Adhd psychology today
ADHD | Psychology Today
Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (previously known as attention deficit disorder or ADD) is a neurobehavioral disorder characterized by core symptoms of inattentiveness, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. ADHD is thought to be the most common childhood mental health disorder, with estimates of its prevalence in children ranging from 5 to 11 percent. ADHD in adulthood is thought to be less common, with approximately 2 to 5 percent of adults diagnosed.
ADHD symptoms can interfere with work, school, household tasks, and relationships, and managing the disorder can be a challenge for both children and adults. Fortunately, there are treatments that have been shown to be effective, and anyone affected by ADHD can learn coping skills to work around struggles and harness their talents—as many successful individuals with ADHD have already done.
On This Page
- What does ADHD look like?
- Is ADHD real?
- What causes ADHD?
- How is ADHD treated?
- Is ADHD genetic?
- Is ADHD a disease of modernity?
- Is ADHD a disability?
- Is ADHD a learning disability?
- I feel fidgety all the time. Do I have ADHD?
- How can I best help my child manage his ADHD?
- Is ADHD good or bad for romantic relationships?
What does ADHD look like?
Some children and adults with ADHD find it difficult to concentrate on tasks at school or work and may daydream frequently. Children with ADHD may become disruptive, defiant, or have trouble getting along with parents, peers, or teachers. Children who struggle with hyperactivity and impulsivity, in particular, often have behavioral challenges that can be difficult for adults to manage.
Adults, on the other hand, may be more likely to report feeling restless or fidgety; if they struggle with impulsivity, they may make rash decisions that adversely affect their life. For both children and adults, executive functioning (planning, emotional regulation, and decision-making) is often affected as well. Many children and adults display either hyperactive or inattentive symptoms of ADHD, but it’s also possible for both sets of symptoms to exist together, in what is typically called combined type ADHD.
For more on symptoms, see ADHD Symptoms and Diagnosis.
Is ADHD real?
Most psychiatrists and psychologists agree that ADHD is real. It runs in families (suggesting genetic roots) and neurological evidence has found it to be associated with alterations in brain growth and development. ADHD is also clearly linked to academic, work, and relationship problems—and responds to treatment—suggesting that it has clinical validity. But whether the disorder is overdiagnosed and overtreated—or whether it reflects a set of evolved traits that have become less adaptive in today’s world—is widely debated.
For more on the biology of ADHD, see Causes and Risk Factors in ADHD.
What causes ADHD?
Like many other mental health disorders, the causes of ADHD remain under investigation. Genes are theorized to play a key role, as are environmental influences such as exposure to toxins in the womb and early traumatic experiences. Since ADHD is a behavioral disorder, expectations of appropriate behavior, particularly in children, likely influence diagnoses in some cases.
For more on the causes of ADHD, see Causes and Risk Factors in ADHD.
How is ADHD treated?
Experts have debated whether treatment for ADHD should be primarily behavioral (therapy, attention training, increased play, greater structure) or pharmacological. Several large studies have concluded that a combination of both may be most effective.
For more on treatment options, see Treatment of ADHD.
Is ADHD genetic?
Significant evidence suggests that ADHD has both genetic and environmental underpinnings. Twin studies, for instance, have found that identical twins are significantly more likely than fraternal twins to both be diagnosed with ADHD or display ADHD-like behaviors. There is no single gene that is considered “responsible” for ADHD; rather, like many psychiatric conditions, it is thought to be linked to many genetic variants, only some of which have been uncovered.
For more on genes and other factors that may lead to ADHD, see Causes and Risk Factors in ADHD.
Is ADHD a disease of modernity?
Some experts argue that what we call ADHD is actually a “disease of civilization”—that is, a disorder that arises because of a mismatch between humans’ evolutionary roots and our modern environment. High energy levels, for instance, may have been adaptive for a hunter-gatherer but are problematic in a modern classroom. Some prominent child development experts have noted that the recent rise in ADHD diagnoses has coincided with an increased focus (particularly in American schools) on rigorous standardized testing and reduced playtime—suggesting that at least some children diagnosed with ADHD have been placed in environments that worsen the evolutionary mismatch.
For more on living with ADHD in the modern world, see Daily Management of ADHD.
Is ADHD a disability?
