Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

by Mary Gallagher, RN, MSN, CCRN

Dec 3, 2015
2015

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a common childhood brain disorder which can persist through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, a struggle to control behavior and hyperactivity, making it hard for a child to do well in school or behave. Children and adults from all backgrounds can have ADHD.

In some cases ADHD is not diagnosed until later in life. Adult ADHD can cause significant problems that usually improve with treatment. For unclear reasons, females with ADHD are often overlooked as young girls and are not diagnosed until adulthood. Often a woman recognizes her own ADHD after her child receives the diagnosis and she sees similar patterns in herself.

Many adults with ADHD are unaware they have it and just assume everyday tasks are a challenge. Symptoms may include trouble concentrating, restlessness, impulsivity, difficulty completing tasks, disorganization, low frustration tolerance, mood swings, hot temper and trouble coping with stress. Difficulty focusing and prioritizing can cause missed deadlines and forgotten meetings and social plans. The inability to control impulses ranges from impatience when waiting in line or driving in traffic to mood swings and bursts of anger.

ADHD has been linked to trouble with the law, problems at work, alcohol and drug abuse, unstable relationships, frequent accidents, financial stress, job hopping, poor physical health and low self-esteem. Although it does not cause other psychological or developmental conditions, certain disorders or learning disabilities often occur with ADHD. Many adults with ADHD have depression, bipolar disorder or another mood disorder. Anxiety disorder may cause overwhelming worry, nervousness and other symptoms. Associated personality disorders include borderline personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder. Adults with ADHD may score lower on academic testing than is expected for their age, intelligence and education.

The exact cause of ADHD is unclear. It often runs in families, and researchers found much of the risk of ADHD is genetic. Certain environmental factors can increase risk, as can problems with the nervous system at key moments in development. ADHD is complex, and a genetic diagnostic test is not available yet.

If you think you have ADHD symptoms, call your health care provider for an evaluation. Depending on the results, you may need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Because symptoms of ADHD differ in adults from those in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), criteria specific to adults are used to confirm diagnosis. Your doctor may give you a questionnaire with an expanded list of signs and symptoms and examine their impact on your current life, such as school or work performance and relationships with family and friends.

Research suggests a combination of medication, cognitive therapy and life coaching significantly improves the prognosis of adults with ADHD. Although not FDA-approved specifically for the treatment of ADHD, antidepressants are sometimes used. The antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin), which affects the brain chemical dopamine, shows benefits for adults with ADHD. Older tricyclic antidepressants sometimes are used because they affect the brain chemical norepinephrine. An adult with ADHD should discuss medication options with his or her health care provider, who will require an updated list of all medications the patient takes so no interactions occur.

Psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy, can help change one’s poor self-image by examining the experiences that caused it. The therapist encourages the adult with ADHD to adjust to the life changes that come with treatment, such as thinking before acting or resisting the urge to take unnecessary risks. Marital and family counseling can help loved ones cope with the stress of living with someone with ADHD.

ADHD coaching can supplement treatment. Coaches have frequent contact with clients and can help determine the success of medications or other treatments, providing observations and advice to help tailor treatment. ADHD coaching is not psychotherapy; some people work with a coach while also working with a therapist or counselor. Coaching sessions deal with what’s happening in the client’s life with emphasis on challenges, opportunities and strategies for success. Coaches provide support between sessions by email or phone, and some assign homework to help the client accomplish objectives in living with ADHD.

Many support groups are available and can be found online or through a therapist. Alternative medicine such as yoga, meditation and taking omega-3 fatty acids may reduce your stress and decrease symptoms. Other alternative medicine treatments such as special diets, excessive vitamin or mineral supplements, and herbal supplements are ineffective as treatment for ADHD.

Preventing exposure to environmental toxins like cigarette smoke in the womb and mercury, lead and pesticides before or after birth helps prevent ADHD. Being breastfed and having adequate nutrients like vitamins, zinc, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids are thought to provide protection against developing ADHD. It is believed encouraging exercise in young children helps prevent ADHD by promoting neurological development.

For some adults, finding out they have ADHD is a big relief. Connecting ADHD to lifetime problems helps them understand they can get better.

Potential risks for ADHD

  • You have a blood relative with ADHD or other mental health disorder
  • Your mother smoked or used drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
  • Your mother was exposed to environmental poisons such as PCBs during pregnancy
  • You were exposed as a child to environmental toxins such as lead
  • You were born prematurely

The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Newsletter sign-up

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Daily
Sep 20, 2019

Catch Autumn at the Arboretum in Dallas

Attend one of the most acclaimed fall events, Autumn at the Arboretum, in Dallas. In its 14th year, the annual event is known as one of the best pumpkin festivals in the country, with its creative displays featuring more than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash. The event takes place at Dallas Arboretum, Sept. 21 –Oct. 31. Alongside thousands of pumpkins, guests glimpse 150,000 autumn flowers across the 66-acre space.

The Island of the Knights

Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.

Feature
Sep 19, 2019

Wilderness Safaris Reopens Jao Camp

Following a complete renovation, Wilderness Safaris’ Jao Camp reopened in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

News
Sep 19, 2019

Best U.S. Cities for Oktoberfest Celebrations

WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 24 key metrics to determine the best destinations for an upcoming Oktoberfest celebration. The brand’s study found the estimated cost for an American to attend Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, is $5,000. Munich boasts a $1.43 billion annual economic impact on Munich. During Oktoberfest, nearly 2 million gallons of beer are consumed and more than 510,000 whole roast chickens eaten.

TAP Air Portugal Adds 15 Flights Each Week From U.S., Canada

TAP Air Portugal is adding 15 new weekly flights from the United States and Canada by summer 2020,  a new record for the carrier of 71 weekly flights between North America and Portugal.

Feature
Sep 19, 2019

Qantas Will Start Using a Dreamliner on Santiago–Sydney Route

Qantas will start using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on its Sydney–Santiago route starting in late June 2020.

eFlyer News
Sep 18, 2019

New Luxury Hotel Set to Open in China

A new hotel is slated to open in the capital of China’s Guangxi Province.

To New Heights

United Airlines announces a number of new routes.

eFlyer News
Sep 18, 2019

LOT Polish Airlines Adds New Route to Delhi

LOT Polish Airlines is offering travellers more options for travel between Asia and Europe.