ADHD can be difficult to identify. If you’re concerned you or a loved one is struggling with ADHD or ADD, this page outlines the warning signs, symptoms, and causes of this disorder.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Most commonly referred to as ADD (attention deficit disorder), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a diagnosis applied to children and adults who consistently display inattentive or impulsive behaviors over a period of time. While most people will exhibit some of these signs on occasion, it is not to the degree where such behaviors significantly interfere with work, relationships, or studies.
The symptom categories of ADHD fall into three classifications:
- predominantly inattentive type (more common in females)
- predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type
- combined type if criteria for both subtypes are met
Predominantly inattentive type symptoms may include:
- being easily distracted, missing details, and forgetting things
- having difficulty focusing on one thing
- become bored with a task after only a few minutes
- seeming not to listen when spoken to
- daydreaming, becoming easily confused, and moving slowly
- having difficulty processing information as quickly and accurately as others
- struggling to follow instructions
Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type symptoms may include:
- talking nonstop
- have trouble sitting still for sustained periods of time
- being constantly in motion
- having difficulty doing quiet tasks or activities
- being very impatient
- blurting out inappropriate comments, showing emotions without restraint, and acting without regard for consequences
Sufferers of ADHD with the combined type of the disorder are at higher risk of developing an addiction than those with a single type. They are also more likely to struggle with recovery and suffer repeated relapse than persons without the disorder.
What are the Effects of ADHD?
Women with undiagnosed ADHD may experience more intense symptoms of other mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
ADHD can produce a number of adverse effects in a person that may disrupt both personal and work or school relationships. Unaddressed ADHD can be associated with the development of addictive disorders, particularly if the sufferer attempts to ease the symptoms with drugs or alcohol.
Common effects of ADD include:
- low self-esteem
- social anxiety, which may progress to a full blown anxiety disorder
- self-mutilation or self- harming behaviors
- and attempts to self-medicate using drugs, alcohol, or binge eating
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
The most common visible signs of an ADHD / ADD sufferer include:
- distractibility (poor sustained attention to tasks)
- impulsivity (impaired impulse control and delay of gratification)
- hyperactivity (excessive activity and physical restlessness)
Diagnostic criteria focus on identifying symptoms that are:
- pervasive in all parts of the sufferer’s life
Crucial diagnostic considerations include that the symptoms must be present starting in childhood and create significant, ongoing disruptions in at least two areas of a person’s life, such as school, home, work, or social settings.
ADHD / ADD can persist throughout a person’s lifetime. It is not limited to children. Approximately one-half to two-thirds of children with ADHD will continue to have significant problems with ADHD symptoms as adults. It is possible for a high-performing individual to conceal her condition through over-compensation. This does not replace the need for effective treatment.
What are the Most Common Misconceptions About ADHD?
1. ADHD / ADD is not a real disorder
Studies over the last nine decades have consistently identified a condition causing individuals to have trouble with concentration, impulse control, and in some cases, hyperactivity. While the name given to this condition and our understanding of it has changed a number of times over the decades, the symptoms described have remained consistent. Currently called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, this syndrome has been recognized as a disability by the courts, the United States Department of Education, the Office for Civil Rights, the United States Congress, the National Institutes of Health, and all major professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, and educational associations.
2. People with ADHD / ADD lack self-discipline
Skeptics often claim that suffers are making excuses rather than taking responsibility for their actions, which belies the serious consequences of untreated cases. Those undergoing treatment for ADHD / ADD are routinely taught that ADHD / ADD is a challenge, not an excuse. Treatment helps correct underlying issues, giving sufferers a fair chance of facing the challenges of being productive citizens on a more leveled playing field.
3. ADHD / ADD is caused by bad parenting
A persistent attitude holds that child misbehavior is a moral problem, and that the child has not been taught proper behavior. This may be worsened by the fact that ADHD tends to run in families. About one in four children with ADHD have at least one relative with the disorder.
Under this model, the recommended approach has been to resort to disciplinary actions, including corporal punishment (spankings, beatings). However it has been demonstrated that simply providing more discipline without any other type of intervention worsens rather than improves the behavior of those with ADHD, in fact it can be traumatizing and lead to feelings of shame. The resulting damage to self-esteem can be a primary trigger for abuse of alcohol and other prescription or illicit drugs, or an eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia.
ADHD is a serious psychiatric disorder that can cause life-altering complications if not treated effectively by a medical professional. Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center is a leader in helping women and adolescent girls with ADHD overcome eating disorders, substance abuse and drug addiction, and other co-occurring disorders. Read more about our ADHD treatment program.