It depends. Under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), ADHD can be legally considered a disability in some cases. But a diagnosis alone isn’t enough to qualify for protection under the law. In addition to a formal diagnosis, the individual (and/or their parent, if in an academic setting) must also establish that symptoms substantially limit functioning. If such limitations can be adequately documented, reasonable accommodations must be provided by the employer or the school (if it is public).
For more on accommodations, see ADHD at School or ADHD in the Workplace.
Is ADHD a learning disability?
Though ADHD can and often does cause academic challenges, it is not considered a specific learning disability (such as dyslexia or dysgraphia). However, many children with ADHD—anywhere from 30 to 50 percent, according to some estimates—have a comorbid learning disability. The conditions can also display similar external symptoms, particularly in children.
For more on distinguishing ADHD from learning disabilities and other disorders, see ADHD and Related Conditions.
I feel fidgety all the time. Do I have ADHD?
While fidgetiness is certainly an aspect of ADHD, the condition is more complex than physical restlessness. If, in addition to constant fidgetiness, you experience strong feelings of distractibility that persist in multiple settings, often behave impulsively, talk excessively, struggle to follow through on tasks or manage your time, and/or make careless mistakes on important projects, you may show symptoms of ADHD. Requesting an evaluation from a healthcare provider is the first step to receiving a diagnosis and initiating treatment.
For more about symptoms and diagnosis, see ADHD Symptoms and Diagnosis.
How can I best help my child manage his ADHD?
All children benefit from love, structure, and consistency; children with ADHD need all three in droves. Since ADHD symptoms and their resulting academic and social challenges can be damaging to a child’s self-esteem, parents should take steps to find a treatment that works, help the child identify his strengths, and advocate for his needs as he learns to navigate the world on his own. Parents should also help the child set up routines, identify academic strategies that address her specific needs, and learn the social skills necessary in order to form lasting friendships.
For more about raising a happy and healthy ADHD child, see Parenting a Child with ADHD.
Is ADHD good or bad for romantic relationships?
There is no single way that ADHD affects romantic relationships, and the condition often comes with both positives and negatives. Many couples, for instance, find that one partner’s ADHD (or both, in some cases) enhances the relationship by making it more spontaneous or sexually fulfilling. Others, however, find that symptoms of distraction, disorganization, or impulsivity can lead to frustrating miscommunications between partners or trigger arguments.
Both partners—regardless of their own ADHD status—should be honest about any challenges that ADHD brings to the relationship, while also making an effort to appreciate its upsides whenever possible. Having compassion toward one’s partner is critical for making any ADHD relationship work.
For more on love and ADHD, see ADHD and Relationships.
Next: Causes and Risk Factors in ADHD
The Gift of ADHD | Psychology Today
Unable to sit still, excessive talking, needing constant redirection, interrupting, forgetfulness…these are just some of the symptoms used to describe struggles with ADHD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
For decades, parents and adults themselves with ADHD have struggled to manage these symptoms, which often expose significant difficulties with functioning in school, work, and interpersonal interactions. Often a misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and overmedicated condition, ADHD has a side that is less often spoken of. In these struggles lie significant strengths that, if harnessed with the appropriate environment, have the potential to be gifts.
First, it’s important to distinguish between clinical ADHD and ADHD symptomatology. To say someone struggles with ADHD symptomology is not the same as carrying an ADHD diagnosis. Many individuals present with some symptoms that do, in fact, make it more challenging to focus, sit still, or make deadlines, yet are also medicated. Unfortunately, more often than not, these are also the individuals who experience increased negative side effects. Parents often complain that their child is "zombie-like," not eating, having trouble sleeping at night, or anxious. Some of these side effects present as a result of the body’s systemic struggle to metabolize the medication given, typically methylphenidate. What if we didn’t suppress these symptoms but instead "worked with them," or even encouraged them?
Benefits of ADHD Symptoms
There is significant research that suggests individuals with ADHD are superior in creative cognition, divergent thinking, conceptual expansion, and overcoming knowledge constraints (White, 2019). For example, individuals with ADHD show the increased ability to think divergently, or think of many ideas from a single point, as well as to create, invent, and innovate. Further, Healey and Rucklidge (2006) examined the relationship between creativity and ADHD symptoms and found that 40 percent of the creative children tested displayed clinically elevated levels of ADHD symptomatology, but none met the full criteria for ADHD. Exposing children who struggle with ADHD symptomology to creative environments, whether that be art, music, or inventive/creative outlets, may help facilitate not only new hobbies but also help promote focus.
