Learning and Looking for Signs of ADHD

As with any disorder, if we stop and consider SQUIRREL! Now, where was I? You probably recognize this joke about distractibility from the Disney movie, Up. Easily being distracted is one of the most noticeable signs of ADHD. This “squirrel” interruption is one of the most commonly used examples of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. While it may funny on the silver screen, it’s no laughing matter when you or someone you love is dealing with the effects of ADHD. Since October is National Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Month, it presents a great opportunity to learn more about this disorder, as well as ADHD diagnosis in general and helpful behavioral therapy for ADHD. Highland Springs Speciality Clinics are here to help you navigate behavioral health services.

Learning and looking for signs of ADHD

What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

ADHD is a legitimate medical problem recognized by all national professional organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association. Symptoms of ADHD are primarily due to differences in the frontal lobe of the brain. This area of the brain helps us to focus and concentrate and control impulses. Dopamine, a brain chemical, helps this part of the brain to work properly. In some people, there isn’t enough dopamine and they are unable to focus and concentrate as well as other people. Behavioral therapy for ADHD and other treatments are reimbursed by insurance companies and Medicaid. There are more than ten FDA-approved medications to reduce ADHD symptoms. Medications increase the amount of dopamine and stop the problem as long as they are taken. There are also effective treatments that don’t involve medications. Subsequently, colleges and universities have well-established policies to accommodate students with ADHD so they can be successful in school. In short, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is real and needs to be taken seriously.

The Signs of ADHD

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 5% of children in 2016 – 6.1 million –ages 2-17 are currently diagnosed with ADHD. 62% of these children are taking prescribed medications for the problem. Of course, before medication can be prescribed a child must receive a diagnosis. There are different ADHD diagnoses – Inattentive Type, Hyperactive Type, and Combined Type. Many people meet criteria for Inattentive or Hyperactive, not necessarily both. Medical News Today organized the criteria for each ADHD diagnosis, which we’ve presented below:

Inattention

A child must meet 6 of the criteria listed below to be diagnosed with Inattentive Type ADHD, and anyone over 17 years of age must exhibit five symptoms. 

 

  • Does not appear to listen when spoken to directly
  • Does not follow through on schoolwork, chores, duties, or instructions
  • Does not hold attention on play activities or tasks
  • Regularly loses items that are needed for daily routines
  • Has difficulty organizing time or managing tasks
  • Avoid tasks that require long periods of critical thinking
  • Forget to follow through or perform tasks in daily routines
  • Becomes easily distracted

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

A child must exhibit at least six of the criteria listed below, and anyone over 17 years of age must exhibit at least five criteria.

 

  • Excessive talking and often blurts out answers before a question is complete
  • Unable to stay quiet during play or leisure activities
  • Interrupts or intrudes in conversations or games
  • Cannot sit still – constantly fidgets, squirms, or taps hands and feet
  • Expresses hyperactivity during inappropriate times and places
  • Acts as though they are always “on the go”
  • Finds waiting in line or waiting for their turn to be a difficult task to accomplish

This is a small list of symptoms that are present in someone with ADHD. Whatever symptoms are present must be present for at least six months, and prove inappropriate for development. Along with the Inattention and Hyperactivity symptoms, the following must also be met:

 

  • Several symptoms in both categories must be present before the child is 12 years old
  • These symptoms must be present in two or more settings, such as work, home, school, relationships, activities, etc.
  • The symptoms must clearly be interfering or reducing the quality of the settings
  • Another mental health disorder cannot explain the symptoms and do not happen during the course of another disorder, such as schizophrenia

 

While the symptoms may be recognizable, a doctor must formally issue an ADHD diagnosis before treatment can begin. So, it’s important to seek help for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as soon as symptoms appear.

After the ADHD Diagnosis

Receiving an ADHD diagnosis may be a challenging time, and adjusting to the news may not come easy. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is commonly diagnosed in children.  However, it’s important to remember ADHD doesn’t suddenly disappear when a child turns 18 and becomes an adult. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that about 60% of children with ADHD become adults with ADHD. More striking is the estimation that only a small portion (20%) of adults with ADHD actually get a diagnosis and treatment.

As children with ADHD transition into adults with ADHD, there are some statistics to keep in mind when searching for behavioral therapy for ADHD.

ADHD diagnosis can be a challenging time.
  • They are far less likely to enroll in a 4-year college.
  • They are 11 times more likely to not enroll in any school vs. enrolling in a 4-year college.
  • 50% attend vocational or junior colleges vs. 18% of the non-ADHD comparison group.
  • 15% hold a 4-year degree compared to 48% of the control group.
  • 0.06% held a graduate degree compared to 5.4% of the control group.· They are 11 times more likely to be unemployed and not in school.
  • They are 4 times more likely to be in unskilled vs. clerical occupation, and 6 times more likely to be in unskilled vs. professional occupations.
  • 61% more likely to have ever been fired, compared to 43% of the comparison group.
  • 33% more likely to have ever been laid off, compared to 13% of the comparison group.
  • 53% more likely to have ever quit a job due to dislike, compared to 36% of the comparison group.
  • They earned close to $2 per hour less in wages than the comparison group.

Car accidents, criminal behavior, substance abuse, and divorces all also carry higher rates for people with ADHD. The cumulative effect of the inability to pay attention and control impulses is remarkable.

Behavioral Therapy for ADHD

There are different methods for treating ADHD. As previously mentioned, medications can be extremely effective in controlling the symptoms of ADHD. However, there are other behavioral therapies that are effective in treating ADHD. These treatments primarily involve skill building like using notebooks, structured study times, and other regimented schedules. As children with ADHD transition into adults with ADHD, career counseling can also be helpful to avoid choosing the wrong professions. For example, accounting typically requires focus and attention for hours at a time, which means it is probably not an optimal choice. People with ADHD are often bright and outgoing, so working in sales is a great choice as scenery and work environment change a lot.

As with any other medical problem, there are do’s and don’ts when managing ADHD symptoms. One “don’t” is using unregulated substances to control these symptoms. If you find yourself abusing substances, Highland Springs is also highly efficient in substance abuse treatment. A “do” is to get professional help and assistance. At Highland Springs Specialty Clinics, we have specially trained therapists and prescribers ready to assist you or your loved one in learning and looking for signs of ADHD. Don’t wait any longer. Get help today, and take control of your life again.

AUTHOR: Dr. Todd Thatcher

Dr. Todd Thatcher has worked at Valley for 8 years and has been the Chief Medical Officer for 5 years. He is triple board certified in forensic psychiatry, general psychiatry, and addiction medicine. Currently, Dr. Thatcher is passionate about the high-quality training of our employees and generating and tracking as much clinical data as possible to improve processes and procedures for increased ease, accessibility, and ultimately to better serve our clients and provide the best care possible.

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