Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD and what it is
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a behavioral disorder characterized by an inability to pay attention and stay focused, acting without thinking, and being hyperactive. The disorder takes place in all areas of a child’s life including home, school, play, and in their relationships. ADHD starts in early childhood and is usually diagnosed before the age of 7 or 12.
Symptoms of ADHD
There are 3 different sets of symptoms of ADHD, they are Inattention, Hyperactivity, and Impulsivity. Children can have symptoms in one or all of the categories and all are classified under ADHD.

Inattention symptoms include:

• Has a difficult time organizing projects and tasks at hand
• Is easily distracted by outside stimuli
• Is forgetful of things including everyday activities
• Has trouble completing assignments for school
• Gets bored with an activity very quickly
• Seems to not listen when spoken to

Hyperactivity symptoms include:
• Is constantly moving around
• Leaves seat often when in class or other place
• Non-stop talking
• Can’t stay quiet or do things quietly
• Constantly runs around or climbs things inappropriately

Impulsivity symptoms include:
• Interrupts often
• Blurts out inappropriate comments
• Cannot keep volatile emotions in check and has tantrums easily
• Has a hard time waiting for their turn
• Is overall very impatient

Diagnosis for ADHD

For ADHD to be diagnosed, the symptoms must be prevalent to an extent that is beyond what is normal for that child’s age, since many of the symptoms are seen in normal children. The symptoms also must have been observed in multiple settings other than home in order to be considered as ADHD. A child who is overactive and inattentive when playing but not whilst at school or at home cannot necessarily be considered. Often, a sudden change in life such as moving or the loss of a loved one can prompt children to behave in a way similar to ADHD. Any symptoms the child has must also be present for at least 6 months to be considered as well, so recent occurrences can be ruled out.
An assessment by a specialist will be given to a child to find out which symptoms the child displays and when and where they display them. Things such as learning disabilities, depression, or anxiety will then be ruled out. The specialist interviews the child’s teachers and has them fill out behavior rating scales to assess the child’s behavior in comparison to what is considered normal child behavior.
Treatment for ADHD
There are many ways to possibly treat ADHD starting with psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy for ADHD involves behavioral therapy like other disorders and can be used in conjunction with medication or apart from it. Behavior therapy for ADHD entails things like having the child watch their own behavior and giving rewards to themselves for good actions done. Social skills may be hindered because the ADHD child might not have been able to learn some of them so there is training that remedies that and teaches the child the skills needed to interact fairly with others. Medication alone has not shown to be as effective as when combined with some sort of therapy or training but can make a difference in a child’s behavior.
There are 2 main classes of medications that are used to treat ADHD (both are stimulants) and those are methylphenidate (Ritalin) and some amphetamines (Adderall). Stimulant drugs help curb impulsivity and hyperactivity in ADHD children and are not considered addictive. In fact, studies have shown that adolescents who stayed on their medications throughout their life had fewer substance abuse problems than those that stopped. There are of course side effects for these drugs including insomnia, decreased appetite, and anxiety. Always remember that while medication can help curb symptoms and get a child back on track, they are not cures and must be used with other efforts to truly be effective in treating ADHD.