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January 15, 2021 05:00am
By Aislinn Antrim, Associate Editor
Seventeen million children and adults in the United States are currently living with ADHD, a neurodevelopment disorder that is defined by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Each October, ADHD Awareness Month is recognized with different events, activities, and resources to continue shining the light on the condition.
Seventeen million children and adults in the United States are currently living with ADHD, a neurodevelopment disorder that is defined by developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.1,2Each October, ADHD Awareness Month is recognized with different events, activities, and resources to continue shining the light on the condition.
Symptoms of ADHD start to show in early childhood, and several are required to be present by the age of 12. Children should have six or more symptoms present, while adolescents 17 and older and adults should have at least five. ADHD can be characterized as predominantly inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined, and each have specific symptoms that help to differentiate them.2
ADHD predominantly inattentive individuals can show signs of not appearing to listen, losing things, failing to give close attention to details, struggling to follow through with instructions, and forgetfulness in daily activities.2
ADHD hyper-active impulsive individuals are more likely to show signs of: difficulty of waiting or taking turns, talking excessively, difficulty engaging in activities quietly, difficulty remaining seated, and blurting out answers before questions have been completed.2
When an individual has a combined presentation of ADHD, all the criteria for both inattention and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms are clear.2
Many different factors can contribute to ADHD, such as genetics, brain injuries, low birth weight, exposure to environmental toxins during pregnancy, and drug or alcohol use during pregnancy.Diagnosis of the disorder requires a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed clinician with expertise in ADHD. The symptoms of each type of ADHD must be chronic, impair the individual’s functioning, and cause the individual to fall behind development that is typical for their age.3
Although there is no cure, there are treatments and resource centers available to help reduce the symptoms and educate others about ADHD. For example, a stimulant may be provided, under medical supervision, which increases dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals play essential roles in thinking and attention, which is why it is known as the most common medication for treating ADHD.3
Nonstimulants are also available for individuals. Doctors prescribe nonstimulants to those who feel bothersome adverse effects from stimulants, when stimulants are not available, or in combination with a stimulant to increase effectiveness.3
In addition to medical options, there are more social options that can help individuals with ADHD and their families manage symptoms. For example, the organization CHADD, or Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, has provided aNational Resource Centerthat features support groups, ADHD newsletters, professional training, an ADHD helpline, and other resources.4
Behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy are also recommended for people with ADHD. Each therapy aims to help a person change their behavior and become aware of their own thoughts and feelings so they can monitor their own actions.3