What is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

A definition of ADHD

ADHD is a Neurobiological condition associated with an imbalance of the brain’s neurotransmitters (substances used to convey messaged between nerve cells) and differences in brain anatomy. There is a common perception that ADHD is a childhood condition. In reality, ADHD is a condition that affects all ages: children, adolescents and adults.

There are three types of behaviours:

1.     Inattention
2.     Hyperactivity
3.     Impulsivity

The Symptoms of ADHD as lasted in the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed (DSM-IV).

Signs of Inattention

Can include:

Hyperactivity can involve:

Impulsivity

·        Not paying close attention to details or making careless mistakes;

·        Not appearing to listen when spoken to directly;

·        Not following through on instructions;

·        Difficulty organising tasks;

·        Avoiding tasks that need sustained mental effort;

·        Being easily distracted; and

·        Being forgetful in daily activities.

·        Fidgeting with the hands or feet or squirming in a chair;

·        Moving about excessively when it is not appropriate;

·        Having difficulty playing quietly;

·        Being ‘on the go’ all the time; and

·        Talking excessively.

Impulsivity means appearing to act without thinking in advance, for example:

·        Blurting out answers before a question is completed;

·        Having trouble waiting for a turn; and

·        Butting into other people’s conversations or games.

 

Most people will be able to identify with one or several of these symptoms in their own life. For people with ADHD however, these symptoms cause significant impairment in important areas of their life e.g academic performance, forming friendships, family functioning and in the workplace.

There are 3 main sub-types of ADHD:

* ADHD predominantly inattentive

(requires 6 symptoms of inattention to be present)

* ADHD hyperactive/impulsive

(requires 6 symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity to be present)

* ADHD combined

(requires 6 symptoms from inattentive and 6 symptoms from hyperactivity/impulsivity to be present; a total of 12 symptoms)

ADHD in adults

To be diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, the symptoms must be present from childhood.

As children mature into adulthood, some develop strategies to better cope with their symptoms. Many children however, will carry symptoms of ADHD through to adulthood and if untreated, these result in significant impairment in their ability to study, work and manage their lives.
   
How is ADHD diagnosed?

ADHD can only be diagnosed by a qualified health professional. A full history and evaluation is carried out and symptoms are checked against a set of diagnostic criteria.

A range of tests to exclude other causes of symptoms, eg hearing and sight should be carried out before ADHD is diagnosed.

 It is vital, that an accurate diagnoses is made so the most effective treatment and support can be provided. 

How is ADHD treated?

The most effective treatment of ADHD involves a range of interventions often referred to as the ‘multi-modal’ approach.

Depending on individual need, treatment may include the following:
   
Educational support    
Medication    
Counselling/behavioural management
Occupational therapy
Speech and language therapy

Note: For people with food sensitivities in addition to their ADHD, diet modification can be pursued as an additional therapy.  Diet modification in itself is not a treatment for ADHD.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD affects between 3% and 7% of school-aged children. In a proportion of children, the condition will persist into their adult life.

ADHD is thought to result from underlying abnormalities in the way the brain integrates its many functions. The changes lead to difficulties with concentration, as well as impulsivity and hyperactivity. The consequences for learning, social relationships and family life can be severe.

Treatment of ADHD includes educational and psychological approaches and medication when appropriate. An individual treatment plan is required for each person with ADHD, to ensure the most effective combination of therapy is provided.