taken once a day.
Notes: In case of Adderall drug, you specifically need to make sure that you have not developed any kind of Adderall tolerance.
The first FDA-approved non-stimulant drug for ADHD is Strattera® (atomoxetine), which can be an option if stimulating drugs have unpleasant side effects for your child. Strattera® is safe for kids over the age of six, but should only be taken as per your doctor’s recommendation.
4. ADHD Management in Adults
This chapter seeks to end the narrative that ADHD is something that you can “grow out of.” About 4.4 percent of the adult population in the United States are living with ADHD, which is proof enough that the condition is not age-related. Eighty-five percent of the children with ADHD risk dealing with it their entire lives because no one believes that it is an actual mental impairment that can drastically impact their lives deep into adulthood.
ADHD is a potential career killer. If you think about it, any condition that impairs your ability to focus, remember, and control impulsive behavior potentially makes you an unsuitable hire. It also diminishes the quality of social interactions, making it considerably harder to go through high school, college, and other educational institutions.
The alarming truth is that only 10.9 percent of adults with ADHD seek and receive treatment, meaning close to 90 percent of adults with ADHD rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcoholism and substance abuse to survive the mental disorder.
The psychological indicators of ADHD in adults are as follows:
- Chronic low self-esteem, usually coupled with feelings of failure and frustration. Adults with ADHD often feel like they’re not living up to their full potential.
- Frequent mood fluctuations are a telltale sign, especially when the person can go from anger and frustration to deep sadness in minutes.
- Recurrent depressive episodes that don’t respond to treatment.
- An inability to fall asleep quickly and to sleep without interruptions.
- Frequently feeling overwhelmed by work and life events is an indicator of ADHD in adults.
In adults, the symptoms of ADHD manifest in all aspects of life. Some behavioral and lifestyle indicators to expect include:
- Chronic procrastination
- Poor time management
- Ineptitude (i.e., disorganized workstation, lack of planning, etc.)
- A long list of incomplete projects (indicative of a concentration problem).
- Impulsive decision making, particularly when it comes to spending, relationships, and employment
- Chronic frustration is borne of inefficient productivity, which is caused by procrastination and frequent distractions
- Difficulty completing further education programs
- Difficulty maintaining stable employment
- Underachievement and frequent conflicts with colleagues
- Drug and substance abuse as an escape from the tortures of a relentless mind.
- Criminal activity
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ADHD can have significant and adverse effects on an adult’s life. Because it is chiefly an impulse-control problem, it hinders deductive reasoning, thereby making adults with ADHD terrible decision-makers. As such, some of the personal, social, and economic complications of ADHD may be:
- Inconsistency at work or school
- Chronic unemployment or an inability to keep one job for a few months
- Constant financial crises as a result of unemployment
- Friction with the law due to criminal activity or financial irresponsibility
- Alcohol and substance abuse as an escape from the condition
- Poor concentration may lead to the recklessness that may threaten the person’s life (such as driving recklessly)
- Unstable social and romantic relationships
- Poor self-image and isolation from feeling misunderstood.
- Diminished physical and mental health due to constant stress
ADHD affects every aspect of the patient’s life, but one can argue that it has a bigger impact on some areas of life than others. The condition is known to alienate people from others, which means ADHD mostly affects aspects of life that are heavily reliant on social interaction. For instance:
ADHD Kills Relationships
People with ADHD often feel like social outcasts. Their impulsive behavior, lack of concentration, and delicate temperament make them unapproachable, which can put a strain on a social or romantic relationship.
It’s easy to offend a person with ADHD as they have irritability issues. Furthermore, their inability to reign in their emotions often comes across as arrogance or disrespect, serving to further isolate them from people even when they mean well. The final nail on the coffin is the chronic inattention that shadows ADHD patients, which often portrays them as rude or inconsiderate participants in social interactions.
Factor in symptoms like forgetfulness and impulsivity and ADHD turns into a ticking time bomb for relationships.
ADHD Cripples Work Life
Navigating a haphazard work environment with ADHD is a whole different ball game. Efficient productivity demands planning and organization, both of which are massive weak points for adults with ADHD. There’s not much room for careless errors at work, so the characteristic lack of focus that comes with ADHD often lands patients in trouble with superiors and colleagues.
ADHD is significantly harder to manage at a workplace where your in-tray is always full, and your superiors are always assigning new tasks. It’s hard enough to combat racing thoughts on your own, but to do it in an environment full of distractions and triggers can be an insurmountable task for adults with ADHD.
ADHD Slows Down Educational Progress
One thing that ADHD patients are not adept at is managing huge workloads. The educational environment is rife with assignments, deadlines, and instructions. As you can recall from above, people with ADHD are not very good with instructions, plus they tend to get overwhelmed easily.
However, the one thing that kills off any hope of education for ADHD patients is the chronic disorganization they have to deal with. Coupled with the inattention and tendency to daydream, they potentially miss a lot from lectures, so they’re often left playing catch-up to a pile of notes and assignments.
