ADHD Today: The Changes and What You Need To Know
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, is usually thought of as a children’s disorder for inattentive, unruly, highly distractible kids. However, there is more to ADHD than what you might have heard.
In the most recent update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (or DSM-5), ADHD is now classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder rather than its former classification of a disruptive behavior disorder. This is a significant revision because researchers have found that children develop ADHD due to their brain chemistry, not because of the way they choose to act. There are other disorders like Conduct Disorder and Oppositional Defiance Disorder that may co-occur with ADHD, but these disorders are still classified as behavioral and not to be confused with ADHD.
Secondly, nearly two decades of studies by medical and mental health professionals have shown that even though this disorder begins in the childhood years, it is possible for it to continue into adulthood. There is no age at which a person may “grow out of” ADHD. This is a huge positive for adults who require treatment for ADHD symptoms and could have been misdiagnosed previously with older versions of the DSM or told they no longer had ADHD when they may have and then continued to struggle in their daily lives.
It is very likely that ADHD is genetic; however, there may also be environmental, social, and/or nutritional factors to consider in the cause of its development. It is also possible that women who smoked or drank during pregnancy may increase their child’s chance of developing ADHD.
This disorder can be broken down into three subtypes: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, or a combination of both. Children up to age 16 must exhibit at least six symptoms listed in the diagnostic criteria while adolescents age 17 and older and adults must exhibit at least five symptoms to be diagnosed with ADHD. The criteria are as follows:
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or squirms in seat.
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected (e.g., leaves his or her place in the classroom, in the office or other workplace, or in other situations that require remaining in place).
- Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate (e.g., in adolescents or adults, may be limited to feeling restless).
- Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly;
- Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor” (e.g., is unable to be or uncomfortable being still for extended time, as in restaurants, meetings; may be experienced by others as being restless or difficult to keep up with).
- Often talks excessively.
- Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed (e.g., completes people’s sentences; cannot wait for turn in conversation).
- Often has difficulty awaiting turn (e.g., while waiting in line).
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g. butts into conversations, games, or activities; may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving permission; for adolescents and adults, may intrude into or take over what others are doing).
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or during other activities (e.g. overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).
- Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities (e.g., has difficulty remaining focused during lectures, conversations, or lengthy reading).
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction).
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish school work, chores, or duties in the work place (e.g., starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked).
- Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g., difficulty managing sequential tasks; difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order; messy, disorganized work; has poor time management; fails to meet deadlines).
- Often avoids or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g. schoolwork or homework; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, reviewing lengthy papers).
- Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses and mobile telephones).
- Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (e.g., for older adolescents and adults may include unrelated thoughts).
- Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g., doing chores, running errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments).
One final note: be aware that ADHD is often misdiagnosed, unfortunately. A child may actually have a behavioral disorder, sensory issues, or emotional disturbance. To be sure, it is a good idea to work closely with doctors and therapists to ensure your child receives the correct treatment.
If you believe your child, you, or someone you love is struggling with symptoms of ADHD, please visit a medical professional for further testing and exploring the possibility of medication. It may also be helpful to see a mental health professional for assistance in coping with disruptive behaviors and forming new, more positive ones. Please give us a call or email at 303-353-9226 or email@example.com to talk to a professional and schedule an appointment.
– Christie Sears Thompson, MA