ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a psychiatric neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by trouble focusing or paying attention, difficulty controlling impulsive behaviors and excessive activity.
ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood. It sometimes carries into adulthood, but many symptoms may disappear or lessen over time. While all children are overly hyperactive and have trouble focusing from time to time, those with ADHD exhibit these behaviors consistently over a long period of time. They also usually cause problems at home, school, and in recreational or extracurricular activities.
Children with ADHD may not follow through on tasks, get easily distracted and are often very forgetful. They may have trouble sitting still without fidgeting, run or climb in inappropriate places, talk excessively and have trouble waiting their turn. Their behavior may seem like it is developmentally behind what it should be for their age group.
ADHD is difficult to diagnose and usually is a multistep process. Doctors will start with medical tests, such as for vision or hearing, to make sure there isn’t some other problem. From there, they may give parents, teachers or even the child a checklist of common ADHD symptoms and behaviors. Healthcare professionals also must make sure there aren’t other emotional, behavioral or developmental disorders present.
Although ADHD currently doesn’t have a cure, it can be managed through behavioral therapy and medication. The first line of treatment for ADHD in patients of all ages is behavioral therapy. Social skills training, family therapy and behavioral modification have all proven to be effective treatments, especially in mild cases and for preschool aged patients. Regular exercise has also been shown to result in better behavior.
Treatments should continue beyond the home or doctor’s office. Schools or recreational programs should adapt to assist a child with ADHD. Providing a clear structure and schedule, modified work assignments, additional time and preferred seating can all help a child with ADHD succeed.
For older children or adults, or for extreme cases, medication can be used alongside behavioral therapy to help control symptoms.