Diagnosing ADHD in Adults
If you want a definitive diagnostic report on your mental wellbeing, you’ll have more luck talking to a psychiatrist, neurologist, or a psychotherapist than a general practitioner. Some pediatricians are well-versed in childhood ADHD diagnoses too. It helps if you specifically enquire if ADHD testing is something your care provider specializes in before booking an appointment.
The obvious first step should be to talk to your personal or family physician first. Though they may not be able to conduct conclusive tests, they have a better grasp of your medical history and can refer you to the qualified specialists that they trust.
Lastly, you can try self-diagnosis through a quiz online. Granted, this is not the most accurate way to learn if you have ADHD or not; it is a helpful self-screening process nonetheless. Perhaps completing a quiz could inspire you to seek out a health professional for a formal diagnosis.
Activities that Reduce ADHD Symptoms
Exercise is the closest panacea for ADHD that we have. It regulates mood, improves focus, and promotes good cognitive health, which bodes well for memory too. Staying active also teaches one how to avoid needless distractions.
Most importantly, exercise triggers the production of the very chemicals needed to prevent ADHD, boosting norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin levels dramatically in the brain. It is a double-edged sword that benefits ADHD patients by helping them burn off extra energy while restoring their brain’s chemical balance. Walking, hiking, riding a bike, weightlifting, yoga—you name it; all these constitute suitable exercises for ADHD patients.
Falling asleep is not easy when you can’t switch off your brain. Adults with ADHD can spend hours tossing and turning in bed before sleep finally comes. The inability to control your thoughts becomes amplified tenfold with ADHD patients, making it rather difficult to sleep soundly.
A lack of sleep only compounds the problems an ADHD patient faces by making it even harder to focus or pay attention to tasks for long periods of time. It is advisable for ADHD patients to do what it takes to improve the quality and quantity of their sleep. For instance:
- Having a fixed bedtime routine resets the circadian rhythm, allowing you to sleep better and more consistently. Waking up at the same time every day can improve how well you sleep.
- Sleeping in pitch darkness minimizes potential distractions to a restful night’s sleep.
- Keeping electronics outside the bedroom minimizes exposure to blue light, which has a reputation for destroying sleep patterns.
- Avoiding caffeine before bed prevents you from feeling wired come bedtime.
- Don’t engage with screens for at least an hour before bedtime.
Getting enough rest has a massively positive impact on mood, memory, and focus.
3. Balanced Diet
Avoid junk food, caffeine, and processed sugar if you wish to keep ADHD symptoms in check. Keeping your blood sugar levels in check and steering clear of caffeine can keep your energy levels consistent throughout the day and aid in getting better sleep at night.
Add more fatty acids and multivitamins to your diet. Fatty acids are good for cognitive health and are known to improve focus in ADHD patients. Ensure that your diet is full of Omega-3 oils (mostly found in fish like tuna, salmons, and sardines), fortified eggs, and milk.
More important than what you eat is when you eat. Adults with ADHD often find themselves putting off mealtimes until they’re starving, which wreaks havoc on their metabolism. Plan out your meals in advance, including mealtimes, and stick to a consistent feeding routine whenever possible.
Treating ADHD in Adults
Therapy is the most useful thing an adult with ADHD can seek. First and foremost, it equips them with the coping skills necessary to navigate the daily pressures of living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. As it develops into adulthood, ADHD can transform into anger issues borne of impatience and impulsiveness. Obviously, runaway emotions have no place in civilized environments such as the workplace.
Therapy is also useful in learning how to sustain social relationships. Marriage and family therapy is necessary for adults with ADHD as it teaches them how to consider other people’s needs before their own. Therapy can also address the disorganization issues that plague ADHD patients. Sustaining a healthy economic lifestyle requires focus and commitment, so learning how to manage impulsive behavior and minimize distractions can drastically improve productivity in the workplace.
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ADHD also provides an avenue for adults to express their emotional baggage and talk about the embarrassments they experience as a result of the condition. Successful therapy always evolves into another form of treatment for ADHD, which is what we’ll discuss next.
Medication becomes necessary when the symptoms appear to worsen with time despite therapy and support groups. If therapy doesn’t yield satisfactory results, ADHD can be managed using medication.
There are three types of medicines for ADHD patients. They are classified as:
- Non-stimulants – Strattera®, Tenex ®, and Intuniv® (Guanfacine) are the most commonly prescribed non-stimulant drugs.
- Psychostimulants – Amphetamines and methylphenidate are the psychostimulants used for ADHD.
- Antidepressants – Tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors, commonly used to treat depression by increasing norepinephrine levels in the brain, also have a positive impact on the symptoms of ADHD. Sometimes doctors administer medicines like Wellbutrin® (bupropion), and Effexor® (venlafaxine) as well.
