Many people have heard that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be a fairly common neuro-developmental disorder that impacts children.  It’s typically diagnosed in childhood but can last into adulthood. Individuals suffering from ADHD have trouble focusing, controlling impulsive behaviours, hyperactivity, edginess among other symptoms.

Paying attention to some of the most common symptoms of ADHD and behaviours can help individuals gain a better understanding of their condition and seek timely medical help.

Often adults who have ADHD have not been diagnosed. Since the symptoms can cause difficulty at work, at home or in their interpersonal relationships, it is important for those suffering from any of these symptoms to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment.  If not recognised and treated on time, symptoms can become more severe as life becomes more challenging.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of ADHD.

  1. Inattention As attention spans shrink globally, it is often difficult to understand whether a shorter attention is indicative of something larger. However, for children and adults with ADHD the inattention manifests itself in many ways. For example, an individual may have difficulty in listening to others, or absorbing the details of a conversation. He/she may be easily distracted or forget conversation matter easily.  Poor organizational and study skills for age are also tell-tale signs of ADHD.  The lack of attention poses a significant learning challenge for children as they often miss out significant details and make obvious or careless mistakes in their school work.
  2. Hyperactivity People with pronounced hyperactivity in ADHD constantly feel the necessity for movement. They satisfy this need by fidgeting, squirming, struggling to remain in one position. Children run around excessively and other people of all ages may talk non-stop, interrupt frequently, and struggle with self-restraint.  In adults, it may also appear as extreme restlessness, impatience or excessive talking.
  3. Impulsivity Impulsivity is described as a condition where people can be reckless or seemingly impatient and uninhibited in social situations.

Impulsivity is a primary symptom of ADHD and impairs the ability of an individual to pause and think about the consequences of an action. An ADHD child may therefore blurt out an answer before waiting for permission, react to frustrations with punching or screaming, jump the wait lines at stores. This lack of impulse control or thoughtfulness also translates into risk taking behaviours, and sensation seeking behaviours. Unfortunately, individuals with ADHD that show impulsivity are at a higher risk of downstream health effects and alcohol or substance abuse.

While these symptoms may occur together, one of these may be present without the other. Hyperactivity typically makes itself apparent by the age of 7 and may even be seen in young preschoolers. Attention deficit may surface later when the child faces a more challenging curriculum.

Based on the three key symptoms and signs, there are three major types of ADHD.

These include:

ADHD, combined type

This is widely considered to be the most common type of ADHD where children and adults show impulsivity, hyperactivity, as well as inattention and distractibility.

ADHD, inattentive and distractible type

The main characteristics of this type of ADHD include lack of focus/attention and an easily distractible nature. characterized predominately by inattention and distractibility without hyperactivity.

ADHD, impulsive/hyperactive

This is the least common type of ADHd, characterized by impulsive or hyperactive behaviour but not distractibility.

What causes ADHD?

As scientists and researchers continue to study and find ways to manage and reduce the occurrence of ADHD, the exact causes and risk factors are still not clear. However, current research indicates there are several factors including genetics that play a role.

Common risk factors may include blood relatives with ADHD or other neurological disorders, exposure to environmental toxins, maternal drug use during pregnancy, low birth weight, premature delivery etc.

Research debunks the popular opinion that ADHD is caused by excessive sugar intake, watching too much television,  societal or environmental factors such as poverty or chaotic surroundings. However, these factors may aggravate the existing symptoms in some individuals.

Symptoms Of ADHD

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Typically, a child should not receive an ADHD diagnosis unless the primary symptoms start early(before 12) and cause significant challenges at home or school.  There is no specific test for ADHD so the diagnosis typically includes medical exams to rule out other possibilities or symptoms, history and information gathering, interviews with family and teachers or caregivers, ADHD rating scales to gather and assess the information. The process may take some time and may require a series of interviews with the family or child.

Word of advice

ADHD is a common, long-term condition that affects children and adults. While it has a significant impact on attention, thinking and behaviour, it can be managed well with medication and therapy. Stay in touch with your healthcare provider and be transparent about the symptoms. Together you can work on a strategy and management plan to create more balance in your life.