How ADHD Affects Children and Adults
Did you know that October is ADHD Awareness Month? We’re tackling exactly what ADHD is, the different symptoms that individuals may experience both in childhood and adulthood, as well as a variety of mental health treatments that can support focus and reduce the hyperactivity that comes with an ADHD diagnosis.
What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and is a condition that affects behavior, making someone seem restless, impulsive or distracted. It is thought that symptoms begin in childhood, and often become more noticeable when they begin attending school. Research shows that the condition often runs in families, and some differences in the brain and its chemicals/neurotransmitters have been identified, although the exact cause remains unknown.
ADHD is not thought to manifest later in life, but some individuals, particularly women, can go undiagnosed well into adulthood. These days, schools and healthcare professionals are becoming more adept at identifying ADHD, and with intervention and treatment, it can generally be well-managed.
What are the most common symptoms?
The symptoms of ADHD are often divided into two different categories. People with ADHD may experience symptoms from both categories, or they may just fall into one or the other. One category is inattentiveness/difficulty focusing and the other is hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Some of the most frequent symptoms related to inattentiveness may include a short attention span, careless mistakes at work or school, forgetfulness, or appearing unable to listen. Symptoms related to hyperactivity can include lack of concentration, fidgeting/being unable to sit still, excessive talking or movement, interrupting, speaking without thinking and little sense of danger.
How does ADHD affect children and adults differently?
There is a great deal more research on children with ADHD as opposed to adults, mostly due to adults going undiagnosed. In fact, research shows that nearly one in 10 children are diagnosed, compared to less than 5% of adults. For adults, hyperactivity tends to decrease, and inattentiveness symptoms may become more subtle.
Some suggested symptoms can include a lack of attention to detail, poor organization, inability to prioritize tasks, speaking out of turn, mood swings, extreme impatience and risky activities. Additionally, other mental health conditions can resemble this condition, including depression, anxiety, thyroid problems, sleep disorders, or alcohol/substance misuse.
What ADHD treatments are available?
The most common treatments are behavior therapy and medication. For children under the age of 6, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends utilizing behavior management and parent training before trying medication. After 6 years of age, behavior training is usually combined with medication. Therapy for ADHD can include social skills training, talk therapy (CBT) and educational programs.
For adults, ADHD treatment is also often a combination of medication and therapy. Adults diagnosed later in life can benefit greatly from education and skills training to learn new coping mechanisms. Medications generally include either stimulants to boost and balance neurotransmitters, or antidepressants for adults.
However, it is important to note that ADHD treatment can help manage your symptoms, but there is no cure. If a specific treatment causes side effects or does not work for you, don’t give up – keep trying other options to determine what is best for your situation.
If you suspect that you or your child may have ADHD but you don’t know where to start getting help, you are always welcome to contact the Healthy365 Connection Center. Our Support Navigators provide free and confidential services to connect you to local resources that can help identify and treat mental disorders.