What is ADHD? Symptoms and Treatments

What is ADHD? symptoms and treatments

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological condition characterised by patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that are more frequent and severe than typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development. ADHD is not restricted to children; it can continue into adulthood and throughout one’s lifetime. The condition is often identified during childhood, especially when it leads to disruptive behaviour in educational settings.

Globally, ADHD affects about 5% of children and 2.5% of adults, according to estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO). These figures illustrate the widespread nature of the condition, highlighting its significance as a public health concern. 

In Australia, the prevalence of ADHD is consistent with global trends. Research indicates that approximately 7.4% of Australian children and adolescents are affected by ADHD. This statistic points to a considerable number of young individuals requiring support and intervention to navigate the challenges posed by the disorder. For adults, the prevalence rate is estimated to be around 2.6%, underscoring the fact that ADHD is not only a childhood condition but also persists into adulthood for many.

ADHD Vs ADD 

The term ADD was primarily used before the publication of the DSM-IV in 1994. Since then, the understanding of the condition has evolved, and ADD has been subsumed under the broader category of ADHD, specifically referring to the Predominantly Inattentive Presentation. 

The transition from using ADD to ADHD, including the Predominantly Inattentive Presentation, reflects a more nuanced understanding of the disorder. It recognises that attention deficits can occur with or without hyperactivity and that individuals can present a wide range of symptoms that affect their daily functioning in diverse settings, such as academic, occupational, and social environments.

In essence, the difference between ADHD and ADD lies in the evolution of the terminology and diagnostic criteria over time. ADD is no longer a term used in official diagnostic manuals but is understood to refer to the subset of ADHD symptoms that focus on inattention without overt hyperactivity and impulsivity. 

What Are The Symptoms Of ADHD? 

ADHD in Women: What are the symptoms?

ADHD Symptoms In Women 

ADHD in women can manifest differently from the classic symptoms commonly observed in men and boys, leading to underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis. Women with ADHD often experience symptoms that are more internalised, making them less obvious to external observers. These differences can affect the recognition and understanding of ADHD in women, impacting their chances of receiving an accurate diagnosis and appropriate support.

Here are the symptoms of ADHD in women: 

  • Inattentiveness

Women with ADHD might find it challenging to concentrate on tasks, often seeming to daydream or lose focus during conversations. They may struggle with organisation, leading to difficulties managing day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.

  • Hyperfocus

Paradoxically, some women with ADHD can become excessively absorbed in activities that interest them, to the point where they may neglect other important tasks or responsibilities.

  • Emotional Sensitivity

Increased sensitivity to rejection, criticism, and emotional stimuli is common. Emotional dysregulation, including sudden mood swings and intense emotional responses, can be more pronounced.

  • Impulsivity

This may be less about physically impulsive actions and more about impulsive decisions, such as spending money recklessly or changing plans on a whim.

  • Hyperactivity

In women, hyperactivity often presents as a feeling of restlessness rather than the more observable physical hyperactivity seen in boys. They might feel an inner restlessness or struggle with staying still for prolonged periods.

  • Disorganisation and Time Management Issues

Struggling with organising tasks, prioritising them effectively, and managing time efficiently are common challenges.

  • Low Self-esteem and Self-doubt

Due to a history of struggles with inattention, impulsivity, and the societal pressures women face, those with ADHD often experience low self-esteem and chronic self-doubt.

Historically, ADHD was perceived as a condition primarily affecting boys, with male children being diagnosed far more frequently than females. However, this understanding has evolved. It is now recognised that ADHD affects both sexes, but the condition may be underdiagnosed in women and girls due to differences in symptom presentation and societal expectations.

The chances of a woman having ADHD are similar to those of a man when considering the broader spectrum of ADHD symptoms beyond the hyperactive-impulsive type more commonly identified in boys. Increased awareness and understanding of how ADHD manifests in women are leading to more women being diagnosed and treated in adulthood.’

ADHD in Men: What are the symptoms?

ADHD Symptoms in Men 

The most current statistics indicate that ADHD affects a significant number of men worldwide, although the exact prevalence can vary depending on the diagnostic criteria used and the population studied. According to recent data highlighted in studies, ADHD impacts males more frequently than females, with a noted prevalence in boys during childhood and persisting into adulthood for many.

Here are the most common ADHD symptoms in Men:

  • Hyperactivity 

Men with ADHD may display physical restlessness, a tendency to fidget, or an inability to stay still for long periods. This is often more noticeable in childhood but can manifest as restlessness and a need for constant activity in adulthood.

  • Impulsivity

This can include making quick decisions without considering the consequences, interrupting others during conversations, impulsively starting and stopping tasks, or engaging in risky behaviour.

  • Inattention

Difficulty focusing on tasks, especially those that are repetitive or deemed uninteresting, is common. Men with ADHD might struggle to complete tasks, follow instructions, or maintain organisation in their personal and professional lives.

