Explained: What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) In Children, Teenagers And Adults

Explained: What Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) In Children, Teenagers And Adults

Pushpa actor Fahadh Faasil revealed that he has been diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder called adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Manasi KambleUpdated: Tuesday, May 28, 2024, 02:42 PM IST
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) | Representative Image

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent neurobehavioral disorder, with approximately 11 percent of children aged 4 to 17 having received a diagnosis. The dialogue about ADHD comes as popular actor and producer Fahadh Faasil recently stated that he has been diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 41. Actor Fahadh Faasil was recently seen in the Malayalam movie Aavesham.

What Is ADHD And How Common Is It?

ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a common mental disorder that affects children. Symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It can impact various aspects of life, such as academic and professional achievements, relationships, and daily functioning.

When not appropriately treated, ADHD can lead to poor self-esteem and social function in children. Approximately 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD. Boys are more commonly diagnosed than girls, but this doesn't mean they are more likely to have ADHD.

Types Of ADHD

There are three main types of ADHD:

Predominantly inattentive presentation.

Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive presentation.

Combined presentation.

A diagnosis is based on the presence of persistent symptoms that have occurred over a period of time and are noticeable over the past six months. While ADHD can be diagnosed at any age, this disorder begins in childhood. When considering the diagnosis, the symptoms must be present before the individual is 12 years old and must have caused difficulties in more than one setting. For instance, the symptoms can not only occur at home.

Symptoms Of ADHD In Children

Inattentive Type

Inattentive refers to challenges with staying on task, focusing, and organization. For a diagnosis of this type of ADHD, six (or five for individuals who are 17 years old or older) of the following symptoms occur frequently:

Doesn’t pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school or job tasks.

Has problems staying focused on tasks or activities, such as during lectures, conversations or long reading.

Does not seem to listen when spoken to (i.e., seems to be elsewhere).

Does not follow through on instructions and doesn’t complete schoolwork, chores or job duties (may start tasks but quickly loses focus).

Has problems organizing tasks and work (for instance, does not manage time well; has messy, disorganized work; misses deadlines).

Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as preparing reports and completing forms.

Often loses things needed for tasks or daily life, such as school papers, books, keys, wallet, cell phone and eyeglasses.

Is easily distracted.

Forgets daily tasks, such as doing chores and running errands. Older teens and adults may forget to return phone calls, pay bills and keep appointments.

Hyperactive/Impulsive Type

Hyperactivity refers to excessive movement such as fidgeting, excessive energy, not sitting still, and being talkative. Impulsivity refers to decisions or actions taken without thinking through the consequences. For a diagnosis of this type of ADHD, six (or five for individuals who are 17 years old or older) of the following symptoms occur frequently:

Fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.

Not able to stay seated (in classroom, workplace).

Runs about or climbs where it is inappropriate.

Unable to play or do leisure activities quietly.

Always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor.

Talks too much.

Blurts out an answer before a question has been finished (for instance may finish people’s sentences, can’t wait to speak in conversations).

Has difficulty waiting for his or her turn, such as while waiting in line.

Interrupts or intrudes on others (for instance, cuts into conversations, games or activities, or starts using other people’s things without permission). Older teens and adults may take over what others are doing.

ADHD combined type is diagnosed when a person meets the criteria for both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive types. An individual with combined type ADHD will meet the necessary criteria for both subtypes. ADHD is a behavioral condition with a range of symptoms.

ADHD Treatment

A person with ADHD can't inhibit incoming stimuli, which causes them to be distractible, and unable to inhibit outgoing impulses, which causes them to be impulsive or hyperactive. In other words, a child with ADHD has weak brakes. Treatment aims to strengthen those brakes.

ADHD is typically diagnosed by mental health professionals through a psychiatric evaluation involving symptom descriptions, scales, questionnaires, medical history, and family background. Other conditions like learning disorders, mood disorders, and anxiety can mimic ADHD, so a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation is crucial. There are no specific blood tests or routine imaging for ADHD diagnosis. ADHD can also co-exist with other mental health conditions, such as oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder, anxiety disorders, and learning disorders. A full psychiatric evaluation is important.

Typical Developmental Behaviours VS. ADHD

Healthy children can be inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive at times. Preschoolers often have short attention spans. Children's attention spans and activity levels can vary. It's important not to label children as having ADHD just because they are different from others. If a child struggles at school but does well at home or with friends, it may not be ADHD. The same goes for children who are hyperactive or inattentive at home but unaffected in their schoolwork or friendships.

Is ADHD a Developmental Disability?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD is one of the most common developmental disorders in children, affecting neurodevelopment. Along with autism, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, vision impairment, and others, ADHD is also classified as a developmental disability.

Is ADHD a Learning Disability?

Learning disabilities are a subtype of developmental disabilities. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a person with a learning disability has difficulty understanding either written or spoken words, and performing calculations and other tasks.

According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, ADHD is not considered a learning disability. However, research suggests that up to half of all children with ADHD also have a concurrent learning disability that can make learning particularly challenging for those individuals

ADHD and Cognitive Disability

ADHD is often linked with cognitive disabilities, which refer to conditions where individuals have slower mental processing and learning difficulties. People with cognitive disabilities may require lifelong assistance to function in society. Although some medical professionals consider ADHD to be a form of cognitive disability due to its similarities to mild cognitive impairment, others distinguish between the two conditions. Therefore, whether ADHD is classified as a cognitive disability depends on the diagnosing medical practitioner's perspective.

Recent Development In The Study

The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has updated the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. To receive a diagnosis, a child or younger adolescent must exhibit at least six out of nine possible inattentive symptoms (e.g., difficulty paying attention to details, being easily distracted) and/or six out of nine possible hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms (e.g., restlessness, difficulty waiting their turn). Additionally, these symptoms must be present for at least 6 months, occur in at least two different settings, manifest before the age of 12, and not be better explained by another disorder. For older adolescents and adults, the number of required symptoms per category is reduced to five out of nine.

ADHD In Young Adults

Some young adults may consider ADHD when they struggle with daily tasks or exhibit consistent patterns of inconsistency or forgetfulness. Teachers and school staff can provide information to parents and doctors to help evaluate behavior and learning problems but cannot diagnose ADHD or make treatment decisions. Only parents and guardians, in consultation with the child’s healthcare provider, can make those decisions. Students with ADHD may qualify for special education or a Section 504 plan and can benefit from study skills instruction, changes to the classroom setup, alternative teaching techniques, and a modified curriculum.

Symptoms In Young Adults

Trouble focusing

Problems controlling impulses

Trouble with priorities

Lack of organization

Poor time management

Trouble multitasking

Restlessness

Frustration

Mood swings

Trouble planning

Problems finishing tasks

Issues handling stress

Young adults with ADHD may struggle with meeting deadlines, punctuality, and emotional regulation, which can impact their work, school, and social life.

ADHD And Adults

Children diagnosed with ADHD may continue to experience the disorder into adulthood. Adults with ADHD may not realize they have the condition. Diagnosis involves reviewing past and current symptoms, a medical exam, and adult rating scales. Treatment options include medication, psychotherapy, and behavior management strategies. ADHD is a protected disability under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), allowing individuals to qualify for reasonable work accommodations if their symptoms cause impairment in the work setting.

Symptoms Of ADHD In Adults

Adult ADHD symptoms may include:

Impulsiveness

Disorganization and problems prioritizing

Poor time management skills

Problems focusing on a task

Trouble multitasking

Excessive activity or restlessness

Poor planning

Low frustration tolerance

Frequent mood swings

Problems following through and completing tasks

Hot temper

Trouble coping with stress

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