Signs & Symptoms of ADHD

Understanding ADHD

Learn About ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders in children and adolescents. However, it has recently become more prominently recognized in adults as well. ADHD is an illness that is marked by the presence of a combination of factors, including chronic inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, or by the presence of all three. While impulsivity, hyperactivity, and an inability to pay attention can affect everyone at different times throughout their lives, people struggling with ADHD are impacted by the symptoms so severely that it causes a disruption in their ability to function on a daily basis and take care of their normal responsibilities.

While there is no cure for ADHD, certain types of treatment in conjunction with various options of medications can cause reprieve from the negative symptoms of ADHD. By taking part in such treatments, people with ADHD are able to resume living a normal, happy, healthy, fully functioning life.

Statistics

ADHD Statistics

ADHD is one of the most commonly recognized mental health diagnoses that exist today. It is estimated that between 3% and 10% of school-aged children suffer from ADHD and that an estimated 60% of those children will have lingering symptoms that affect them through their adulthood. The average age of onset for ADHD is approximately seven years old.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for ADHD

Research continues to mount as to what causes and factors lead to the development of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Despite the continuing research, there has yet to be one defined cause linked to its onset. The following are a combination of factors that may play a role in its development:

Genetic: Heredity is known to be the most common cause of ADHD as the disorder tends to run in families. People who have a first-degree relative who suffers from ADHD have a higher risk of developing the illness themselves.

Physical: The chemical composition of an individual’s brain plays a large role in the development of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Certain areas of the brain work together to regulate behaviors and when those areas become imbalanced, or when abnormal activity exists within the neurotransmitters, the regulation of the behaviors becomes disturbed. This type of dysregulation can lead to the onset of ADHD.

Environmental: It has been said that things such as suffering from child abuse and neglect can lead to the development of certain symptoms of ADHD. Prenatal exposure to toxins (such as lead, alcohol, or nicotine) has also been noted as possibly playing a role in its development.

Risk Factors:

  • Being male (boys are said to be twice as likely as girls to develop the disorder)
  • Family structure
  • Trauma to the brain
  • Exposure to toxic substances prenatally

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

The signs and symptoms of ADHD will vary based on the severity of the symptoms, as well as on the age of the person suffering from the symptoms. The symptoms of ADHD differ in children and adults and are broken down by subcategories below:

Inattentive symptoms of ADHD: Many individuals who have ADHD struggle with focusing their attention appropriately. These people can have difficulty with staying on task, focusing, and other challenges. The symptoms themselves tend to present themselves differently in children and adults with ADHD. Inattentive symptoms associated with ADHD include:

Adults:

  • Poor listening skills
  • Poor organizational skills
  • Inability to be on time (chronic tardiness)
  • Frequently losing or misplacing things
  • Chronic procrastination
  • Having difficulty starting or finishing tasks

Children:

  • Inability to pay attention to details
  • Difficulty staying focused
  • Appearing to not be paying attention when being spoken to
  • Frequently losing or misplacing homework or other school-related items
  • Memory impairment

Hyperactivity symptoms of ADHD: Hyperactivity is probably one of the most visibly recognizable signs that someone has ADHD. Some examples of hyperactive behaviors associated with ADHD include:

Adults:

  • Engaging in risk-taking behaviors
  • Racing thoughts
  • Excessive talking
  • Having difficulty sitting still
  • Multi-tasking (excessively)

Children:

  • Fidgeting
  • Squirming
  • Constant talking
  • Running or climbing at inappropriate times
  • Quick temper flares
  • Difficulty playing quietly

Impulsive symptoms of ADHD: Impulsive symptoms of ADHD can include problems involving self-control and disruptive behaviors, amongst others, and include:

Adults:

  • Interrupting others
  • Poor self-control
  • Addictive tendencies
  • Difficulty behaving in ways that are considered socially appropriate
  • Reckless behaviors
  • “Blurting out” thoughts that are rude or appropriate

Children:

  • Loudly answering questions in class without waiting to be called upon
  • Acting without thinking
  • Intruding on the games or conversations of others
  • Unable to wait their turn in line

Emotional difficulties: Many children, adolescents, and adults who are struggling with ADHD may find it difficult to manage their feelings in ways in which they want to be able to.

Adults:

  • Explosive tempers
  • Violent mood swings
  • Becoming easily and frequently stressed out
  • Feelings of insecurity
  • Feeling as though their potential is not being reached
  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling overly sensitive to criticism

Children:

  • Uncontrollable temper tantrums
  • Suffering from a low self-esteem
  • Feeling inadequate scholastically compared to their peers
  • Angry outbursts

Effects

Effects of ADHD

While ADHD can be successfully managed through proper treatment, some children and adults do not receive treatment. Untreated, the consequences and effects of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can be long-lasting and include:

Adults:

  • Compulsive over-eating
  • Substance abuse
  • Incurring large amounts of debt due to excessive spending
  • Familial discord
  • Depression
  • Lack of meaningful relationships
  • Difficulty holding down a job

Children:

  • Poor scholastic performance
  • Falling behind their peers, leading to feelings of worthlessness
  • Social isolation
  • Inability to interact appropriately with peers
  • Falling subject to bullying
  • Experimentation with drugs and alcohol
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

ADHD and Co-Occurring Disorders

It is not uncommon for people who are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to be struggling with symptoms from other disorders as well. Some examples of disorders which may occur along with ADHD can include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Learning disabilities
  • Tourette’s syndrome
  • Conduct disorder (in children and adolescents)
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (in children and adolescents)