  • Difficulty Managing Anger and Frustration

Men with ADHD may have a low tolerance for frustration and can experience intense anger outbursts. They might struggle to manage stress and frustration in healthy ways.

  • Time Management Problems

Procrastination, underestimating the time required to complete tasks, and struggling with punctuality are common challenges.

  • Relationship Issues

The symptoms of ADHD, such as inattention, forgetfulness, and impulsivity, can strain relationships with partners, family, and friends.

  • Substance Abuse

There is an increased risk of substance abuse among men with ADHD, possibly as a form of self-medication for their symptoms.

ADHD in Kids vs Women: What are the symptoms

ADHD Symptoms in Kids

The current prevalence of ADHD in children has shown a slight increase over recent years. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 9.8% of children aged 3–17 years were reported to have been diagnosed with ADHD, based on data from 2016-2019. Another source indicates that from 2016 to 2020, the prevalence of childhood ADHD increased from 8.9% to 9.3%. This reflects a growing recognition of ADHD and possibly an increase in the number of children being diagnosed with the condition. 

Here are the 3 most common ADHD symptoms in kids:

  • Inattention

Difficulty sustaining attention, not following through on tasks, and an apparent lack of listening when spoken to directly.

  • Hyperactivity

Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat; leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.

  • Impulsivity

Blurting out answers before questions have been completed, difficulty waiting for one’s turn, and interrupting or intruding on others.

 

Known ADHD Treatments

There are a few medications and treatments that are currently being prescribed for ADHD patients. However, if symptoms of ADHD may be related, the best thing to do is to consult a medical professional and avoid self-diagnosis. 

well-established medical treatments for ADHD patients are divided into several categories.

Medications

Stimulants

These are the most widely used medications for treating ADHD. They work by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain, which helps to improve concentration and reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity. Examples include methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Concerta) and amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse).

Non-stimulants

Usually used for patients who don’t respond well to stimulants or have side effects. Non-stimulants, such as atomoxetine (Strattera), do not increase dopamine levels quickly, reducing the risk of abuse. They can improve attention and impulsivity by enhancing noradrenaline function in the brain, though they may take longer to show effects.

Psychotherapy

Behavioural Therapy

Focuses on changing negative behaviours into positive ones through reinforcement strategies. It’s particularly beneficial for children, helping them develop organisational skills, complete tasks, and manage their behaviour.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

Helps adults and older children recognise and alter thought patterns that contribute to ADHD symptoms, improving time management and organisational skills, and reducing impulsive behaviour.

Lifestyle Adjustments and Support

Educational Support

Tailored educational plans can help children with ADHD succeed in school. Techniques include breaking tasks into smaller steps and providing clear and concise instructions.

Diet and Exercise

Though there are no direct treatments for ADHD, a balanced diet and regular exercise can help improve overall brain health and reduce symptoms.

Sleep

Adequate sleep is crucial for managing ADHD symptoms. Establishing regular sleep routines can help reduce inattention and impulsivity.

Alternative Treatments

Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those found in fish oil, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have been studied for their potential benefits in managing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 

Omega-3 may help in enhancing brain function, modulating neurotransmitters (notably dopamine and serotonin, which are implicated in ADHD), reducing inflammation, and supporting Neurodevelopment. 

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation have garnered attention as complementary approaches for managing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These practices involve paying deliberate, non-judgemental attention to the present moment, which can be particularly beneficial for individuals with ADHD, who often experience difficulties with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. 

Additionally, meditation may also help in enhancing focus, reducing impulsivity, managing stress & anxiety, and improving executive functioning.

Medical Cannabis 

The use of medical cannabis in the treatment of ADHD is still a subject of ongoing research. While not universally accepted or extensively researched, some evidence and preliminary studies suggest potential benefits. 

Certain strains of medical cannabis (particularly high in cannabidiol) might help improve focus as cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, known for its calming effects, which could potentially counteract difficulties with concentration and attention associated with ADHD.

Additionally, the anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) and antidepressant properties of CBD, along with the sedative effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis), may help alleviate these symptoms, indirectly supporting the management of ADHD.

The use of medical cannabis led to a 30% to 81% improvement in depression scores. Similarly, scores for anxiety saw an enhancement of up to 27%. Scores related to emotional regulation experienced an increase ranging from 22% to 78%, and scores for inattention saw improvements between 7% and 30%. To know more about this, please read the study from cfah.org

Despite these potential benefits, the use of medical cannabis for ADHD comes with significant considerations and cautions. The legal status of medical cannabis varies by country and region, and it may not be a legally sanctioned treatment option for ADHD in many places. Please be sure to consult with professionals to know more about this treatment.

 
Written by

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.

Written by

Priyom holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Madras, India. She is an active researcher and an experienced science writer. Priyom has also co-authored several original research articles that have been published in reputed peer-reviewed journals. She is also an avid reader and an amateur photographer.

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