Key Points about ADD and ADHD

  • ADHD is a mental and behavioral condition that affects one’s ability to pay attention or to control impulsive and hyperactive behaviors.
  • Types of ADHD include Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD, Primarily Inattentive ADHD, and Combined Type ADHD.
  • Children with ADHD may fidget and squirm when trying to sit still, have trouble waiting their turn, and interrupt others in conversation.
  • Adults with ADHD may experience impulsivity, procrastination, and disorganization, as well as secondary problems such as work and relationship issues, low self-esteem, and depression and anxiety.
  • If you or your child is experiencing several symptoms of ADHD, call your provider to set up an evaluation.

Overview

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactive disorder, is a mental and behavioral condition that affects one’s ability to pay attention or to control impulsive and hyperactive behaviors.

There are three types of ADHD:

  • Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD
  • Primarily Inattentive ADHD
  • Combined Type ADHD.

What used to be known as attention deficit disorder, or ADD, is now called Inattentive Type ADHD.

Children with ADHD may fidget and squirm when trying to sit still, have trouble waiting their turn, and interrupt others in conversation. Adults with ADHD may experience impulsivity, procrastination, and disorganization, as well as secondary problems resulting from these struggles such as work and relationship issues, low self-esteem, and depression and anxiety.

ADHD can interfere with your daily functioning at work, at school, or in relationships. If you think you or your child is experiencing several symptoms of ADHD, call your provider to set up an evaluation. 

ADHD causes

While the precise cause of ADHD is not known, factors that may play a role include:

  • Heredity — Children born to a parent with ADHD have over a 50% chance of developing ADHD as well.
  • Influences during pregnancy — Poor nutrition, smoking, drinking, substance abuse, or infections during pregnancy can impact a baby’s brain development.
  • Brain injury — People who experience damage to the frontal lobe of the brain can develop problems controlling emotions and impulses.

ADHD risk factors

People affected by the factors listed above may be more likely to develop ADHD. In addition, babies who were born prematurely or with a low birth weight are at an increased risk of developing ADHD 

ADHD symptoms

There are three categories of ADHD: Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD, Primarily Inattentive ADHD, and Combined Type ADHD. When diagnosed with ADHD, people are diagnosed with one of these specific types, depending upon the dominant presentation of their symptoms.

Symptoms of Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD include:

  • Fidgeting, bouncing, or squirming when attempting to sit still
  • Feeling inclined towards constant movement, as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talking or moving around excessively
  • Interrupting other amidst conversation
  • Struggling with self-control
  • Having little patience

Symptoms of Primarily Inattentive Type ADHD include:

  • Making careless mistakes as a result of struggling to maintain attention
  • Struggling to stay organized or follow detailed instructions
  • Forgetfulness and losing things
  • Being easily distracted
  • Frequent daydreaming

People with Combined Type ADHD show at least six symptoms of inattention, and at least six symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.

ADHS symptoms can change over time. Adults with ADHD may experience:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Impulsivity
  • Repeated lateness and forgetfulness
  • Disorganization
  • Procrastination
  • Persistent boredom
  • Workplace and relationship problems
  • Anxiety, depression, substance abuse or mood swings
  • Nervous energy
  • Difficulty controlling anger and regulating emotions

ADHD complications

ADHD can cause a variety of work, relationship, and other life problems.

People with ADHD are more likely to:

  • Change jobs frequently
  • Have poor performance at work
  • Feel unsatisfied with their jobs
  • Use drugs and alcohol
  • Receive speeding tickets and be involved in accidents
  • Have mental health problems such as depression or anxiety
  • Have marital problems

ADHD diagnosis

When diagnosing ADHD, clinicians will evaluate the patient by comparing the patient’s symptoms to the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Diagnostic criteria vary based on the patient’s age and type of symptoms.

ADHD treatment

Medication and therapy can manage symptoms of ADHD and make it easier to function with the condition in every-day life.

A class of medications called stimulants can improve attention and decrease impulsive and hyperactive behavior. For people whose symptoms do not improve with stimulant medications, non-stimulant medications may provide relief.

Children with ADHD may benefit from therapies such as:

  • Special education to tailor to a child’s needs can help improve the learning experience at school
  • Behavior modification to teach how to replace bad behaviors with beneficial behaviors
  • Social skills training to develop skills such as sharing and taking turns

Adults and children may also benefit from psychotherapy, which can improve self-esteem and help people learn effective ways to cope with their emotions and frustrations.

When to seek care

If you believe you or your child is experiencing several ADHD symptoms, set up an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation.

Next Steps

It is important to consult your doctor regularly when you have ADHD, as medications that once improved symptoms can stop being effective. Your treatment may need modifications over time.