Robin D. Webb
There can be a number of reasons for not being able to sit still and pay attention to something or someone, or to be able to focus on one particular activity. Sometimes, we feel distracted because we have other, more pressing concerns or projects on our minds.If the person that we are listening to or the subject that is being presented to us is uninteresting, we may struggle to be attentive. Perhaps you were expected to perform a task, but found it to be tedious or mundane. The results would be that you would find it difficult to focus on the task and complete it on time.
Although all of the above may be true, there are cases that present that some of the reasons that you or your child may struggle with paying attention, sitting still, and managing tasks in a timely fashion may lie elsewhere. You or your child may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some of the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) include inattentiveness, impulsivity, distractibility, and hyperactivity.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common and most studied childhood conditions, with around 1 in 10 (between 9.4% – 11%) of children between the ages of 2 and 17 having ADHD.
Typically, boys are more than twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with ADHD. While ADHD affects millions of children, it is a chronic condition that also often continues into adulthood. There are around 4% of American adults over the age of 18 who also deal with symptoms of ADHD.
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is defined as one of the most common neurodevelopmental childhood conditions that often extends into adulthood. The term “neurodevelopmental” refers to one’s nervous system, which includes the brain as it develops across a person’s lifespan.
A person with ADHD will display certain patterns of behavior due to how certain neural pathways affect brain functioning. These patterns can be problematic at various stages of development because of how they affect daily functioning and the performance of specific tasks.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a broad category, but it can present in three different ways. In some people, ADHD presents predominantly as inattention, while in others they are predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and the third subtype of ADHD presents as a combination of the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.
Causes of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
It is reported that several medical conditions or treatments may cause signs and symptoms which are similar to those of ADHD, but the actual cause of this disorder is unknown. However, there are some reported factors that are believed to contribute to ADHD, and they are as follows:
- In some cases, it is believed that the ADHD symptoms are hereditary, with genes being a primary contributor.
- Environment is the next possible factor, with the individual having been exposed to lead as a child.
- Problems during development. In this case, the individual experienced problems with the Central Nervous System during certain times of development.
However, most children will at one point or another display signs of inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity. When those signs occur, it is important to seek professional mental health care to receive a proper mental health evaluation to screen your child for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
How ADHD affects a person in everyday life.
In everyday life, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder will affect people in a variety of ways. This would depend on which type of ADHD symptoms that the individual presents with. In general, individuals diagnosed with ADHD often struggle with inattentiveness, being easily distracted, acting impulsively, and being hyperactive.
However, children with ADHD may struggle with feelings of low self-esteem, perform poorly in school, have difficulty developing relationships with others, and experience challenges interacting with and being accepted by their peers and the adults in their lives. Adults diagnosed with ADHD will often find it difficult to remember information, follow directions that they have been given, and have an inability to concentrate on or complete an assigned task.
If a person has ADHD, which predominantly presents as inattentiveness, they may:
- Have trouble organizing their tasks and activities, and forget to do daily activities such as their chores.
- Be easily distracted and have trouble staying focused during tasks or when playing.
- Appear not to listen even when being spoken to directly.
- Have difficulty following through with instructions and failing to finish homework or chores.
- Fail to pay attention to details, which may lead to making careless mistakes in schoolwork.
- Easily lose or misplace items such as pens, assignments, and toys that are needed for tasks or activities.
- Avoid or dislike tasks that require intensive mental effort such as schoolwork.
A person who has ADHD that presents predominantly as hyperactivity or impulsivity may:
- Squirm in their seat, or have difficulty staying seated in the classroom or other situations such as at the dinner table.
- Fidget with or tap their hands or feet.
- Run around or engage in situations that are not appropriate.
- Be in constant motion and always on the go.
- Have difficulty playing or doing an activity quietly.
- Have difficulty waiting for their turn.
- Blurt out answers, interrupt the person asking them questions, or interrupt and intrude on others’ conversations, games, or activities.
It is easy for much of this behavior to be read and understood as disobedience and disrespect, especially in formal settings such as a classroom or in solemn moments. This can cause difficulties for a child or even an adult with ADHD as they may struggle to fit in and accomplish their goals.
ADHD and research.
Current research has indicated that ADHD may be caused by many things including the following:
Brain function and structure.
There are some possible differences between the brains of those who have ADHD and those who don’t. Some studies suggest that people with ADHD may have an imbalance in the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, or that these chemicals may not work properly. Other research has indicated that a lower level of activity in the parts of the brain that control attention and activity may be associated with ADHD.
ADHD frequently runs in families, and research indicates that the parents and siblings of someone with ADHD are more likely to have ADHD themselves. A child with ADHD has a 1 in 4 chance of having a parent with ADHD. However, how ADHD is inherited is complex and is not thought to be related to a single genetic fault.
Certain groups of people are at risk of developing ADHD, and these include:
- People with significant brain damage which occurred either in utero or from severe head injuries in later life.
- People who were born prematurely before the 37th week of pregnancy or with a low birth weight.
- People with epilepsy.
- People exposed prenatally to alcohol or nicotine.
- People exposed to toxins in the environment such as lead may, in rare cases, be at risk of developing ADHD.
Although it is a common lifelong disorder, ADHD symptoms can be relieved and managed with medications, behavior therapy or counseling, and education services. It will take a bit of time to establish what will work best for you or your child.
With children six years old and younger, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parent training in behavior management as the first line of treatment before starting medication.
Children with ADHD often benefit from social skills training, behavior therapy, parent skills training, and counseling, all of which may be provided by a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional.
Social skills training can help children (and adults) learn appropriate social behaviors, while parenting skills training can help parents cultivate ways to understand and guide their child’s behavior.
For children older than six years of age, medication and behavior therapy together are effective interventions. With children, it is important to include the school as part of the treatment and support team for the child.
For at least one-third of children with ADHD, ADHD lasts into adulthood. The treatments available and effective for adults can include psychotherapy, medication, education and training, or a combination of these treatments.
The various effective therapies that can be used to address ADHD include:
- Behavior therapy where one can learn behavior-changing strategies for dealing with difficult situations stemming from ADHD.
- Family therapy in which parents and siblings can gain the tools and help they need to deal with the stress of living with someone who has ADHD.
- Psychotherapy, which allows older children with ADHD to talk about their concerns, identify and explore negative behavior patterns, and learn ways to deal with their symptoms of ADHD.
ADHD is treatable, and there is a good outlook for those with ADHD. While ADHD may be a challenge, it is possible to be productive and have healthy relationships despite this condition. If you want to find out more about ADHD and the various treatment options available, you can contact a counselor to begin your journey to address ADHD.
“School Days”, Courtesy of Element5 Digital, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Colored Monkeys”, Courtesy of Park Troopers, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Counseling”, Courtesy of Kenny Eliason, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Directions”, Courtesy of Jamie Templeton, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.