ADHD: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

adhd signs

The complaint that children simply don’t have attention spans anymore might sound like harping of the aging masses, but the assertion is supported by facts. As it turns out, 6.1 million children in the United States were diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) at the time of a 2016 survey—that’s just shy of 10%. 

It’s not just children who suffer from this condition, though. Around 4.4% of all adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD. Given the prevalence of these diagnoses, it’s important to understand the signs of ADHD, and the methods of treatment once diagnosed.

Defining and Exploring ADHD

ADHD, which is simply an acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, refers to a highly genetic syndrome of the brain. This syndrome affects the brain’s ability to regulate executive functioning skills. 

These skills are responsible for a number of highly visible behaviors. An inability to effectively govern one’s executive functioning skills translates to an inability to control concentration, motivation, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, among other things. 

Chemical imbalances, structural differences, and genetics can all play a role in whether a person develops ADHD, but there is no sure-fire method for detecting the syndrome before the symptoms develop. For this reason, clinicians, parents, and individuals must all learn to look out for the signs of ADHD.

Learning to Read The Symptoms

There are many ADHD signs that everyone inherently associates with the syndrome: inattentiveness, a lack of self-control, and an overarching sense of disorganization are classic hallmarks. However, there are less obvious signs to be aware of, too.

Since ADHD indiscriminately affects all age brackets (though children have a higher rate of diagnosis), there are different sets of symptoms for children, teens, and adults. The most classical presentations of ADHD often occur in children because their signs of ADHD include things like a lack of focus, an apparent inability to listen even when spoken to directly, difficulty following simple directions, and a general lack of organization.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that children are watchfully assessed by parents and teachers that diagnoses for ADHD are higher in this age bracket, or perhaps it’s simply easier for clinicians to suss out these signs in children. Whatever the case, things get more complicated as those with ADHD get older. 

In teens, ADHD can manifest as a perceived lack of maturity, and they may have trouble focusing (even on activities that they enjoy), which can read as apathy or disinterest. Of course, hyperactivity is still a hallmark of ADHD at this age, too. 

Any adult who has ever been told that they would “lose their head if it weren’t attached,” or that they are sure to be “late for their own funeral” is probably exhibiting signs of ADHD for their age group. In addition to perpetual lateness and an air of frenzy, adults with ADHD will have an incredibly difficult time staying on task, and won’t be able to stop themselves from constantly interrupting conversations.

adhd medications

The Benefits and Risks of Treating ADHD with Medication

Much like any syndrome afflicting the body or mind, ADHD can be remedied (or at least mitigated) with the help of prescription medication in many cases. All ADHD medication can be broken down into two categories: stimulants and non-stimulants.

It might seem counterintuitive that a stimulant would help someone with a hyperactivity disorder focus, but the medications are working to stimulate specific parts of the brain rather than the body. ADHD often occurs due to a deficiency in the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopa, or dopamine. The idea is that these medications stimulate the brain to produce more of the missing neurotransmitters.

peer pressure

It’s unclear precisely how stimulants work, because the most popular of these medications (Adderall, and in earlier years, Ritalin) were created to treat ADHD by accident. It wasn’t the intention of these medications to help anyone focus, just a serendipitous side effect. Whatever it is that Adderall does to the brain, it’s working—more than 75% of children prescribed one of these stimulants for ADHD see an improvement. 

Perhaps due to the high rates of ADHD diagnosis, or simply the fact that people are wary of taking an amphetamine like Adderall on a daily basis, non-stimulant medications like Strattera may also be prescribed. The problem is, they’re simply not as effective as stimulants and may come at the price of side effects like fatigue and nausea.

Given the striking statistics surrounding the effectiveness of Adderall, it’s no wonder that it’s widely prescribed. The problem is that Adderall, much like any amphetamine, has potentially dangerous eventualities. 

Recognizing and Fighting Adderall Addiction

Adderall is usually prescribed at a very low dose to start—somewhere around 10 mg per day. This is the amount that a doctor has determined is necessary for managing ADHD symptoms in a patient. Problems arise when patients begin taking more than their prescribed dose. 

Students, athletes, and those with eating disorders or especially stressful jobs are at the highest risk of abusing Adderall. Taking too much Adderall can result in fever, nausea, rapid heart rate, fainting, seizures, and more. 

Unfortunately, Adderall withdrawal symptoms are no walk in the park either. Like any amphetamine, a person might feel tired, especially hungry, anxious, depressed, or sleepless when they discontinue Adderall use after an addiction.

Alternative Treatment for ADHD

Many sufferers of ADHD, or their loved ones, aren’t comfortable with the possible side effects of stimulant medication. In that case, there are certainly other treatment options available. 

Therapy, and specifically family therapy, can help give parents new insights into assisting their children and can give children new methods for managing their systems. This method is especially useful for young children, upon whom the long-term effects of ADHD medications have not been thoroughly studied. 

Every case of ADHD is different, and so a proper individualized evaluation in determining the course of treatment is critical. To receive this specialized ADHD care, contact Mission Harbor Behavioral Health.

The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.

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