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ADD/ADHD: Warning Signs, Diagnosis, and Treatment

We often think of overactive, fidgety kids when we think of attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). Symptoms of this disorder tend to present in childhood and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that around 6.5 million children in the U.S. have ADHD . In addition, around 5% of adults in the U.S. have ADHD–and it is harder to get diagnosed as an adult, especially for women. My Psychiatrist will help diagnose ADD / ADHD and provide the proper treatment at both of our Florida locations.

Types Of ADHD

There are three distinct types of ADD / ADHD that may present themselves through different symptoms: inattentive, hyper-impulsive, and a combination of the two. Inattention can describe patients who are easily distracted during everyday activities; hyper-impulsivity can describe those who may struggle to pause or slow down during conversation, have difficulty remaining still, or often make impulsive choices regardless of consequences. It is not uncommon for those suffering from ADHD to be dealing with a combination of symptoms related to both inattention and hyper-impulsivity.

How is ADD/ADHD Diagnosed?

ADD/ADHD cannot be diagnosed just by looking at someone. Instead, qualified healthcare providers utilize criteria to provide that diagnosis. Some of that criteria comes directly from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-V). In order for someone to be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, they must present with the following:

  • Symptoms must have occurred prior to 12 years old
  • Symptoms are noticeable in various settings, such as at home and at school
  • Symptoms must negatively impede upon an individual’s daily life
  • Symptoms cannot be better explained by another mental health condition

When an individual meets those criteria, a healthcare provider will then attempt to gather more information to help make the proper ADD/ADHD diagnosis. They will consider symptoms directly related to the two types of ADD/ADHD to make this conclusion:

Inattentive Type

  • Makes regular careless mistakes
  • Forgets things often
  • Distracted easily
  • Cannot pay attention to one activity
  • Does not follow through with instructions
  • Has problems organizing
  • Does not appear to listen when being talked to

Hyperactive Type

  • Difficulty waiting their turn
  • Interrupts and/or intrudes in conversations
  • Excessive talking
  • Moves a lot during times when moving around is not appropriate
  • Ignores instructions to stay in one place 
  • Squirms regularly
  • Can’t engage in activities quietly

Healthcare professionals will talk with their patients and/or their parents to learn more about what kinds of symptoms are being displayed when at home, school, etc. They may also take note of the patient’s behavior while in the office to help get a better sense of what type of ADD/ADHD they may be experiencing. 

How is ADD/ADHD Treated?

ADD/ADHD is one of the most treatable conditions there is. Since the vast majority of those who grapple with ADD/ADHD are children and adolescents, there are several different therapeutic treatments available. These therapies are often tried first prior to prescribing medication due to the young age of most patients.

Therapy

Just like adults, all children have their own unique experiences with ADD/ADHD. Therefore, there are a number of therapies that are able to be used so that all young individuals with this condition can learn how to better cope with it.

Some of the most common therapies utilized in the treatment of ADD/ADHD include the following:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Play therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Support groups
  • Family therapy
  • Psychoeducation

In many cases, therapy alone is not enough to treat ADD/ADHD in children (or adults). As a result, medications may be prescribed to help improve symptoms.

Medications

Prescription medications can make a world of difference for those with ADD/ADHD, as they can help balance out their unpredictable impulsive behaviors and improve their focus. The medications that have proven to be most effective in treating ADD/ADHD include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Dexedrine
  • Vyvanse

In most cases, those with ADD / ADHD will be treated with a stimulant medication (including those listed above). Some with this mental health condition may be treated with cognition-enhancing medications like guanfacine or atomoxatine, while others may be treated with antihypertensive drugs like clonidine. 

Living With and Coping With ADD/ADHD

ADD/ADHD can be extremely frustrating to live with, regardless of if you are an adult or a child. That is because this particular condition can be both physically and mentally exhausting. When symptoms are not properly treated, individuals can experience uncontrollable impulsivity and hyperactivity, as well as constantly have difficulty in their lives due to misplacing their belongings, forgetting important things, struggling to stay organized, and so on. That is why getting the appropriate treatment for this condition is absolutely vital, especially for children and adolescents. 

When treatment is obtained, those with ADD/ADHD can begin developing and incorporating coping skills into their lives. These coping skills can help to reduce both the presence and intensity of symptoms, helping to dramatically improve upon one’s quality of life. These skills can be learned in behavioral therapies, group therapy, support groups, and more. When combined with medication, those with ADD/ADHD can really begin to see improvement. 

How to Know When to See a Psychiatrist for ADD/ADHD

If you are concerned that you or your child is experiencing ADD/ADHD, the most important thing you can do is reach out for help. Your healthcare provider is going to want to know as much as possible about you or your child’s behaviors to help make the correct diagnosis. You should contact a psychiatrist if you or your child are displaying any or all of the following behaviors:

  • Inability to sit still
  • Problems staying focused
  • Unable to pay attention
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Constant forgetfulness
  • Being regularly disorganized
  • Problems waiting turns 
  • Interrupting constantly

When these symptoms present themselves and are difficult to control independently, seeing a psychiatrist should be a top priority. The sooner that treatment is obtained for ADD/ADHD, the better the overall outcome. 

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