Antidepressants and psychostimulants increase neurotransmitter levels in the brain, and only when they prove ineffective do doctors prescribe non-stimulants.
3. Support Groups
As the patient gets more comfortable divulging their personal experiences to a therapist, they may feel the need to talk to people like them. That’s where support groups come in. Support groups give ADHD patients a chance to connect with people going through the same struggles.
By sharing stories of how each of them overcome their personal challenges, adults with ADHD get inspired and learn new ways to cope with their condition. They also develop a strong support network, which makes them feel less isolated and part of a community that understands them.
5. Tips on How to Cope with ADHD
In this chapter, we will look at some tips that make living with ADHD a little better. These tips are directed at the parents, caregivers, and teachers of children with ADHD, and adults with ADHD. They aim to improve organization skills, concentration, and management of impulsive behavior, and teach people with ADHD how to interact socially despite their handicap.
Tips for Parents
You have nothing to do with your child’s mental disorder. Although its occurrence is beyond your control, its management is not. Your focus should remain on helping your child cope with it because as hard as it is for you, it is much harder for them to make peace with it.
Here are tips that can help you help your child better:
1. Adopt relaxation techniques: Taking care of an impulsive, borderline aggressive ADHD child is no light task. It’s a heck of a process, so patience is the greatest virtue to have in this situation. Learn how to relax and keep a cool head on your shoulders because ADHD management is a slow and very gradual process.
2. Show your child that you believe in them and love them unconditionally: The moment they perceive that you’re stressed because of them is the moment they withdraw their trust in you as a caregiver.
3. Encourage them to be as verbal as possible: Teaching them effective communication prevents emotional outbursts and impulsive reaction to a stressful situation.
Tips for Teachers
Apart from parents and caregivers, teachers have the greatest impact on kids outside the home environment. It’s important that they stay on the same page as the parents when it comes to handling ADHD. Some tips that can help include:
1. Evaluate the child’s performance daily: This information helps the parents establish whether progress is being made.
2. Create an educational plan: Children with ADHD don’t learn at the same rate as their peers. You may need to take more time to pay special attention to their educational needs, which might include learning in distraction-free zones.
3. Don’t punish them: Punishing accomplishes nothing when it’s not the child’s fault. Instead, try cutting up their tasks into smaller jobs that they can handle without losing focus.
Tips for Adults
ADHD makes basic tasks seem insurmountable. As an adult, it can make you considerably less productive. These tips should help you cope with your condition better:
- Learn to stay on track: Whatever it is you do, keep your mind focused on the task alone, nothing else. Don’t think about what you’ll do next or what your schedule for the week looks like. Don’t even think about your next meal. Just focus on getting the task done, one small section at a time.
- Say no: Your impulsive nature is going nowhere if you continue to cave into your most urgent desires. Learn to see the bigger picture and avoid risking your long-term goals for instant gratification. Keep your tasks short and easy to follow through to avoid losing steam.
- Use reminders: People with ADHD need constant reminders to keep their focus on track. Don’t be shy to use your phone or alarm clock to set up periodic reminders. Keep your workplace as organized as possible to avoid wasting time getting ready.
Supporting People with ADHD at Work
ADHD is considered a disability under the 2010 Equality Act. Employers must make the necessary accommodations to make the lives of ADHD patients easier in the workplace. These workplace modifications, which we’ll list shortly, will also allow adults with ADHD to unlock their full productivity.
- There should be no rigid deadlines, but rather a deadline window that gives an allowance of time before the commencement and after the scheduled completion of a task.
- Avoid issuing non-essential tasks like paperwork and timesheets to ADHD patients.
- Equipping them with larger computer screens may aid their focus and memory retention.
- Each office should have a visible clock as it assists them in staying on top of deadlines.
- Allow headphones or small speakers for ambient music, which is proven to minimize distractions and improve concentration.
- Organize a buddy system for particularly long or cumbersome tasks.
- Permit movement during work hours to give them the opportunity to stretch their limbs.
- Instate breaks after long meetings.
- Check-in on them frequently or schedule progress meetings where you offer feedback on the quality of their work.
- Break down huge tasks into bite-sized jobs.
- Encourage the use of visual tools like charts, checklists, and post-it notes to keep reminders.
ADHD is one of the most prevalent neurological disorders in the world. It is also one of the most ignored. Contrary to popular belief, it affects adults as much as children. It is characterized by behavioral and cognitive deficiencies like impulsivity, hyperactivity, inattention, disorganization, and irritability.
ADHD has no definitive cure. The best you can hope for is to manage it effectively. For adults, that may mean scheduling regular appointments with a psychotherapist or taking ADHD medication. For kids, managing ADHD takes a collaborative effort from parents, teachers, and caregivers. The anxiety medication for children also helps quite a lot in this regard.
Managing ADHD symptoms starts with learning about the condition and how it affects people’s lives. Together, we can slowly eradicate this silently growing pandemic by offering a helping hand to our fellow Americans with ADHD whenever we can.