Table of Contents:
- An Introduction to ADHD
- Symptoms of ADHD
- Problems Related to ADHD
- Causes of ADHD
- How is ADHD diagnosed?
- Treatment of ADHD
- Additional Treatments for ADHD
- ADHD in Adults
- Getting Help for ADHD
- Future Directions in ADHD
- Resources for ADHD
The main features of attention deficit disorder (or ADHD) are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. But because most young children display these behaviors from time to time, it is important not to assume that every child you see with these symptoms has ADHD. However, if the symptoms continue, advice should be sought from a qualified mental health professional.
Symptoms of attention deficit disorder usually develop over several months. In general, impulsiveness and hyperactivity are observed before one notices the lack of attention, which often appears later. It also may go unnoticed because the “inattentive daydreamer” may be overlooked when the child who “can’t sit still” at school or is otherwise disruptive will be noticed. The observable symptoms of ADHD will therefore vary a great deal depending on the situation and the specific demands it makes on the child’s self-control.
Different forms of ADHD may result in the child being labeled differently. For example, an impulsive child may be labeled a “discipline problem.” A passive child may be described as “unmotivated.” But ADHD could be the cause of both behavior patterns. It may only be suspected once the child’s hyperactivity, distractibility, lack of concentration, or impulsivity start affecting school performance, friendships, or behavior at home.
The official diagnosis of ADHD includes the three major symptoms (inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness). The most recent version of the handbook for mental health professionals states that people with ADHD may have any or all of the major symptoms.
Three subtypes of ADHD are recognized by professionals:
- Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type — If symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity but not symptoms of inattention have been shown for at least six months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the individual’s developmental level.
- Predominantly Inattentive Type — If symptoms of inattention but not symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been shown for at least six months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the individual’s developmental level.
- Combined Type — If symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity have been shown for at least six months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the individual’s developmental level.
Hyperactive/Impulsive Type of ADHD
Hyperactive children always seem to be “on the go” or constantly in motion. They dash around touching or playing with whatever is in sight, or talk incessantly. Sitting still at dinner or during a school lesson or story can be difficult. They squirm and fidget in their seats or roam around the room. Or they may wiggle their feet, touch everything, or noisily tap their pencil. Hyperactive teenagers or adults may feel internally restless. They often feel the need to stay busy and may try to do several things at once.
Impulsive children seem unable to control their immediate reactions or think before they act. They will often blurt out inappropriate comments, show their emotions without restraint, and act without considering the consequences. They may find it hard to wait for things they want, or to take their turn in games. They may grab a toy from another child or hit out when upset. As teenagers or adults, impulsive people may choose to do things that have an instant reward instead of seeing through activities which take more effort but would lead to greater but delayed rewards.
Indicators of hyperactivity-impulsivity:
- Feeling restless, fidgeting with hands or feet, and squirming while seated
- Running, climbing, or leaving a seat in situations where sitting or quiet behavior is expected
- Blurting out answers before hearing the whole question
- Interrupting or intruding on others
- Having difficulty waiting in line or taking turns or enjoying leisure activities quietly
- Adolescents or adults may feel very restless, as if “driven by a motor”, and talk excessively.
Inattentive Type of ADHD
Children diagnosed with the Predominantly Inattentive type of ADHD have trouble focusing on any one thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes. However, if they are doing something they really enjoy, they usually have no trouble paying attention. But focusing deliberate, conscious attention to organizing and completing a task or learning something new is difficult.
Homework is particularly hard for these children. They will forget to write down an assignment, or leave it at school. They will forget to bring a book home, or bring the wrong one. The homework, if finally finished, will be full of mistakes. It is often accompanied by frustration for the child and their parents.
Inattentive children are rarely impulsive or hyperactive, but have a significant problem paying attention. They often appear to be daydreaming, “spacey,” easily confused, slow moving, and lethargic. They may process information more slowly and less accurately than other children. This child has a hard time understanding what he or she is supposed to do when a teacher gives oral or even written instructions. Mistakes are frequent. The child may sit quietly and appear to be working, but in reality is not fully attending to or understanding the task and the instructions.
Children with this form of ADHD often get along better with other children than the more impulsive and hyperactive forms, as they may not have the same sorts of social problems common with the other forms of ADHD. Because of this, their problems with inattention are often overlooked.
Indicators of inattention:
- Not giving close attention to details or making careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other play activities.
- Becoming easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds
- Failing to pay attention to instructions and making careless mistakes, not finishing work, chores or duties
- Losing or forgetting things like toys, pencils, books, assignments and tools needed for a task
- Having trouble organizing activities, often skipping from one uncompleted activity to another
- Not appearing to listen when spoken to directly
- Avoiding or disliking things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time
Combined Type of ADHD
Children exhibiting hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention are considered to have the combined type of ADHD, which combines all of the above symptoms.
Disorders related to ADD/ADHD
Grohol, J. (2007). Symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD). Psych Central. Retrieved on May 20, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/symptoms-of-attention-deficit-disorder-adhd/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.