ADHD is a mental disorder that is referred to when a person is particularly inattentive, impulsive or "hyperactive". Inattentive means that the person has difficulty concentrating and is easily distracted. If a person behaves very carelessly, or is impatient and careless, he or she is called excessively impulsive. Hyperactivity can be defined as restlessness or agitation - for example, if he or she cannot stay seated during class, but often gets up and walks around the classroom.
Pronounced ADHD can have a tremendous impact on the child or adult's life and daily routine, as well as on their family: Because children with ADHD behave differently from what is expected of them, they often get into fights. They need a lot of attention. The lack of concentration makes it difficult for them to learn. Some children also have conspicuous social behavior, anxiety or depression. Adults with ADHD often have problems in relationships or at work.
The number of ADHD diagnoses has continued to rise in recent years. Critics of this trend question whether ADHD is really that common. They fear that too many people are being diagnosed who may be a bit troubled but are actually healthy. Misdiagnosis can result in unnecessary treatment. Self-esteem can also be affected if people are misdiagnosed as mentally ill.
On the other hand, there are many people with ADHD who do not receive a diagnosis. This can also have negative effects because they may then not receive treatment, even though it could help them. Not being diagnosed can cause anger, frustration, and problems at work and at home.
Inattention, impulsivity, and excessive activity are not unusual in children and adolescents. In the case of ADHD, however, they take on a extent that differs markedly from the behavior of peers.
Inattention may manifest itself in a child often not listening at school, being easily distracted and making many careless mistakes. They may also find it difficult to stay on task during free time and often forgets or loses things. For example, an impulsive child can hardly wait for his or her turn at play or in class; he or she often pushes ahead, interferes, and interrupts others.
Hyperactive children are often restless, constantly sliding around on their chair or finding it difficult to be quiet. The physical restlessness often shows itself in the fact that the children run back and forth a lot or climb on pieces of furniture.
The degree to which ADHD is pronounced and which behaviors are particularly noticeable can vary greatly. For example, inattention is prominent in some children. They are more likely to be perceived as daydreamers. Other children are particularly impulsive and hyperactive. Depending on the problem, a distinction is made between predominantly inattentive and predominantly hyperactive-impulsive children.
Adults with ADHD may find it challenging to focus and complete plans, leading to missed deadlines, missed meetings and becoming overwhelmed. The inability to control impulses can range from impatience waiting in line, lossing items or mood swings, and outbursts of anger.
Adult ADHD symptoms can include impulsiveness, poor time management, restlessness and poor planning. The symptoms of ADHD in adults is different to the ADHD symptoms in children.
The causes of ADHD have not been conclusively determined, but the disorder is probably not due to a single cause. Genetic predisposition plays an important role. Studies also show that the transport of the neurotransmitter dopamine at the nerve cells in the brain is altered - namely in the areas that are important for memory and learning function, among other things. But other biological causes contribute to the development of ADHD.
Some experts are not convinced that ADHD is due only to physical or genetic causes. They see societal changes as equally important. For example, ADHD symptoms are also said to be a consequence of stimulus overload with simultaneous lack of exercise, the strong performance orientation in modern societies, and changed family relationships. Whether these theories are correct, however, has hardly been investigated by reliable studies so far.
It is also unclear which risk factors can contribute to the development of ADHD. Some researchers have shown that children whose mothers smoked, drank alcohol during pregnancy were more often affected by ADHD. Another possible risk factor is preeclampsia - a rare pregnancy condition in which blood pressure rises and the mother's body retains water. A very low birth weight of the child or problems at birth such as oxygen deficiency could also be linked to ADHD.
There are no clear causes identified for ADHD. This is true for ADHD and a lot of other mental illnesses. What is likely is that there are a number of contributing factors which together cause ADHD.
Attention and hyperactivity disorders are widespread. In Australia, about 4% of children receive a diagnosis of ADHD; boys about twice as often as girls.
A recent study suggests that some children are mistakenly diagnosed with ADHD. However, there are also children who have ADHD but never receive a diagnosis. Some children with ADHD continue to experience ADHD into adulthood.
ADHD usually appears in childhood. Symptoms change as the child develops. Older adolescents and adults with ADHD are often less hyperactive than in their childhood years, but often experience inner restlessness or restlessness.
In adults, symptoms are usually less severe than in children and adolescents. More than half of the adults who had ADHD as a child still have at least some ADHD symptoms.
ADHD affects many areas of life. For example, people with ADHD have accidents more often, hurt themselves more often and have more problems at work and school. Adolescents are more likely to use addictive substances such as nicotine, alcohol, and drugs. This can exacerbate other problems. They are also more often involved in crime than peers without ADHD. Developmental problems can accompany ADHD. This refers, for example, to difficulties in language development or in reading and spelling skills.
Other psychological problems or illnesses may also be present, such as depression or anxiety disorders. Some children with ADHD also have a tic disorder.
In adults, instead of hyperactivity, inattention, inner restlessness and fogetfulness are more prominent. Many find it difficult to regulate their emotions. For such reasons, ADHD can lead to relationships or work problems.
ADHD is best diagnosed by experts who are well versed in the condition. These include specialists in pediatrics or child and adolescent psychiatry, as well as psychotherapists for children and adolescents. Adults who suspect they have ADHD may contact a psychiatry practice for an evaluation.
A detailed interview and physical examination are important to rule out other possible causes of abnormal behavior. During the diagnostic interview, other mental illnesses can be ruled out as causes, and possible concomitant illnesses can be identified.
In children, sleep disorders, visual defects, hearing loss or hyperthyroidism can also be responsible for concentration difficulties, school problems or hyperactivity.
For adults, there is a special questionnaire to help doctors make the diagnosis retrospectively.
Before each treatment, there is a discussion and counseling about what ADHD actually is and how it can be dealt with. In addition to the parents and the child, educators or teachers may also be involved. It may turn out that there is no great need for treatment. The decisive factor is how stressful the conspicuous behavior is for the child and the parents and whether, for example, the child's development at school is suffering as a result.
If a child has mild ADHD that does not particularly limit his or her behavior, parent training on how to manage ADHD may already be enough. Such programs can be guided or self-help written materials to work through.
In the case of moderate or severe ADHD that is accompanied by social or school problems, further steps such as certain measures at school or family or behavioral therapy may be appropriate. Which help is appropriate also depends on how old the child is, whether he or she is more inattentive or hyperactive, and which areas of life are particularly impaired.
Medication can alleviate ADHD symptoms. Various aspects play a role in deciding whether to treat the child with medication: in addition to the child's age, how severe the ADHD is, whether psychotherapy or educational remedies have already been tried, and how parents and child weigh the pros and cons of ADHD medication.
The treatment for adults with ADHD depends on their personal situation and the existing problems. If it is difficult to get the disorder under control with one's own strategies, psychotherapy or medication can help.
Counseling for adult ADHD generally includes psychological counseling, learning about the disorder, and learning skills to help you be successful. Psychotherapy may help a person to better their time management, and organizational skills and reduce their impulsivity.