Facts about ADHD: Symptoms and Treatment

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The number of children struggling with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the United States is astounding. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a  2016 survey of parents found that 6.1 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD. In fact, ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in children.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is “a disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Impulsivity and hyperactivity are more prevalent in boys, while girls tend to be more inattentive.

Common Symptoms of ADHD 

Recognizing if a child has ADHD is a long process with multiple steps. There is no single test for diagnosing ADHD. Children with ADHD can exhibit symptoms similar to many other mental health problems, such as sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, and certain types of learning disabilities.

If you suspect that a child might have ADHD, it’s best to first talk with a healthcare provider to determine if the symptoms call for a diagnosis. Mental health professionals, such as psychologists or psychiatrists, or even primary care providers like pediatricians, can provide the diagnosis.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that healthcare providers ask parents, teachers, and adults who care for the child about his or her behavior in different settings, such as at home, school, or interacting with peers. The healthcare provider should also determine whether the child has other conditions that could better explain the symptoms or occur together with ADHD.

Generally, there are two common types of ADHD:

  • Inattention: Often manifests as difficulty remaining focused on tasks or activities. The child may also be prone to careless mistakes, be forgetful and easily distracted, frequently lose things, struggle with organization, have inconsistent follow-through, and avoid tasks that require sustained effort and attention.
  • Hyperactivity/Impulsivity: This form of an ADHD is associated with restlessness (always on the go), excessive talking, frequent fidgeting, intrusiveness, difficulty remaining in one place, and a struggle to wait for one’s turn.

How To Diagnose ADHD

ADHD is a clinical diagnosis, and no special testing is required. Typically, pediatricians make a diagnosis using established criteria and clinical measures at their disposal. Combined with your child’s medical history and school reports, clinical diagnosis can provide clear evidence of problems at home and school. To meet the criteria for ADHD diagnosis, the symptoms must be present in two different settings, often school and home.

Healthcare professionals usually use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) guidelines to diagnose ADHD. This diagnostic standard ensures that patients are appropriately diagnosed and treated. Using the same standard across communities also helps determine how many children have ADHD to determine how this mental health condition impacts public health.

Pediatricians can diagnose and treat children with ADHD. However, if a specific case is less straightforward or there are other conditions of concern, such as cognitive disorders, pediatricians can refer the child for further neuropsychological testing. A psychiatrist who specializes in behavioral health may also help with further diagnosis.

Treating ADHD

Behavioral interventions are often helpful in treating ADHD. However, medication treatments have been demonstrated to be more effective than non-drug interventions. Some kids may need additional support, especially if they are experiencing other issues alongside ADHD, such as anxiety. For such children, cognitive behavioral therapy may be helpful. Overall, almost all children with ADHD may benefit from assistance in improving organization and planning skills.

There are multiple types of medications that have been proven to be effective in helping manage ADHD. When treating children with various medications, the health professional should focus on three areas:

  • Efficacy: does the medication work?
  • How long does it work?
  • Tolerability: is the patient tolerating the medication or experiencing some side effects?

The overall goal is to provide the child with the right medication to help him or her focus in school or when interacting with family or friends.

The Bottom Line

It’s natural for parents to have various concerns regarding ADHD treatment. Many parents worry that stimulants may worsen the symptoms of ADHD or lead to increased moodiness or anxiety. It’s best to work with an experienced medical practitioner who can combine medication with behavioral therapies, such as contingency management or cognitive behavioral therapy, to make the treatment safer and more effective.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author: Sara Anderson is a content creator at The Ezcare Clinic, a medical clinic that provides world-class healthcare services. Sara has been associated with the healthcare industry for over five years and specializes in medical content.

Photo by Yanapi Senaud on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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