October Is National Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness Month.
Anyone can have difficulty sitting still, paying attention or controlling impulsive behavior occasionally. But for some people, these challenges are so pervasive and persistent they interfere with home life, academic performance, social interactions and work performance.
Recent estimates indicate ADHD is higher in children in the United States with around 8.7%, or 5.3 million, currently diagnosed with the condition.
Many people assume ADHD is a childhood problem that goes away over time, but we now know to 75% of children with ADHD continue to experience symptoms as adults.
Many adults with ADHD were not previously diagnosed in childhood.
What Are the Symptoms Of ADHD?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how the brain works. It can take the form of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
“The primary symptoms of ADHD are not paying attention in multiple areas of your life including school, home and social settings, says Andrew Penn, Licensed Mental Health Counselor.
“For those old enough to be working, a lot of times it can also present and look like the person is being talked to directly but the individual doesn’t recognize their being spoken to or has difficulty being able to pay attention for extended periods of time,” added Penn.
While everyone experiences moments of distraction or may seem wound up at times, when these symptoms interfere with a productive life or threaten personal relationships, it may be time to take a closer look.
Your mental health professional will generally look for six or more of the following symptoms to be persistent in children to conclude a diagnosis, and at least five symptoms in adolescents 17 and older.
ADHD Attention Issues May Look Like:
- Inattention to details or careless mistakes
- Difficulty sustaining attention
- Hyper-focus on a subject or task, but unable to complete
- Appears not to listen
- Struggles to follow instructions
- Difficulty with organization
- Avoids or refuses tasks requiring sustained mental effort
- Easily misplaces things
- Easily distracted
- Forgetful in daily activities
ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive Behaviors May Look Like:
- Fidgeting or squirming in chair
- Difficulty remaining seated
- Difficulty waiting turn
- Excessive running or climbing in children; extreme restlessness in adults
- Difficulty engaging in activities quietly
- Seems to be driven by a motor
- Talks excessively
- Blurts out answers before questions have been completed
- Difficulty waiting or taking turns
- Interrupts or intrudes upon others
Some individuals will have a combination of attention and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.
Your child may have mild symptoms at one age that change or expand as they age.
Does an ADHD Diagnosis Always Mean Medication?
Once diagnosed with ADHD, many parents worry their child will automatically be placed on medication.
“You can manage ADHD without medication,” notes Penn. “By working closely with your mental health professional, you can develop very effective strategies for controlling attention deficits, hyperactivity and impulsivity.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control on ADHD, parent training in behavior management can work as well as medication for ADHD in children under the age of six.
For children six and older, as well as adults, a combination of medication and behavioral strategies may work well. But again, medication is not always necessary.
Strategies for Managing ADHD May Include:
- Parent training in behavioral management
- Time management training
- Organizational training
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the child or adult
- Classroom strategies for intervention
“A therapist can help you determine the best treatment options by helping you to set goals, and help you to break down tasks into more manageable pieces so you can maintain your focus and complete the tasks you have on an ongoing basis,” says Penn.
Will My Child Out-Grow ADHD?
Parents with a newly diagnosed child, often wonder if their child might outgrow the condition.
“As with most mental health diagnoses, you don’t grow out of ADHD, but what you can do with the help of a therapist is learn how to better manage the symptoms, better cope with the diagnosis,” says Penn.
For instance, if your child becomes easily overwhelmed by a specific task, your therapist can help the child discover ways to break the task down into smaller parts.
“A lot of times we can use cognitive behavioral therapy to help your child change their thought process and work toward a more positive way of managing their symptoms,” notes Penn.
What Does the Future Hold For My Child With ADHD?
A diagnosis of ADHD does not need to limit a child or adult. Many of the symptoms of ADHD can and should also be considered strengths and can be beneficial when channeled in the right direction.
While ADHD can make work, school and social settings challenging at times, the condition often comes with a greater capacity for creativity, hyper focus and problem-solving.
People with ADHD will want to avoid jobs that require the same, repetitive tasks day after day.
“A lot of times people with ADHD can use this as a strength,” says Penn. “What I would encourage is for individuals to look for careers that are very high paced to keep you active on an ongoing basis.”
Many professions will benefit from individuals who thrive on change, a fast-paced environment and are creative, engaging and interactive.
Some careers to consider include (but are definitely not limited to):
- First responders
- High-tech & software development
- Actors, Musicians & Performers
How Can I Best Help My Child With ADHD?
The most important thing parents can do following an ADHD diagnosis is to be supportive.
Parents can help their child develop organizational strategies or help reinforce tactics your therapist has suggested.
Communicating and creating a partnership with your child’s teacher is also vital as your child develops strategies to manage his or her challenges in the classroom.
Most importantly, parents should embrace the diagnosis, help them seek out activities where they can succeed and celebrate and encourage their child’s interests.
No One Should Walk Alone
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Don’t hesitate; reach out now. Your well-being is worth it.
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