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What is ADHD — Really? Types. Symptoms. Treatments.

Updated: Jan 8

Is ADHD real? Why do I hear about ADHD so much more now than before? Doesn’t ADHD go away in adulthood? How common is it? What are the symptoms, and how do you know if it’s ADHD or just daydreaming or fidgeting? These are some common questions that people have about Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But what is it really? How do you know if you or your child has it? And what treatments are available? What is ADHD ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood. Children with ADHD may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about the result), or be overly active.



But ADHD doesn’t just affect children. Because ADHD wasn’t even named until the late 1980s, many adults are living with it — often not understanding why they are a little different from their peers. ADHD is also part of the conditions that are known as neurodivergent, which means thinking and processing information differently. Researchers don’t know exactly what causes ADHD, but it’s known to run in families. If you have relatives with ADHD, you’re four to six times more likely to have it yourself. Some 40% of kids with ADHD have at least one parent with symptoms. Studies of twins have shown that ADHD has 60%-90% heritability, which measures of how much influence genes have. The same studies show that genetics also strongly influence how ADHD develops over time. Prevalence of ADHD in the United States According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the estimated number of children in the U.S. aged 3–17 years diagnosed with ADHD (between 2016-2019) is 6 million, or 9.8%. It’s thought around 8 million U.S. adults, or 20% of the population know they have ADHD — and up to 10% more could be living with it and not know. Diagnoses among adults are growing four times faster than are ADHD diagnoses among children in the United States (26.4% increase among children compared to 123.3 percent among adults). Types of ADHD ADHD has been classified into three types. Depending on which types of symptoms are strongest in the individual. Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well. 1. Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: In this type, an individual has difficulty organizing and finishing a task, paying attention to details, and following instructions or conversations. This type is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines. 2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: People with this type of ADHD fidget and talk a lot. It is hard to sit still for long. Smaller children may constantly run, jump, and climb. They might feel restless and have trouble with impulsivity. Someone who is impulsive may interrupt others a lot, not listen to directions, speak at inappropriate times, and find it difficult to wait. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others. 3. Combined Presentation: Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in an individual. Symptoms of ADHD The following are the most common symptoms of ADHD. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Keep in mind, if you are trying to diagnose a child, their age should be considered. A five-year-old will have a much shorter attention span than a fifteen-year-old. Inattention Inattention is exactly as it sounds, having a short attention span or trouble keeping attention, with a few added signs:

  • Problem listening to others, which can present as not hearing what was said or seeming forgetful.

  • Has poor organizational skills and little or no attention to details.

  • Distracted easily and often.

  • Tends to forget even important things (e.g. appointments, work/homework, responsibilities).

  • Inability to focus on work or studying.

Impulsivity

Impulsivity involves impulsive, risky, and not-thought-out activities but also includes:

  • Interrupting others, even those in an authority position or leadership setting.

  • Having difficulty waiting for their turn.

Hyperactivity Hyperactivity is probably the most common trait that people think of, it can be seen in:

  • Needing to be in constant motion, an inability to sit still, squirming in their seat, or always fidgeting.

  • Talking excessively and having trouble being quiet, even if that causes problems (e.g., getting in trouble).

  • Shifting from one task to another without completing any of them.

  • Losing and forgetting things repeatedly.

Some of these may seem like normal things that happen every day to everyone. Who doesn’t forget where they placed their keys? For someone with ADHD, they might lose their keys seven times a day. This happens because when the brain is in ADHD mode, it is processing so many things it can’t focus on any one thing, thus creating an almost void in time. Remember, ADHD is based on continual patterns over time. If You Suspect ADHD If you suspect you or your child have ADHD, consult your doctor for a diagnosis. Many cities offer specialty clinics that deal specifically with conditions like ADHD or start with your primary care physician for a referral. Treatment will depend on your specific diagnosis, type of ADHD, and other factors determined by your doctor. When with your doctor, ask questions and review all the options and how effective that treatment is. For some people, ADHD has to be managed with medication; others may not need it. Only you and your doctor can decide this. Please note we are not licensed clinicians, but we have collected data and information about ADHD and symptoms from credited medical sources for this blog. Please consult your doctor for more detailed information and next steps.

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