Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder.

A mental health disorder is a collection of symptoms that disrupt or destroy the state of emotional and psychological well-being that allows an individual to be able to think and feel and function in an accepted way and to deal with everyday life adequately.

What constitutes ADHD

The collection of symptoms that make up ADHD are symptoms that have to do with control of attention and action. The single most applicable word when dealing with ADHD is “impulsive.” The thoughts, actions, topics of conversation, additions to conversation, and control of focus are all subject to impulsive, random redirection. The problem is rather like the proverbial “catch 22” in that people who don’t understand ADHD believe that it is a matter of not controlling one’s actions and thoughts, but in order to do so, the person with ADHD would have to have more control of their actions and thoughts.

What is the difference between the ADHD symptomology and everyday life for those without ADHD?

While everyone is familiar with many of the manifestations of ADHD symptoms, few people without the disorder can understand the stress that the intensity and frequency of these symptoms brings to bear on the ADHD life. Everyone has experienced looking for their keys, or their pen or their wallet or the coffee cup they just had. Everyone has experienced wondering why you came into a room. Everyone has missed an appointment, or forgotten to bring something to work or school or home on some occasion. Everyone knows what it’s like to be engaged in something and discover that time has flown by quicker than they thought. Imagine these things and more happening all at once, or near enough to all at once. And when they’re done, they start over again, all day, every day. This is ADHD. And there is little one can do to escape it.

How do people get tested for ADHD?

ADHD is an invisible disorder. The test for ADHD is an appointment with a mental health care professional who is experienced in diagnosing ADHD.

There are no lab tests for ADHD. There are no physical manifestations that indicate the presence of ADHD. People with ADHD can be smarter than the average population, or not. They are more likely to be left handed or mixed dominant but they can just as easily be right handed. They are more likely to be risk takers, but not all the time, and there are people who appear to be risk takers who do not have ADHD. In short, people with ADHD can go unidentified in the general population. They can even be found among the section of people who do not believe ADHD exists.

What causes ADHD?

The cause of ADHD is unknown at this time, though evidence based research suggests strongly that it is genetic and heritable. Still, ADHD can be diagnosed readily by a mental health professional, and the symptoms can be treated, often with very noticeable and positive effect.

When in history did it first appear?

ADHD has a long history, with descriptions of symptoms being given more than 2000 years ago. A condition that would sound surprisingly familiar to someone with ADHD was even described by none other than Hippocrates.

The disorder has only been known as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder since 1994. One of the earlier 20th century names attributed to this spectrum of symptoms was Minimal Brain Dysfunction. Since than it has been called Hyperkinetic Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD. ADD first appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM III) in 1980.

So ADHD, still known in Europe and some parts of the world as Hyperkinetic Disorder, has been around a lot longer than most people realize.

When does ADHD first occur?

ADHD first manifests in childhood. The hyperactive subtype seems to be more likely to affect males while the inattentive subtype is more likely to be found in females with ADHD, but even this is just a guide and not a rule. Adult diagnosis requires indications of ADHD symptoms in childhood.

New information about ADHD shows that it is now considered to be the most common mental disorder among children occurring in 14 to 15% of children in the United States. It is one of the top reasons for referral to a health care professional. Psychologists and psychiatrists are the preferred specialists for ADHD diagnosis.

ADHD diagnosis is currently about three times more common among boys than girls, but research shows that the prevalence of ADHD among girls is higher than diagnostic statistics suggest and may be on a par with occurrence among boys. The fact that ADHD of the inattentive subtype is more common among girls means that it is more likely to go unnoticed in the female segment of the population. Rather than being an issue for increased study, it is more of a call to parents, teachers and doctors to watch for those people, both male and female, who may be slipping through the diagnostic cracks due to this less obvious presentation of ADHD.

When does ADHD go away?

ADHD does not commonly go away. Symptoms may dissipate, change, or become less noticeable when people with ADHD grow older, but research suggests that at least 60% or more of the people who are diagnosed with ADHD as children and teens will continue to have symptoms into adulthood. Some researchers say that, since ADHD is a disorder of development, it cannot “go away” and that remission of symptoms is more likely a learned set of coping methods.

Why are there so many younger people with ADHD and so few older people?

Because ADHD has just become known relatively recently, many adults who have ADHD have not been diagnosed. Because ADHD was an unknown option when they were younger, besides not having any diagnosis, these adults may be laboring with an incorrect or incomplete diagnosis. Many diagnoses that share some of the symptom spectrum with ADHD have been identified and are often the labels that older people with ADHD have been carrying around. These disorders include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and learning disabilities, but are by no means limited to this small list.

Why is there no ADHD in some countries?

In every country and culture where studies have been undertaken, ADHD has been identified. Places or cultures that do not self identify an ADHD population simply do not have the criteria in place to diagnose this disorder. Much like 50 years ago when there was no diagnosis for ADHD in North America, these places and cultures are simply not caught up to the current state of knowledge available in North America and other advanced nations.

How difficult is it to live with ADHD?

ADHD is challenging for both the person diagnosed and those around them. For the person with ADHD, statistics identify an increased likelihood of accidents, academic failure, antisocial and/or inappropriate behavior, risky sexual behavior, gambling, substance and alcohol abuse and criminal activity. For those associated with the person with ADHD, these things cause numerous stresses on relationships. If these issues are subjugated adequately by the person with ADHD, the person with ADHD can be a source of great social positivity, often considered to be the life of social occasions, and creative and energetic participants in all manner of activities both social or professional.

Does ADHD occur only by itself?

Sadly, statistics show that people with ADHD have a 30% chance of having another concurrently occurring condition. Of those that have such a co-morbid condition, half of them will have more than one. A list of common co-morbid conditions includes, but is not limited to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Learning disabilities
  • Speech or hearing problems
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Tics
  • Behavioral problems such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or conduct disorder (CD) in children and teens