ADD/ADHD – Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
But you’re so calm – you can’t possibly have ADHD! While many people affected by ADD/ADHD exhibit symptoms of hyperactivity and lack of focus, not all those who suffer from the condition present these same difficulties. Both Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are terms used to refer to the same mental health condition, and professionals tend to use ADHD as ADD is the more outdated appellation.
While sufferers may exhibit a range of symptoms and behaviours, the condition is typically characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity. We most frequently hear of ADHD in children; however adults can also be affected by the disorder, with many sufferers not diagnosed until adulthood. Males also tend to present the classic symptoms and are therefore more frequently diagnosed with ADHD than females.
Sufferers with inattentive symptoms may miss important details or make careless mistakes at work, home, or school. They have trouble maintaining sustained attention, are forgetful, and may have organization problems, often losing important items. They generally avoid tasks that require prolonged attention and effort. Those with the more stereotypical hyperactivity or impulsivity symptoms tend to fidget frequently, having difficulty sitting for long periods. They talk excessively and interrupt frequently, generally answering a question before they are finished being asked. It is difficult for them to complete any task calmly or quietly.
We do not yet fully understand all the causes of ADHD – experts believe that there could be a genetic factor; however, environmental factors may also contribute to the onset of symptoms. There are high rates of correlation with exposure to toxins in utero or at a young age; low birth weight; brain injuries; and maternal drug, alcohol or tobacco use. While people with ADHD frequently come from lower-income families where there is a history of abuse, this does not seem to play a major role in the development of the disorder. Researchers have discovered several differences between the brains of healthy individuals and those with ADHD – people with ADHD typically have significantly lower levels of dopamine. Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter, a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells; it helps begin physical movement, and is critical to other nervous system functions such as pleasure, attention, mood, and motivation.
There are several treatments for ADD/ADHD – both behavioural and medical. Behaviour modification or behavioural therapy is a psychological practice that helps a person with ADHD develop practices and coping mechanisms for their daily life, and for handling school, work, or family life. Often, couples therapy or family therapy is recommended in order to create a supportive environment for patient. Regular exercise and sleep routines are also crucial for managing the symptoms of ADHD; a healthy diet with enough protein, complex carbohydrates, zinc, iron and magnesium are also important. Studies also show that omega-3 fatty acids improve mental focus in people with ADHD. Medications with stimulant properties such as Ritalin and Adderall help trigger the central nervous system; there are also non-stimulant medications that can be effective at treating ADHD. Experts agree that most people with ADHD thrive when the proper balance of treatments is found.
Programs like Valiant Behavioral Health are the ideal place to find that balance, and treat your ADHD.