Signs & Symptoms of ADHD

Oasis Behavioral Health Hospital helps individuals in Chandler, AZ diagnose and treat their mental health & addiction disorders.

Understanding ADHD

Learn about ADHD

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders in childhood. While initially thought to be only a disorder among children, it is now known to continue into adulthood. In fact, most individuals will have some – if not all – of the same symptoms in adulthood they experienced in childhood. The key characteristics for both childhood and adult ADHD include having a difficult time staying focused and paying attention, hyperactivity, distractibility, impulsiveness, restlessness, and the presence of emotional difficulties. All of these symptoms make it hard for children to succeed in school, for adults to be productive at work, and causes everyone with this disorder to have difficulties in all other areas of their lives.

While there is currently not a cure for ADHD, treatment can relieve many of the symptoms and make it possible for individuals to lead successful lives. Current treatment is focused on reducing symptoms and improving overall functioning. Treatments such as medication, psychotherapy, and education are all effective forms of treatment that work best when combined. Although proper diagnosis of ADHD during childhood gives individuals more time to learn about and manage their ADHD, if it is not diagnosed until adulthood it still requires the same treatment approaches.

Statistics

ADHD statistics

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a very common behavioral disorder that affects about 3% to 10% of school-aged children; an estimated 60% of those children with continue to have symptoms that affect their functioning as adults. ADHD affects boys 3 times as often as girls in childhood, but the ratio seems to even out by adulthood. The cause for this is not known. In a classroom of 30-35 students, it’s likely that at least two children will have ADHD. Prevalence rates for ADHD in adults are not as well known, but it is believed that about 4% to 5% of adults have ADHD.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for ADHD

Although lots of research has been done we have yet to determine an exact cause. However, it appears that a combination of risk factors work together to cause this disorder. The complex array of causes for ADHD include:

Genetic: Heredity is the most common cause of ADHD. It’s clear, according to numerous twin studies that ADHD runs in families, which suggests that there is a genetic component for the disorder. Individuals who have a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has ADHD are at a far higher risk for developing the disorder themselves. However, no specific gene has been identified as the exact cause.

Physical: Recent research indicates that the frontal lobe, basal ganglia, caudate nucleus, cerebellum, and many other areas of the brain play a significant role in ADHD because they are all involved in the process that regulates behavior. Problems in these areas of the brain is one of the causes for an individual to be unable to inhibit behavior, have problems with memory, have issues with self-regulation, motor control, and emotional regulation. All of which are symptoms of ADHD.

Environmental: A number of different environmental factors such as chaotic home lives or exposure to violence may play a small role in the development of ADHD.

Risk factors:

  • Having a mother who used alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy
  • Lead exposure
  • Brain injuries
  • Being a boy

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of ADHD

While the symptoms of ADHD are similar in childhood and adulthood, they present very differently. Additionally, every individual with ADHD has a unique set of symptoms. The signs and symptoms of ADHD are broken down into three main categories and may include some of the following:

Inattentive Symptoms of ADHD: Those with ADHD have an extremely difficult time paying attention, staying on task, and focusing. Some of the inattentive symptoms associated with ADHD include:

Adults:

  • Trouble completing tasks
  • Tendency to overlook details, leading to errors or incomplete work
  • Poor listening skills
  • Chronically late
  • Poor organization skills
  • Zoning out without realizing it, even in middle of sentence
  • Easily distracted
  • Tendency to procrastinate
  • Trouble starting and finishing projects
  • Frequently forgetting appointments, commitments, and deadlines
  • Appears not to listen when spoken to
  • Frequently loses or misplaces things

Children:

  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Difficulty remembering things and following instructions
  • Frequently loses or misplaces homework or other items
  • Appears to not be listening when spoken to
  • Trouble staying focused
  • Trouble finishing projects

Hyperactivity Symptoms of ADHD: Hyperactivity is probably the most noted symptom of ADHD because both children and adults with this disorder have a hard time sitting still and tend to always be on the go. Other symptoms include:

Adults:

  • Easily bored
  • Engaging in more risk taking behavior
  • Trouble sitting still
  • Constant craving for attention
  • Racing thoughts
  • Excessive talking
  • Trying to do a million things at once

Children:

  • Fidgets and squirms while trying to sit still
  • Talks constantly
  • Often climbs on things or runs around inappropriately
  • Quick temper
  • Often leaves sit in situations where one is expected to sit still
  • Difficulty playing quietly

Impulsive Symptoms of ADHD: The impulsive symptoms of ADHD often lead to problems with self-control, self-censoring, and other disruptive behaviors. These symptoms may include

Adults:

  • Poor self-control
  • Often talks over others or interrupts them
  • Blurts out thoughts that are rude or inappropriate
  • Addictive tendencies
  • Reckless, spontaneous behavior
  • Trouble behaving socially appropriate

Children:

  • Blurts out answers in class without waiting to be called on
  • Acts without thinking
  • Says the wrong thing at the wrong time
  • Intrudes on others conversations or games
  • Can’t wait their turn in line
  • Guesses rather than taking time to figure out answer

Emotional difficulties: Many children and adults with ADHD have a hard time managing their feelings. The daily struggle with the symptoms of ADHD causes many individuals to become frustrated, embarrassed, and lose their self-confidence.

Adults:

  • Hopelessness
  • Explosive tempers
  • Overly sensitive to criticism
  • Sense of insecurity
  • Easily frustrated or irritated
  • Violent mood swings
  • Sense of underachievement
  • Easily stressed out

Children:

  • Temper tantrums
  • Angry outbursts
  • Low self-esteem

Effects

Effects of ADHD

Without proper treatment the long-term effects of ADHD can lead to the development of serious problems in almost all areas of a child’s or adult’s life. However, with proper treatment this disorder can be managed. The long-term effects of ADHD can include:

Adults:

  • Difficulty holding down a job
  • Lack of meaningful relationships
  • Depression
  • Family problems
  • Compulsive eating
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Large amount of debt
  • Impulsive spending
  • Financial difficulty

Children:

  • Inability to form lasting bonds with others
  • Experimentation with drugs or alcohol
  • Depression
  • Family problems
  • Social isolation
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Thoughts of suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

ADHD and co-occurring disorders

Those diagnosed with ADHD are also often facing another mental health disorder. Some of the co-occurring disorders with ADHD may include:

  • Disruptive behavioral disorder (in children)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech or hearing problems
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Tics
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (in children)
  • Conduct disorder (in children)

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