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National ADHD Awareness Month

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

Article by Sucharita Desu

October is the month for ADHD awareness. ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children. ADHD is usually diagnosed at a young age and often lasts into adulthood.

Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (they often act without thinking about consequences), and may be overly active. However, it's normal for children to have these attributes. Children with ADHD just don't grow out of these behaviors. Their symptoms continue and can become severe enough to cause difficulty at school, home and/or with friends. Some specific symptoms of ADHD include daydreaming a lot, forgetting or losing things quite often, squirming or fidgeting, talking too much, making careless mistakes, taking unnecessary risks, as well as struggling with resisting temptation, taking turns, and getting along with others.

Like with any other disorder, the symptoms of ADHD vary from person to person. Depending on which of the symptoms are more strongly present in the person. There are three presentations of ADHD; predominantly inattentive presentation, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation, and combined presentation.

For those with predominantly inattentive presentations, it's hard to organize or finish tasks, pay attention to details, and follow instructions and conversations. They tend to be easily distracted, forgetting the details of their daily routines. Those with predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentations tend to be quite restless. They fidget and talk a lot. They may also find it hard to sit still for long. In younger children especially, people with this presentation of ADHD constantly run, jump, and climb about. In addition, they might be very impulsive, interrupt others a lot to grab things, speak at inappropriate times, and struggle to wait their turn and listen to directions. Due to their restlessness, they're prone to have more accidents or injuries in comparison to others. People who show symptoms for both the other types of ADHD equally may be diagnosed with combined presentation. It's important to note that symptoms change over time. Thus, the presentation may also change over time.

Before getting any further, let's clear up some popular views on the causes of ADHD (not supported by factual research). For starters, people believe that ADHD is caused by eating too much sugar, watching too much TV, parenting, or social and environmental factors like poverty or family chaos. Although these things can worsen symptoms in certain people with ADHD, there is no solid evidence to show that these are the causes of the disorder.

Currently, the causes and risk factors of ADHD are still unknown. Studies have shown that genetics plays an important role. Other risk factors include brain injury, exposure to environmental risks during pregnancy or at a young age, alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, premature delivery, and low birth weight.

The diagnosis of ADHD may be a bit challenging as there's no single test for it. Plus, many disorders (i.e., anxiety, depression, certain types of learning disabilities, and sleep problems) have very similar symptoms. One of the steps in diagnosing ADHD involves a medical examination to test hearing and visual capabilities to rule out other problems. Typically, the rest of the diagnosis is rating the symptoms' severity and checking medical history.

Treatments for ADHD are a combination of behavior therapy and medication. For young children especially, behavior therapy is preferred before medications. Please do keep in mind that the best treatment depends entirely on the child and their needs. Good plans include close monitoring, follow-ups, and making changes to the treatment regime as needed. In addition to treatments, symptoms can be managed by staying healthy. This includes developing healthy eating habits, and making sure to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. It also includes participation in daily physical activity (based on age), limiting screen time, and getting the recommended amount of sleep every night (based on age).

ADHD can often last into adulthood and can sometimes go undiagnosed. For adults, symptoms can cause difficulty at work, at home, and with relationships. Symptoms may also present themselves differently for adults. For example, hyperactivity may appear as extreme restlessness. These types of symptoms become more severe as the demands of adulthood increase, thus it's important to be able to find ways to manage their lifestyles.

If you or your doctor have concerns about ADHD, please see a specialist, such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist (for either adults or children), and/or a developmental pediatrician (for kids). If you'd like to learn more about ADHD, check out these resources:

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