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest struggles parents associate with ADHD symptomology is the hyperactive component. Individuals who struggle with ADHD or ADHD symptomology often struggle with excess levels of energy. Often, this hyperactivity or energy is suppressed by medication. However, it’s this exact high level of energy that can also improve sports performance. Sports such as martial arts, swimming, track and field, and ballet/dance/gymnastics may be particularly helpful for individuals struggling with ADHD symptomatology, as these sports focus on mastery while allowing an appropriate energy outlet. Numerous professional athletes are amongst those struggling with ADHD, most notably Michael Phelps (Olympic swimmer), Justin Gatlin (Olympic runner—track and field), and Simone Biles (Olympic gymnast) to name a few. In fact, Dutton (2021), states that an estimated eight to ten percent of all pro athletes struggle with ADHD/ADHD symptomology, as compared to four to five percent of the general population of adults.
Perhaps one of the most impressive statistics comes from Garret Loporto and the Davinci Method: those struggling with ADHD are over 300 percent more likely to start their own business, compared to those who do not struggle with ADHD or ADHD symptomology. The need and desire for autonomy, struggles with ‘traditional’ deadlines and organization, and the leeway in designing work make entrepreneurship and business ownership particularly desirable. According to Wiklund et. al (2017), inattention is negatively associated with successful entrepreneurship, but hyperactivity is positively associated. Further, sensation seeking and lack of premeditation generally positively influence entrepreneurship due to the risk-taking nature needed in building many businesses. Similarly, children should be encouraged to facilitate entrepreneurial skills such as problem-solving, negotiation, product creation, and experimentation. For example, children or adolescents can be encouraged to earn money through mowing lawns, shoveling driveways, selling items online, or coaching/mentoring peers.
Although medication is an appropriate treatment option for those diagnosed with ADHD, these additional treatment modalities may be just as beneficial. The following considerations may assist with symptom alleviation while working with, not against, systemic brain chemistry.
Providing either therapeutic services or mentoring services to teach organizational skills, focus, deadline expectations, and healthy outlets for energy is an excellent tool for the management of ADHD symptomology. Additionally, providing validation and support regarding the struggles associated with ADHD aids in understanding and creating universality. Many children and adolescents report feeling misunderstood or alone regarding their struggles, and providing them an open/nonjudgmental environment that provides safety and encourages vulnerability.
Neurofeedback is a method of self-training the brain to increase or decrease a particular brainwave. Many individuals struggling with ADHD have lower than typical levels of beta, and higher than typical levels of theta brainwaves. Beta/Theta training has been considered to be effective in self-regulating the brain by increasing the level of beta brainwaves produced and subsequently decreasing the amount of theta production.
According to Duff (2013), foods rich in zinc, copper, magnesium, selenium, and vitamin D have all been linked to improvements in ADHD symptomology. Specifically, several studies have associated low zinc status with symptoms of ADHD. Children with the inattentive type of ADHD have been shown to have significantly lower levels of zinc and ferritin and children with the hyperactive type have significantly lower levels of zinc, ferritin, and magnesium (Duff, 2013).
Perhaps a greater understanding of ADHD and ADHD symptomology can allow one to create an adaptive environment. Medication can be an appropriate option for some, but "encouraging" ADHD symptoms to use as personal strengths can be beneficial as well.
causes, symptoms, signs, diagnosis, treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults
Symptoms of ADHD in children
Causes of pathology
Treatment methods for ADHD
Today, more and more children are being diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). As a rule, it is diagnosed in children aged 6-8 years, when the child goes to school. It is at this time that it becomes obvious that the child has pronounced problems with behavior and perception of information. nine0003
ADHD is a neurological-behavioral developmental disorder. Pathology makes itself felt in childhood, but in the absence of timely therapy, it can persist into adulthood. According to statistics, ADHD is most common in boys, but can also occur in girls. If the pathology is not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, this is fraught with poor school performance, the child may develop serious social problems, which increases the risk of substance abuse in the future. nine0003
Symptoms of ADHD in children
Consider some of the signs that may signal ADHD in children:
- The child is constantly distracted, inattentive, when communicating with him there is a feeling that he is not listening to you.
