Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder which consists of over activity, impulsivity and the inability to concentrate. This heightened activity and poor concentration lead to impairments in an individual’s social, educational and/or occupational functioning. It is known to be the most commonly diagnosed brain disorder in childhood. It usually affects individuals in childhood but can lead to dysfunctionality in adulthood if remains untreated.
Children diagnosed with ADHD exhibit the symptoms of being overly excited, having difficulties in paying attention for longer durations and difficulties in impulse control. These challenges hamper their ability to make friends, achieve good grades in school and to perform daily tasks. Similarly, adults with ADHD also have poor time management, goal setting, organization skills. It also gets difficult for such adults to hold onto a job. Problems with self-esteem and relationships also tend to arise. Moreover, tendencies towards chemical or non-chemical addiction are also exhibited in adults with the symptoms of ADHD.
There are number of contributing factors for the development of ADHD. Studies have suggested that ADHD can be a genetic disorder; however, no specific gene has been identified for ADHD. Apart from genetic reasons, brain damages are also considered as one of the leading cause of the development of ADHD. Moreover, environmental factors have also been considered as one of the triggering factors in the development of ADHD such as high exposure to toxic chemicals like lead, or alcohol/drug use during pregnancy. ADHD is found to be more common in boys than girls. It is often identified by the parents or teachers during the early years of school among the children due to their inability to pay attention on studies or classroom activities.
Several comorbid disorders can also develop along with ADHD including anxiety disorders, conduct disorder, learning disabilities, mood disorders, and substance use disorders. It is crucial to understand the symptoms of ADHD in order to identify this disorder. The symptoms of ADHD are characterized into three groups i.e. inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The category of inattention includes lack of persistence, difficulty in sustaining focus and organization problems, the tendency to procrastinate, inability to complete the given tasks given related to school work or other household chores, moving from one uncompleted activity to another, and a reluctance in following the instructions. Moreover, symptoms of forgetting the daily activities, getting easily distracted and poor focus are also present.
The second category of ADHD i.e. hyperactivity, includes excessive talking, constant movement or increased motor activity, difficulty to play or sit quietly for a longer period, running or walking around even if its inappropriate, and excessive fidgeting or tapping. As an adolescent and adult, hyperactivity can lead to the feeling of extreme restlessness.
The third category of impulsivity includes extreme impatience and taking actions in the moment without thinking about the consequences, difficulties in delayed gratification, seeking immediate rewards, interrupting others and starting arguments at inappropriate time.
Although ADHD is a chronic illness; however, it is a manageable disorder and can be managed by seeking professional help, which can reduce the symptoms and improves one’s quality of life. A combination of treatment includes medication, psychotherapy, and training along with long term support groups.
Medication works in reducing the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. It improves the ability to focus, learn and work in a better way. It involves stimulants, sometimes non-stimulants and antidepressants to manage ADHD symptoms. Monitoring the dose of medication is a crucial step in the management of ADHD. However, the medication can generate even better results when it is used in combination with psychotherapy. Psychotherapy involves cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and behavior therapy. CBT is a genre of psychotherapy which attempts to develop insight about one’s feelings and thoughts that help in improving one’s concentration. It also aims to reduce impulsivity by providing certain skills such as being proactive and mindfulness, along with meditation and breathing exercises. On the other hand, behavioral therapy targets a person’s behaviors that need to be changed. It enables the individual to monitor his or her own behaviors. Behavior therapy encourages the individual to reward the desired behavior.
In addition to individual psychotherapy, awareness among family members especially the parents is of paramount importance. Parenting skills training teaches skills to the parents to encourage and reward their children’s positive behaviors. Parents are taught to establish a reward system in order to enhance children’s desired behaviors and reduce their undesirable behaviors. The concepts of tough love parenting can also be taught to the parents especially about avoiding their enabling and provoking behaviors towards the children. Various support groups can also be helpful in providing empathy and sense of belongingness. They allow the individuals or their family a platform for catharsis.