You may be familiar with the abbreviation ADHD which stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Usually, what comes to mind is a child who is full of energy and seems to always be “on the go.”
However, that only describes one symptom of the disorder. There are actually three types of ADHD: predominantly inattentive type (formally know as ADD), predominantly hyperactive type, and combined type. As described in the name “inattentive type,” the person has difficulty focusing or sustaining attention in tasks and activities. The “hyperactive type” is the one which brings to mind the child who is constantly “on the go.”
Lastly, the combined type is diagnosed when a person meets the criteria for both of the other two types.
ADHD is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as “a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Inattention manifests behaviorally in ADHD as wandering off task, lacking persistence, having difficult sustaining focus, and being disorganized and is not due to defiance or lack of comprehension. Hyperactivity refers to excessive motor activity (such as a child running about) when it is not appropriate or excessive fidgeting, tapping, or talkativeness … . Impulsivity may elect a desire for immediate rewards or an inability to delay gratification.”
Impulsivity involves acting before thinking things through.
Although ADHD usually brings to mind the “overactive” child it does not always end with childhood. A significant percentage of children with ADHD grow up to have symptoms as adults. These symptoms can cause problems in adulthood just as they did in childhood, but the symptoms “look” different in adulthood. No, you don’t usually see adults running around the room acting childlike during business meetings unless of course it is a Haribo Gold Bears Gummi commercial (check it out on youtube). Adult ADHD tends to show up in other ways.
Adults may have trouble managing their money or keeping their schedules organized. While they have learned to remain seated at appropriate times they may feel an internal restlessness. This can manifest as tapping fingers, shaking a leg or foot, etc. Adult ADHD may result in impulsive decision-making without having all the needed information. There may be problems with forgetfulness in daily activities such as chores, running errands, and keeping appointments. Adults with ADHD may frequently be told that they are not listening.
Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have ADHD. It requires an evaluation by a professional with experience in the area, and includes information gathering from various sources. There are several mental health diagnoses that have overlapping symptoms with ADHD. For example depression and anxiety can both cause difficulty with focus and concentration among other things. It is important to differentiate between diagnoses.
Fortunately, ADHD can be successfully treated in childhood and adulthood through education, therapy and medication. These options are not curative but they can make a big difference in a person’s life.
Tamara Davison is a licensed professional counselor at Scotland Family Counseling Center in Laurinburg.