What is ADHD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder that is generally diagnosed in children. This disorder impairs an individual’s ability to plan, focus on and execute tasks. In simple terms, ADHD is a developmental disorder that affects the brain’s executive functioning.
Executive functioning involves a set of cognitive processes and mental skills that allow an individual to plan, monitor and execute tasks.
Inattention, Hyperactivity and Impulsivity are the three main components of ADHD. An individual has difficulties in either one or all three areas mentioned above. Which brings us to the three diagnostic categories of ADHD:
Predominantly Inattentive type
Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive type
Combined type (which has both- Inattention and Hyperactivity)
The signs of ADHD are typically the same among children and adults. Some of them are:
Short attention span
Poor working memory
Physical, emotional and/or verbal hyperactivity
Poor time management
Hyperfocus (among others)
These symptoms vary for different individuals. It is not necessary to have them all to receive a diagnosis; most of them should be present for a period of at least 6 months according to the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria and should be exhibited in two or more settings.
On a side note, almost all of us may have exhibited some or all of these symptoms at some point in our lives. Don’t jump on the bandwagon of diagnosing yourself with ADHD because of this. Seek guidance from a professional if you feel that your behaviours related to ADHD are on the rise. Clinicians make use of standardized tests to diagnose individuals with ADHD. The results of these tests can be considered reliable.
Symptoms of ADHD- Inattentive subtype:
Fails to pay attention to details
Gets distracted quickly (unless the activity is of their interest)
Mentally preoccupied; not in the present moment
Leaving tasks incomplete
Fails to follow plans or a schedule
Poor sense of time
Forgetful in general
Symptoms of ADHD- Hyperactive/ Impulsive Subtype:
Constant fidgeting with pen, hands, feet, or any other object
Difficulty to sit still in one place
Talking excessively and loudly
Not giving others a chance to speak
Unable to wait for their turn
Stepping over boundaries
ADHD in Children:
Children are diagnosed with ADHD if they exhibit six of the nine symptoms in the DSM-5 in two or more settings, for example at home and at school. Apart from that, the symptoms must interfere with the child’s daily functioning and overall development. It is often noticed by school teachers first since they spend a considerable amount of time with the child and are in touch with his/her academic progress.
A diagnosis is usually made by a clinician after meeting with the child's parents, teachers and other caregivers. This gives the clinician a holistic view of the child’s behaviour in multiple settings. Some aspects of this could include looking at the child’s academic records, and the teacher’s observations of the child’s behaviour inside the classroom; asking parents to fill out a checklist with all the signs and symptoms of ADHD.
Dealing with your child who has ADHD:
Children who have ADHD with any of its subtypes, are helped better if they receive a treatment plan that consists of medication, natural supplements, and behavior therapy.
There’s a range of treatment options available for children with ADHD.
Behaviour therapy for ADHD works in a similar manner like it does for other disorders; the basic principle here is that good/ desirable behaviours are rewarded, and bad/ undesirable behaviours are discouraged.
“Behavior therapy isn’t a cure-all for ADHD behaviors. Parents who think they can change a long laundry list of behaviors will be disappointed,” shares Patricia Quinn M.D. . It is suggested that parents focus on a few behaviours that are of priority and focus on bringing about a change in those areas.
We also have pharmacological treatment which consists of using medication to alleviate the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Also referred to as stimulant medication, this form of treatment, when coupled with behavioural interventions like scheduling, behaviour monitoring etc. works efficiently in helping the child cope with the negative effects of ADHD.
Although research has evidence backing the efficiency of medication on ADHD, many professionals recommend the use of behavioural therapy more than resorting to the use of medications.
“A pill decreases common ADHD symptoms like impulsivity and distractibility, but it doesn’t change behavior. A child on medication might be disinclined to punch someone, because he’s less impulsive, but he doesn’t know what to do instead. Behavior therapy fills in the blanks, by giving a child positive alternative behaviors to use,” says Quinn.
Everything aside, having a child with ADHD is as difficult for the parent as it is for the child. Not only does the child face difficulties in the vocational realm but also the unavoidable social and emotional challenges of being different. It is important for both- parents and teachers to be aware of what ADHD essentially is for them to be able to course their way through dealing with the child.
For symptoms: Diagnostic Interview for ADHD in adults (DIVA 2.0)
Ayushi Kenia Hi! I am Ayushi, a Psychology graduate from Mumbai. I enjoy reading and curating articles based on Psychology, self-help and spirituality among other genres and themes. Through my articles, I aim at creating awareness and generating a learning process for myself and my reader/s. Hope my work helps you!