Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADHD is most commonly diagnosed in young people, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 9% of children between ages 3–17 have ADHD. While ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, it does not only affect children. An estimated 4% of adults have ADHD. With it’s prevalence in women and girls increasing and also being widely under-diagnosed.
While some behaviors associated with ADHD are normal, someone with ADHD will have trouble controlling these behaviors and will show them much more frequently.
Signs of inattention:
- Becoming easily distracted and jumping from activity to activity
- Becoming bored with a task quickly
- Difficulty focusing attention or completing a single task or activity
- Trouble completing or turning in homework assignments
- Losing things such as school supplies or toys
- Not listening or paying attention when spoken to
- Daydreaming or wandering with lack of motivation
- Difficulty processing information quickly
- Struggling to follow directions
Signs of hyperactivity:
- Fidgeting and squirming, having trouble sitting still
- Non-stop talking
- Touching or playing with everything
- Difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities
Signs of impulsivity:
- Acting without regard for consequences, blurting things out
- Difficulty taking turns, waiting or sharing
- Interrupting others
There are several factors believed to contribute to ADHD:
Research shows that a person’s genetics may cause a high risk of developing ADHD which often runs in families and some trends in specific brain areas that contribute to attention.
- Environmental factors
Studies show a link between a mother’s cigarette smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy and children who have ADHD. Exposure to lead as a child has also been shown to increase the likelihood of ADHD in children.
ADHD occurs in both children and adults, but is most often seen and diagnosed in childhood. Getting a diagnosis can sometimes be difficult because the symptoms are similar to typical behavior in most young children. However there is a growing number of college age students who are being diagnosed and treated for ADHD. While the testing for ADHD can be a long process, once diagnosed the individual can be placed on medication to help control the symptoms as well as engage in therapy to learn strategies for coping with ADHD.
A treatment plan is most effective if it is uniquely tailored to an individual’s needs, and if it is implemented early on. Treatment plans should take into consideration learning style and potentially include medication that can be prescribed by a mental health professional.
Commonly prescribed medications include both stimulants and non-stimulants. While stimulants are usually the first choice for treating ADHD, antidepressants might be something a doctor suggests especially if someone is living with ADHD in addition to depression. If effective, medications can improve attention span, the ability to deal with frustration and ultimately lead to better relationships with teachers, family members and peers.
An individual may also want to incorporate behavioral therapy into the treatment course. Behavior therapy can help improve social skills of people living with ADHD as well as provide them with a particular skill set needed in order to cope with the ADHD and complete daily tasks.
Complementary Health Approaches
- Elimination diets are based on the theory that people are sensitive to sugar and artificially added colors, flavors and preservatives, and that eliminating these substances from the diet could improve learning and behavioral problems.
- Nutritional supplements, such as omega-3s, are thought to help the deficiency of fatty acids that are sometimes associated with ADHD.
- Neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback) teaches individuals how to increase arousal levels in the frontal areas of the brain. This is because people living with ADHD show low levels of arousal in these areas, which results in an impaired ability to focus.
– Executive Functioning
Executive functioning describes a set of higher-order mental skills that help you to get things done. The frontal lobe is the area of the brain that controls executive functioning skills. Deficits in executive functioning skills make it difficult to gather information and structure it for evaluation, as well as difficulty taking stock of your surroundings and changing your behavior in response. While some people are born with weak executive function, people with ADHD, depression, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or learning disabilities are more likely to have executive functioning weaknesses. There are also certain medical conditions like suffering from a stroke that may also lead to executive functioning weaknesses.
While some adults may have learned tricks or strategies to help them compensate, many continue to fail to meet their daily responsibilities and experience trouble at work and at home. Serious consequences of poor executive functioning skills in adults can be loss of a job for not meeting deadlines, lowered credit rating, or late tax filling penalties because they do not have their finances organized.
Executive functioning skills allow us to:
- Analyze a task
- Plan how to take on the task
- Organize the steps required to carry out the task
- Create timelines for completing the task
- Use flexibility to adjust for changes if needed to complete the task
- Complete a task in a timely fashion and/or meet a deadline
Signs there may be deficits in executive functioning skills:
People with Executive Function Disorder exhibit a wide variety of difficulties with every day tasks. Some common skills affected by EFD include:
- Not being able to manage time well, difficulty meeting deadlines or goals and determining the amount of time that has passed or is necessary to complete a task
- Difficulty organizing and planning
- Trouble paying attention
- Trouble switching focus and shifting between activities
- Not being able to remember details
- Misplacing and losing possessions, paperwork, etc.
- Difficulty delaying response or withholding a response
- Difficulty prioritizing work or responsibilities
- Difficulty self-monitoring behavior, progress, and emotions
Are There Available Treatments for Executive Function Disorder?
A therapist or coach can help you to improve time management, better manage space and keep things from getting lost, and improve work habits. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help a client to self-monitor thoughts and behavior, and social skills training can help to create appropriate responses in social situations. For students, a therapist can also engage with the school to help get the student academic accommodations like extra test taking time etc.