ADHD has gained increasing sensationalist media attention, which often leads people to form opinions that aren’t always supported by research. This leaves many of us feeling lost and confused about ADHD, what it means for our youth, and what it means for adults and parents. If you or someone you care about has been struggling with symptoms, you may feel lost, confused, and unsupported. With so much information floating around, focusing on just seven facts may be a good start to understanding the truth about ADHD.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder that describes difficulty with paying attention, controlling behavior, and over-activity that is outside of what is consider normal for a person’s age.
ADHD is real.
When people are not physically able to see a disorder or limitation, we are quick to be dismissive about those who struggle with its symptoms. We question whether or not it is in fact real or problematic. The symptoms of ADHD are real. Most people acknowledge that depression is real and would not argue that it doesn’t exist just because feelings of sadness at times are normal. Just as we know depression is more than feeling sad, ADHD is more than having a lot energy or an inability to concentrate.
ADHD on the rise.
Science and psychology will always have hot button topics. Since the 1990s, there has been a rise in the number of children diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed stimulant medication to manage symptoms. The rise in diagnosed cases, increased media attention, which lead to the popular thought that ADHD is over-diagnosed and medication is being carelessly prescribed. Consider this: even before the term “ADHD” was in use, pediatricians had been describing similar symptoms for over 100 years (Psychiatric Times). Claiming society’s sudden unrealistic expectations of children, poor parenting trends, and the desire for a “magic pill” doesn’t change the fact that the symptoms of ADHD are real, present, and severely limiting children and adults in educational, professional, and personal settings. Whether or not ADHD is over-diagnosed shouldn’t discourage an individual from discussing his or her symptom and getting assessed.
The “Blame Game” isn’t fair.
Along with extensive media coverage, there’s been much speculation about the causes of ADHD. Parents, teachers, and even worse–the children who show symptoms–are blamed for not managing symptoms appropriately. Scientists aren’t sure what causes ADHD, though it has been linked to combinations of genetics and environmental factors like smoking during pregnancy and exposure to lead (NIMH). There has been no research that suggests that ADHD is caused by poor parenting, sugar intake, too much television, exposure to technology, or a lack of effort. Blame isn’t helpful–searching for what causes and helps ADHD is, and that can be done without judgment or criticism.
There are different kinds of ADHD.
ADHD describes the way that children may be inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive, or a combination of the two. Usually when criteria is met, a child is diagnosed as predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, or combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive. This may be a bit technical, but it’s important that we understand why children with ADHD don’t always look the same. There are children who do not disrupt the classroom but receive bad grades because they are unable to focus; and then there are children who appear to be run by a motor. Remember there is variability with everything, including ADHD.
ADHD doesn’t just disappear.
The symptoms psychologist use to diagnose ADHD describe the difficulties children experience, not adults. Adults who likely met criteria for an ADHD in childhood didn’t suddenly lose their symptoms at age 18. ADHD symptoms in adults may look different. Untreated ADHD symptoms in adults can appear as anxiety, depression, addiction, or even bipolar disorder. Symptoms likely calm down into adulthood because of the natural maturation process of the brain; however they may never totally dissipate, especially if they remain untreated.
Treated and managed, not cured.
Treatment for ADHD will depend upon your personal interests and preferences, what a mental health professional suggests, and what interventions are supported by research. ADHD symptoms are typically managed by implementing organizational skills like maintaining a set schedule, using a planner and calendar, and time management. The low self-esteem, problematic behaviors, difficulty in social settings, and lack of support for parents that coincides with ADHD can also be addressed through psychotherapy. Closely monitored stimulant medications can be of assistance as well. There is no cure for ADHD, but symptoms are manageable! Families, schools, therapists, adults, and children can work together to create an environment that will help a person with ADHD reach his or her full potential.
Information shared in this article is supported by the following:
Are you or someone you love struggling with ADHD? Do some of these symptoms sound familiar, and you think you might need help? Let The Stone Foundation support you in managing your mental health. We are a team of counselors dedicated to seeing you live your best and most fulfilling life. Contact us at 410.296.2004 or click here if you are interested in setting up an appointment. Please know that this article is intended for general, educational purposes only, and should not to take the place of professional counseling services or medical care.
Lauren Greenberg, MS, LGPC is a graduate of Loyola’s Counseling Practitioner Program. For three years, Lauren provided hotline crisis intervention to residents of Baltimore City. She also has experience providing counseling to students at a local college for issues including grief and loss, depression, substance abuse, self-harm, anxiety, and trauma. Her professional interests and areas of study include positive psychology, promoting social and emotional competence, and women’s issues.