By: Matthew Wallace
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD/ADD), a common learning disorder, affects children, adolescents, teenagers, and adults. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), roughly three to five percent of children have ADHD/ADD. Other resources suggest a range between eight and ten percent of school-aged children. Experts have speculated whether or not children really outgrow ADHD/ADD, which means that more adults have this learning disorder than previously concluded.
Children with ADHD/ADD have difficulties with concentrating and paying attention. In other words, ADHD/ADD sufferers can not follow directions. They become easily bored or frustrated with ordinary activities. ADHD/ADD sufferers also tend to move around constantly, especially in children. Many ADHD/ADD sufferers fail to think before they act. These behaviors interfere with an ADHD/ADD child’s productivity, including at home or in the classroom.
Adults with ADHD/ADD may have problems organizing, managing their time, setting goals, and meeting their employer’s expectations. In addition, they have problems with their self-confidence and self-esteem, which can overlap into their relationships. Untreated ADHD/ADD sufferers may decide to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, which can turn into a vicious addictive cycle.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has existed with mankind since 493 B.C.E., when Hippocrates described a condition that closely resembles the scientific diagnosis of ADHD/ADD. The clinical definition of ADHD/ADD emerged in the mid-Twentieth century, when physicians described this learning disorder as “minimal brain dysfunction,” “minimal brain damage,” “hyperactivity,” and “learning/behavioral disabilities.”
The earliest scientific account dates back to 1902, when George Still spoke to the Royal College of Physicians in England about a condition that sounds closely associated with ADHD/ADD. The field of psychiatry did not codify the condition until 1968, when they called it “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood.” The official term “Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)” did not surface until the release of the 1980 DSM-III. Further revisions were made that characterized ADHD/ADD as either mainly hyperactive-impulsive, mainly inattentive, and a combination of both.
What are the Symptoms of ADHD/ADD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) materializes in children under three distinct categories, including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. A child with ADHD/ADD becomes easily distracted, fails to follow directions, fails to finish tasks, does not listen, does not pay attention to their surroundings, forgets daily activities, fails to organize, avoids activities that require them to stay still, and has a tendency to daydream.
In addition, Children with ADHD/ADD also show signs of hyperactivity, such as fidgeting, squirming, bouncing when sitting, yelling in quiet environments, constantly moving, talking excessively, and may even climb on things. Lastly, children with ADHD/ADD have trouble waiting for their turn, blurts out answers and interrupts others.
Adults with ADHD/ADD display different symptoms than in children. For instance, they may forget their scheduled work days or fail to arrive to work on time. They may display high levels of anxiety, low self-esteem, and low self-confidence. Adult ADHD/ADD sufferers may have problems controlling their anger, impulsiveness, and starting projects. Others may resort to self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to help control these problems.
Adult ADHD/ADD suffers may become bored easily, making them always on the run in seeking out new adventures. They often have problems organizing, concentrating when reading, and become frustrated easily. As a result, many adult ADHD/ADD sufferers have difficulties maintaining healthy relationships, because of excessive depression and mood swings. This may also impact their overall employment situation.
What are the Causes of ADHD/ADD?
Researchers have not discovered all of the underlying causes of ADHD/ADD; however, they have continued their efforts in finding a cure. Previous studies suggest that several factors stimulate the development of ADHD/ADD. For instance, the majority of ADHD/ADD sufferers can trace the learning disorder in their family tree. Others may develop the disorder due to a chemical imbalance that causes a misfiring of nerve impulses.
As a child grows older, their brain may not fully develop the area of the brain that enables people to pay attention. ADHD/ADD sufferers may have also developed the learning disorder, because of negligent mothers who ate poorly, smoked cigarettes, or consumed alcohol during their pregnancy. Studies also suggest that exposure to heavy metal toxins, such as mercury, lead, and PCBs, have affected the brain development in children.
How is ADHD/ADD Treated?
Researchers have not found a cure for ADHD/ADD; however, many of the symptoms can be mitigated with the right medications and psychotherapies. ADHD/ADD sufferers can take a wide array of medications, usually stimulants, to help control their hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.
Common ADHD/ADD medications include Daytrana, Vyvanse, Adderall, Methlyin, Ritalin, Focalin, Metadate, Dexedrine, and Concerta. Children may not respond to stimulants well; therefore, non-stimulant medications, such as Intuniv and Strattera, exist to keep ADHD/ADD symptoms in check. ADHD sufferers may undergo a combination of medications, psychotherapy, special education, behavior modification, counseling, social skills training, and support groups.
This will help develop their personal strengths and minimize naturally occurring disruptive behavior. As a result, ADHD/ADD sufferers will become happy, productive, and successful individuals.
- Understanding ADHD: Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder offers a guide for sufferers of ADHD, including a description of underlying causes, symptoms, evaluation procedures, and treatment options.
- ADD/ADHD and School: This trusted non-profit resource provides essential tips for children who suffer with ADD/ADHD succeed in their academic endeavors.
- Attention Deficit Disorder Student Handbook: Virginia Tech offers successful strategies for students who suffer from Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD), especially in regards to successful transitioning, class scheduling, in-class studying, out-of-class studying, organization, time management, and coping with the disorder.
- Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder: Strategies for Success (PDF): A fact sheet that addresses Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD) in adults, including how to identify the disease and what to do if an individual suspects that he or she may have ADD/ADHD.
- Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Data and Statistics: The Center for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) provides an overview of ADD/ADHD and how it affects sufferers on an everyday basis.
- What is ADHD?: Kids Health provides an 8-page overview on ADHD, including its symptoms, diagnosis, causes, treatment options, and strategies for succeeding in the classroom.
- The Effect of ADHD on Educational Outcomes: An article that examines the overall impact of ADHD on the educational outcomes of students who suffer from the disease.
- Study: Diet May Help ADHD Kids More Than Drugs: The National Public Radio (NPR) covers a recent story that examines how dietary adjustments can help kids cope with ADHD more than pharmaceutical drugs.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Easy-to-Read): The National Institute of Mental Health provides an extensive introduction on Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), including who can develop this learning disability, what causes one to develop ADHD, and how do people learn to cope with the disease.
- Learning Disabilities and ADHD: A government resource that describes how ADD/ADHD, a learning disorder, affects how a student understands the academic curriculum presented to them in the classroom.
- ADHD Aware: Toolbox for Parents: A comprehensive resource list and toolbox for parents who have children suffering with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- Identifying and Treating Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (PDF): An extensive document that describes how parents, teachers, and individuals can identify, diagnose, and treat Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- A Treatment Study of Children With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (PDF): The United States Department of Justice presents a formal document that describes the learning disorder known as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), including a link between the disorder and juvenile delinquency.
- Issues in Treating ADHD and Resources: American Psychological Association (APA) reference page on ADHD.
- ADHD/ADD National Resource Center: A resource aimed at providing scientific information on the learning disability commonly known as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).