Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

 Content Editor

What is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a group of behavioural symptoms which include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable when a child's circumstances change, such as when they start school. Most cases are diagnosed when children are six to 12 years old.

ADHD affects approximately 3-5 per cent of school-age children, about two thirds of these children will continue to experience symptoms into adulthood. The symptoms of ADHD usually improve with age, but many adults who are diagnosed with the condition at a young age continue to experience problems. It was previously believed to be a childhood disorder, but it is now known that many symptoms continue into adulthood causing significant impact on the individual's functioning.

The core symptoms of ADHD are hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention which cause difficulties at home, in education, work and social settings. People with ADHD may also have additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders.
What are the symptoms?
Inattention could be demonstrated by:
  • being easily distracted
  • poor concentration and difficulty staying focussed
  • being easily bored
  • difficulty starting or finishing things
  • difficulty following or remembering instructions
Hyperactivity could be demonstrated by:
  • difficulty sitting still
  • physical or mental restlessness
  • fidgetiness
  • rushing around
  • being over talkative
  • being accident prone
  • having difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
Impulsivity could be demonstrated by:
  • speaking and acting without thinking
  • interrupting others frequently
  • difficulty waiting turn or queuing
  • being oblivious to danger
  • being a risk-taker
  • not learning from experience
The symptoms of ADHD affect individuals differently and to varying degrees. Almost everyone will experience the above symptoms at some point in their lives, but that does not mean they have ADHD. For individuals with ADHD, these problems are lifelong and so severe that they interfere with almost every area of their life and stop the person achieving the things they want to at home, school, college, work, leisure and social relationships.

In addition, individuals with ADHD may have difficulty following directions, have poor memory, struggle with planning and organisation.

ADHD is a condition frequently found alongside other conditions such as autism spectrum disorders, Tourette syndrome, specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia or dyscalculia.

Without support, many individuals with ADHD often develop other emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem or problems with anger control. Many turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping with their symptoms. The challenges of adulthood are made even more stressful for individuals with ADHD; however, with the right level of support, many can go on to live fulfilling and rewarding lives.

The symptoms of ADHD can be categorised into two types of behavioural problems:

  • inattentiveness
  • hyperactivity and impulsiveness
Most people with ADHD have problems which fall into both these categories, but this isn't always the case. For example, some people with the condition may have problems with inattentiveness, but not with hyperactivity or impulsiveness. This form of ADHD is also known as attention deficit disorder (ADD). ADD can sometimes go unnoticed because the symptoms may be less obvious.

How is ADHD managed?
Medication is recommended as the first line of treatment for adult ADHD and when used appropriately can result in significant improvement of symptoms. The same drug treatments effective in childhood also appear to benefit adults. Medication can help a person with ADHD be less forgetful and distracted so daily goals can be achieved, experience improved attention span, concentration, coordination and mood. Daydreaming, hyperactivity, anger and immature or oppositional behaviour may also decrease.

Symptoms of adult ADHD may also be improved by:
  • psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • family education and therapy
  • relaxation and stress management techniques
  • anger management strategies
  • individual lifestyle coaching
How can we help you?
If you feel you are suffering with symptoms of ADHD, visit your GP who will be able to help you and refer you on to local services for support.
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