Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder characterized by a pattern of inattentiveness and/or impulsivity that can result in poor functioning in one’s daily life. It is one of the more common neurodevelopmental disorders in children, with an estimated 6 million diagnoses made between 2016 and 2019. ADHD may be diagnosed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, mental health therapist, or a primary care doctor, such as a pediatrician or family physician.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
ADHD is diagnosed based on a pattern of cognitive and/or behavioral symptoms. These symptoms must be persistent and have a negative impact on a person’s life and ability to function. Everyone experiences periods of distraction or increased energy, but an individual with ADHD experiences these periods far more frequently and to their own detriment. Symptoms must be present at an early age (typically from age 3 onward).
There are three subcategories of ADHD:
- Predominantly Inattentive (ADHD: PI)
- Predominantly Hyperactive-IMPULSIVE (ADHD: PH-I)
- Combined Inattentive and Hyperactive (ADHD-C)
Symptoms of Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD
Individuals with inattentive ADHD have a reduced ability to focus and complete tasks. In children, this can result in developmental delays or poor academic performance; in adults this can impact both professional and personal relationships. Common inattentive type ADHD behaviors include:
- Chronically missing deadlines or forgetting important dates
- Inability to complete tasks once started
- Poor organization skills
- Frequently losing or misplacing items
- Poor grades in school despite best efforts
- Easily distracted or over-stimulated
Symptoms of Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD
Patients with Hyperactive-Impulsive type ADHD are often described as being driven by an invisible motor. These individuals take fidgeting to an extreme, often being unable to sit still for even a few minutes. Common symptoms of Hyperactive Impulsive type ADHD include:
- Moving or standing up at inappropriate times, such as in the classroom or during a performance
- Excessive talking and interrupting
- Having difficulty waiting or taking turns
- Having difficulty playing quietly
- Constant squirming when seated
- Having a constant need for movement or change of scenery
A person diagnosed with ADHD-C will experience periods of both inattentiveness and hyperactivity/impulsiveness.
What Causes ADHD?
The exact cause of ADHD is unknown. Studies among identical twins support a genetic component; however, it is likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The disorder tends to be more prevalent among males; in females, inattentive type is more common.
Treatment of ADHD
Like many mental health disorders, ADHD is typically treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Most medications used to treat ADHD are in the stimulant category. These drugs have what is known as a “paradoxical effect” in patients with ADHD. This means that they have an opposite effect from what is normally expected. Stimulant drugs typically result in increased hyperactivity, prolonged wakefulness, agitation, etc. In a patient with ADHD, however, stimulants have the opposite effect, reducing hyperactivity and enhancing focus.
In some cases, a provider may prescribe a non-stimulant, especially if stimulants are not well tolerated. Antidepressants may also be prescribed to treat ADHD symptoms or comorbid conditions, such as anxiety or depression.
Will a Family Doctor Treat ADHD?
Yes, in many cases, a family doctor is qualified to diagnose and treat ADHD. In other cases, your primary care doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist for ongoing therapy and medication management.
The Crane Center has both a family medicine provider and mental health providers on staff, making your transition from one to the other seamless and convenient. If you or someone you love is struggling with symptoms of ADHD, contact our office to schedule a consultation.