Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common psychiatric disorder in childhood.
Here we review its causes, symptoms, ways to identify it and treatments.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a mental disorder that includes difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors. This can lead to unstable relationships, poor job or school performance, and damaged self-esteem, among other problems.
Symptoms of ADHD typically begin in early childhood and continue into adulthood, although in many cases it is not recognized or diagnosed until the person is an adult.
What causes ADHD
Although there is a lot of research on ADHD, it is still unclear what its exact cause(s) is. However, professionals point to genetics or problems during development. In addition, it has been recorded that certain factors can increase the risk of ADHD, such as:
- Having blood relatives with ADHD or another mental health disorder.
- Being born prematurely.
- That the mother smokes, drinks alcohol or uses drugs during pregnancy.
- Childhood exposure to environmental toxins, such as lead.
What are the symptoms of ADHD
The symptoms of ADHD can vary depending on the patient’s age. However, the most common signs include:
- Excessive activity or restlessness.
- Frequent mood swings.
- Disorganization and problems setting priorities.
- Poor time management skills.
- Little planning.
- Little or no tolerance for frustration.
- Trouble coping with stress
- Trouble getting tasks done and finishing them
- Trouble concentrating on a task.
- Trouble multitasking.
- Irritable temperament.
Symptoms can also vary depending on the type of ADHD that is present:
- When inattention prevails: Difficulty getting organized, completing a task, paying attention to details, or following directions or conversations.
- When hyperactivity/impulsivity predominates: Trouble sitting still for a long time (for example, doing schoolwork, attending work meetings or conferences), a tendency to constantly interrupt others, and an increased risk of accidents and injuries.
- Combined type: the symptoms of the two previous types are equally present in the person.
How ADHD Is Identified
We can all present symptoms similar to those of ADHD at some point in our lives. If these are recent or have only occurred occasionally in the past, it is most likely not ADHD.
However, a warning sign of this disorder occurs when the symptoms are severe enough to cause constant problems in different areas of our lives (work, school or family).
It is important to know that there are no individual tests that can confirm the diagnosis of ADHD. To do this, the health professional must resort to different tests and analyses:
- ADHD Rating Scales or Psychological Tests: To collect and evaluate information about symptoms.
- Physical exploration: to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms.
- Get more information: to finish analyzing the symptoms, the patient can be consulted about current health problems, medical history and family history.
It should be noted that other conditions or treatments can cause symptoms that are often mistaken for ADHD:
- Mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, behavioral disorders, learning and language deficits, or other psychiatric disorders.
- Developmental disorders.
- Sleep disorders.
- Seizure disorders.
- Abuse of alcohol, drugs, or medications.
- Brain injury.
- Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia)
- Thyroid problems.
What treatments are there for ADHD?
The treatment for this disorder is given with a cooperation between the health professional and the person with ADHD (if it is a child, the parents participate, and usually teachers).
The doctor will seek to establish specific goals that are appropriate for the person with ADHD, initiate psychotherapy, medication use, or both, and maintain regular check-ups to review the goals, outcomes, and possible side effects of the chosen treatment.
Generally, when the use of drugs is used, the most chosen option is psychostimulants (or stimulants), medications that have a calming effect on people with ADHD.
In the case of therapy, behavioral or family therapy is usually chosen, which is used to teach patients, children and parents healthy behaviors and strategies to manage harmful actions. Also recommended:
- Comply with the recommended hours of sleep according to age.
- Communicate regularly with professors or teachers (in case the patient is a child).
- Limit distractions.
- Maintain regular times to eat, do daily chores, or exercise.
- Maintain clear and consistent rules (in case the patient is a child).
- Abuse of alcohol or other substances.
- Poor school or work performance.
- Increased risk of car accidents or other types of accidents.
- Higher risk of unemployment.
- Problems with the law.
- Physical and mental health problems.
- Economic problems.
- Emotional or self-esteem problems.
- unstable relationships
- Anxiety disorders.
- Mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder.
- Personality disorders, intermittent explosive disorder or substance use disorders.
- Impediments to learning.
Currently, there is not enough evidence to show that alternative treatments for ADHD, such as the use of herbs or supplements, are effective.
If ADHD is not treated, it can eventually cause problems with health, performance, and social relationships:
The researchers also note that other health problems often occur with ADHD:
Statistics on ADHD often vary, usually due to differences in methodology or diagnostic criteria used. However, a widely accepted figure places the prevalence of ADHD at around 5% of the global child population.
In turn, it is estimated that up to 70% of children with ADHD continue to present symptoms throughout their lives.
Sources consulted: American Psychiatric Association, US National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mayo Clinic, World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).