ADHD? What is that?
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a rather controversial topic — some consider it to be an actual disability diagnosis while others consider it to simply be different behavioral traits. If a person shows all of the traits of ADHD but not the hyperactivity, it is often referred to as Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD).
ADHD is most often diagnosed between the ages of 7 and 13, and like autism it tends to occur more often in boys rather than girls. Some individuals seem to grow out of the disorder as they become adults, but there are differing opinions on whether they actually outgrow the disorder or have successfully learned to manage their behaviors. Studies estimate that approximately 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD continue to suffer from the disorder as adults.
What are the signs of ADHD?
A person with ADHD may show symptoms from two different categories.
Inattention symptoms may include the following:
- Failing to pay close attention to details
- Making careless mistakes in schoolwork or other activities
- Trouble staying focused
- Seeming to not listen
- Not following instructions or finishing a task
- Losing items needed to complete tasks or activities
- Forgetfulness and being distracted
- Not being able to start an activity
- Avoiding tasks that require concentration
- Fidgeting and squirming
- Not being able to stay seated
- Failing to wait one’s turn
- Not able to play quietly
- Constant chattering
- Running or climbing when not appropriate
- Feeling restless all the time
- Answering another speaker before they are finished speaking
In order to receive a diagnosis for ADHD, the person must exhibit at least 6 of the above behaviors for a minimum of 3 months. The behaviors must also occur at varied locations and be disruptive. If the individual has any of the following conditions, ADHD is more difficult to diagnose due to similar symptoms: autism or bipolar disorder.
As mentioned before, children with ADHD tend to suffer from it into adulthood. Some of the biggest challenges for adults with ADHD are self-control, motivation and working memory. If a child with ADHD is not treated as needed, they may experience depression, anxiety and substance abuse as adults. These co-morbid conditions may be treated first or at the same time as the ADHD depending on the situation.
There are a number of possible causes for ADHD, but nothing definite. Theories range from head injuries, premature births, genetics, protein deficiencies, to biohazards.
Treatment of ADHD
Many options are available for treating ADHD. The options that have the most scientific support include a combination of medications, behavior modifications and educational therapies.
Stimulants work by stimulating the parts of the brain that are responsible for focus, attention and impulse control and therefore are the most likely medications for treating ADHD. Because these stimulants are powerful medications and could possibly be abused, there is controversy about giving these medications to children and teenagers. However, studies have shown that individuals with ADHD who receive treatment with stimulant medications are less likely to abuse any substances than individuals with ADHD who did not receive stimulant medication.
Some of the theories on what causes ADHD center on indications that children with ADHS may differ metabolically from other; therefore, some people have suggested that diet modifications may help children with ADHD. The Feingold Diet may be the best know dietary alternatives. This diet promotes removing salicylates, artificial colors, artificial flavors and certain preservatives from the child’s diet.
Other dietary modifications have included adding VItamin B6, zinc, multivitamins, adding certain fatty acids such as omega-3 have also been touted as possible ways to help treat ADHD.
Other Mild Stimulants
Similar effects to the powerful medications often used for treating ADHD can sometimes be found by using caffeine and theobromine. Herbal supplements such as gingko biloba have also been used.
I will never forget the first time that I saw a post from a mother in an online support group saying that she gave her son Mountain Dew if she needed to provide a little boost to his meds because they had an activity or event in the evening. But once I stopped and thought about it, it made sense — caffeine is a stimulant just like the ADHD meds. So I tried it, and it did work!
Some people have claimed that audio-visual therapy has helped with ADHD. In this therapy, light and sound stimulations can guide and change brainwaves. NOTE: This therapy cannot be used by individuals who have photosensitive epilepsy, as it could trigger a seizure.
Stimulation of the Cerebellum
Some studied have noted that the cerebellums of children with ADHD are smaller than those of their peers without ADHD. With cerebellar stimulation, exercises that involve the functions of balance, coordination, eyes and other sensory areas are used to treat ADHD. No substantial research exists at this time to support some of the programs that are used.
As mentioned earlier, ADHD (along with the treatment of it) is a very controversial topic amongst the medical field. The criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD is very vague. In addition, it has been noted that some people with signs of ADHD can be very focused and detail oriented when they are working on something that they are interested in. Many of those diagnosed with ADHD have environmental factors or another type of conduct disorder that goes along with the ADHD.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the ADHD controversy or ideas on how to help individuals cope with its symptoms. Please leave me a comment, question or suggestion below!