- It is difficult for him to keep his attention on the teacher's words for a long time, because of which the understanding of information also suffers.
- Increased activity is observed - the child literally cannot sit in one place. Even during school hours, he can get up and walk around the classroom. nine0025
- The child is impatient, cannot wait for his turn, constantly interrupts, answers questions without waiting for them to end.
- Children with ADHD are characterized by emotional instability, which can be manifested by frequent mood swings: a child can suddenly become irritable, tearful, and restless for no reason.
- Disorder is typical - children with this diagnosis often lose their belongings (for example, school supplies, money, keys). nine0024 Problems with sleep and appetite, with daily routine.
Additionally, some neurological abnormalities may be observed. For example, a child with ADHD may have poor motor coordination, resulting in some clumsiness. Also, in some cases, twitching of the facial muscles and trembling of the limbs are observed.
The first signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are observed at the age of 2-3 years, but at this age it is difficult to determine whether they are a manifestation of pathology or normal age-related features. nine0003
However, if by the age of 6-8 years the child has not become more attentive and collected, this is an alarming sign that makes it possible to assume ADHD with a high degree of probability. That is why, if you have the above symptoms, you should definitely consult a doctor and start treatment.
Causes of pathology
There is no single reason for the development of ADHD. Many experts agree that the most common cause may be genetic mutations that lead to a disruption in the production of dopamine and the work of dopamine receptors. nine0003
Also, the causes of the development of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may be the following factors:
- Severe pregnancy, complicated delivery, including prolonged or rapid.
- Use by the expectant mother during pregnancy of potent drugs, alcoholic beverages, toxic substances.
- Serious pathologies suffered by a child at an early age, including craniocerebral trauma. nine0025
- Psychological trauma in a child.
- Fetal asphyxia.
It is also worth noting that this pathology has a hereditary predisposition. It was found that the presence of ADHD in parents significantly increases the likelihood of developing this syndrome in a child.
The diagnosis of ADHD is not established only on the basis of existing complaints. To accurately confirm the diagnosis, it is necessary to conduct some examinations. First of all, you need to visit a neurologist, psychiatrist and psychologist. nine0003
During the consultation, the doctor collects an anamnesis, conducts various tests, conversations, and diagnostic surveys.
In order to identify the cause of the development of ADHD, consultations with other specialists may also be required, as well as instrumental and laboratory examination methods, such as: EEG, MRI of the brain, general and biochemical blood tests.
It should be noted that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder most often has a favorable prognosis (provided that therapy is started in a timely manner). It is possible to significantly improve the behavior and learning of the child. nine0003
Depending on the severity of the pathological process and the causes of its occurrence, the doctor may prescribe such types of treatment as:
- Medical treatment: the patient may be prescribed sedatives, antidepressants, neurostimulants.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy.
- A clear daily routine: a balanced diet, good sleep.
- Family therapy: if there are conflicts in the family, ADHD often develops against this background. nine0025
- Biofeedback therapy: this method of treatment is aimed at training the child's ability to self-regulate their states with the help of computer game tasks.
- Physiotherapy techniques, eg massage, exercise, kinesiotherapy.
Additionally, other methods of treatment can be used.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to prevent the development of ADHD. However, there are some factors that significantly reduce the risk of developing pathology. For example, the expectant mother should follow a healthy lifestyle, eat a balanced diet, give up bad habits. Before conception, it is desirable to undergo a complete examination, if necessary, to pre-treat existing pathologies. nine0003
Also, as a prevention of ADHD, the following recommendations should be observed:
- The child should be active, walk outdoors more often.
- The regimen of the day and meals must be clear.
- Monitor the child's behavior, immediately stop unacceptable behavior on his part.
- It is very important to build a trusting relationship between parents and children.
- Family conflicts should be avoided. nine0025
At the first signs of ADHD, it is recommended to contact specialists who will help minimize the risk of developing more serious pathologies in the future.
You can learn more about the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder at a face-to-face appointment with a doctor. Be healthy!
