Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects around 5 percent of the world’s population. But despite its prevalence, it is still a widely misunderstood condition.
“You can’t have ADHD if you’re not hyper.”
“But you’re a successful adult, how can you have just been diagnosed with ADHD?”
These are just a couple of the common misconceptions about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It’s a complex condition with varying symptoms that morph and persist throughout adulthood.
Look insideKP Northern California sat down with Evelyn Miccio, PsyD, a neuropsychologist at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center, to learn more about the condition.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurocognitive disorder that can create challenges interpersonally, personally, and professionally. It impacts individuals across their lifespan and often hinders their full potential. While we don’t know what causes it, it is found to have a strong genetic component — associated with 75 percent of cases.
What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?
For many years, ADD was the acronym commonly used to describe Attention Deficit Disorder without hyperactivity. However, ADHD is now the official medical abbreviation, whether the individual is hyperactive or not. There are 3 main types of ADHD: inattentive type, hyperactive-impulsive type, or combination type.
Typically, the “H” is removed with adults. Instead of being disruptive, as they might have been as kids, they replace it with things such as foot tapping or playing with jewelry.
What are the symptoms?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) lists 18 symptoms to describe ADHD, with 9 inattentive presentations, such as not seeming to listen when spoken to directly, or 9 hyperactive presentations, such as running around as if “driven by a motor.” However, this is simply a checklist, and does not capture the social, medical, nutritional, and sleep challenges that can result.
How is it diagnosed?
Through a diagnostic clinical interview with a mental health professional, utilizing historical data, or a collateral informant, such as report cards, that may demonstrate a pattern of behavior. In childhood, or by 12 years of age, symptoms are usually apparent, due to challenges in school or with interpersonal relationships.
However, if someone is bright, charming, or well-insulated in a family environment where a parent helps to compensate, it may not become apparent until later in life. Sometimes ADHD is first diagnosed in college, or maybe after a divorce, when life’s demands exceed one’s compensatory strategies.
How is it treated?
ADHD is best approached by treating the most challenging symptoms for that individual.
Many symptoms of ADHD, like disorganization and low self-esteem, are best targeted from a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach, arranged by a referral from a general practitioner. If one were to only take stimulants, they’d likely say, “I can focus.” But they wouldn’t necessarily know how to prioritize tasks or feel better about themselves.
I created an easy acronym for individuals with ADHD, with research-proven coping strategies and interventions, called “L.E.S.S.O.N.”
- Less screen, more green
What are the risks if ADHD is not properly treated?
ADHD has a high correlation with suicidal ideation and behaviors, as well as obesity, driving impairment, such as speeding and car accidents, head injuries, substance abuse, unexpected or unplanned pregnancies, STDs, and low self-esteem.
One can also feel extreme fatigue, as coping with undiagnosed ADHD can be exhausting, demoralizing, depressing, and anxiety-provoking. Many people with ADHD also face employment challenges.
What are some positive qualities associated with ADHD?
Individuals with ADHD can be quite talented, resilient, comical, resourceful, artistic, insightful, and emotionally sensitive beings. The good news is that change can be quite rapid once an individual has identified this or her core challenges and begins to implement interventions such as CBT or “L.E.S.S.O.N.S.”
It’s important to remember that many individuals with ADHD have wonderful attributes despite the constellation of challenges. They are individuals who not only think outside of the box, but create new ones!