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Attention deficit disorder - health articles
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (abbreviated as ADHD) is a certain disorder in the psycho-emotional development of a child. The first symptoms begin to bother from the age of three: the baby cannot sit still and tries in every possible way to attract attention to himself by deliberate disobedience. nine0003
Many parents do not consider it necessary to deal with hyperactivity in children, attributing bad behavior to a difficult age. However, in the future, the disease turns into serious problems for the student: inability to concentrate, poor progress, frequent criticism from teachers and friends, social isolation, and nervous breakdowns.
Hyperactivity is a dysfunction of the central nervous system. If left untreated in childhood, the disorder can greatly affect the quality of life of an adult. Therefore, it is worth seeking the advice of a specialist and conducting a comprehensive corrective therapy if you suspect a child has ADHD. nine0003
The development of ADHD is hidden in several reasons that have been established by scientists on the basis of facts. These reasons include: genetic predisposition; pathological influence.
Genetic predisposition is the first factor that does not exclude the development of malaise in the patient's relatives. Moreover, in this case, both distant heredity (i.e., the disease was diagnosed in ancestors) and near (parents, grandparents) play a huge role. The first signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in a child lead caring parents to a medical institution, where it turns out that the predisposition to the disease in a child is associated precisely with genes. After examining the parents, it often becomes clear where this syndrome came from in the child, since in 50% of cases this is exactly the case. Today it is known that scientists are working on isolating the genes that are responsible for this predisposition. Among these genes, an important role is given to DNA regions that control the regulation of dopamine levels. Dopamine is the main substance responsible for the correct functioning of the central nervous system. Dysregulation of dopamine due to genetic predisposition leads to the disease of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Pathological influence is of considerable importance in answering the question about the causes of the manifestation of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Pathological factors can serve as: the negative impact of narcotic substances; influence of tobacco and alcoholic products; premature or prolonged labor; interrupt threats. If a woman allowed herself to use illegal substances during pregnancy, then the possibility of having a child with hyperactivity or this syndrome is not excluded. There is a high probability of the presence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in a child born at 7–8 months of pregnancy, i.e. premature. nine0003
Attention deficit disorder is expressed primarily in hyperactivity and inattention of the child. These are the main symptoms of the disorder.
Signs of hyperactivity:
- A constant feeling of internal restlessness causes the child to fidget in the chair, jerk his legs, wave his arms or fiddle with something.
- Feelings of anxiety increase when adults are forced to be quiet and calm. This causes a backlash: the children respond to the request not to make noise with stormy laughter, stomping or jumping up from their seats. nine0025
- Hyperactivity is expressed in impulsive behavior. For example, a child shouts out an answer in class before the teacher has finished speaking the question. Or he may get into a fight because he is unable to wait his turn in the game competitions.
- Inattentiveness inherent in the hyperactivity syndrome is expressed as follows:
- Any task tires very quickly, just a couple of minutes after the start. It is almost impossible to focus on learning a new subject. Usually children are able to keep their attention on what they are really interested in. But in a child with ADHD, boredom and an absent-minded look appear in any activity, even in the one with which he “fired up” in the first minutes. nine0025
- Concentration problems develop distraction. Sitting down for homework in the language, the child opens a math notebook and does not notice that he is writing the text on a sheet in a cage. He forgets to write down information in a diary, he may forget his textbook and notebooks on his desk, or he may not hear a request addressed to him.
- There is a very poor memory. Trying to learn something by heart, a child can repeat a phrase twenty times and not reproduce it after a minute. This happens due to constant distractibility: children mechanically pronounce the words they are learning, but mentally follow the crawling fly on the wall or listen to the sounds from the street. nine0025
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is diagnosed using a questionnaire, behavioral observation of the child and MRI examination of the brain.
Asking questions to parents, the medical specialist builds a clinical picture, differentiating normal behavioral symptoms from actual abnormalities, in order to accurately determine whether it is ADHD or normal puberty.
Frontal brain scan serves both to investigate attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and to confirm the diagnosis. nine0003
Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
The best treatment option for ADHD is complex - psychological correction in combination with medications.
A lot depends on the actions of mothers and fathers. Do not constantly scold the baby for wrong actions and inappropriate behavior. It is much more useful to offer your help in cleaning things or preparing for school, to praise for the diligence shown and overcoming difficulties.