What is ADHD? Facts and Misconceptions

Amanda Luzzader

Closer clinical examination of the disorder has resulted in greater understanding, better treatments, and less social stigma.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (abbreviated ADHD) has received a lot of attention in recent years. There was a time not so long ago when people (especially kids) who had chronic difficulty concentrating or settling down were stigmatized as unruly, scatterbrained, and intractable. Even as recently as the 1990s, medical professionals were still struggling to get a clinical handle on the disorder, its aspects and variations, and treatment options. In recent decades, closer clinical examination of the disorder has resulted in greater understanding, better treatments, and less social stigma.

In this three-part article, we’ll discuss facts and misconceptions about ADHD and also what to do if you suspect that you or someone you know is dealing with the disorder. Let’s begin with some baseline facts and information.

What is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?According to WebMD, ADHD is considered a brain-based disorder that can interfere with a person’s ability to follow instructions, concentrate on tasks, and it can sometimes involve hyperactive and impulsive behavior. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children, and it may persist into adulthood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood.

What is the difference between Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?There used to be a difference, but there isn’t one anymore. In the mid-1990s, the medical community concluded that all forms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) would be grouped within the classification of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and differentiated by various types. These types are (1) “inattentive type,” (2) “hyperactive/impulsive type,” and (3) “combined type.” The diagnosis of ADHD types is mostly a matter of determining how the disorder presents itself in terms of behavior. When seeking treatment for ADHD, it’s important to work with an experienced medical care provider to arrive at the proper diagnosis, because treatment of different individuals and ADHD types will vary.

What are the symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?Most children occasionally have difficulty concentrating and following directions. Many children also exhibit hyperactive behavior, and many are at times impulsive (acting without considering results or consequences). However, when a child has ADHD, difficulty concentrating, inability to follow directions and hyperactive and impulsive behaviors are chronic and severe. Also, as many parents know, a child with ADHD will often have significant behavior problems at home and school.

The CDC states that a child with ADHD might:

-daydream a lot-forget or lose things a lot-squirm or fidget-talk too much-make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks-have a hard time resisting temptation-have trouble taking turns-have difficulty getting along with others

Can adults have Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?Yes, they can. According to an online article published by the Mayo Clinic, ADHD usually begins and is diagnosed during a person’s childhood, but the disorder may follow children into adulthood. In many cases, a child with ADHD is not diagnosed until they are an adult. This may be because the symptoms and complications of ADHD have weightier consequences (e.g., employment problems, failed relationships) for adults than for children.

In a 2021 article published by Psychiatric Times, the issue of adult-onset ADHD is raised. While the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5) states that ADHD is a disorder that develops before 12 years of age, the Psychiatric Times reports on four recent studies of adult-onset ADHD. Three of the studies show study subject developing the disorder during their teenage years, and the fourth shows subjects who did not have ADHD symptoms as children or teens, but did have symptoms at age 38.

The symptoms of adult ADHD and adult-onset ADHD are similar to those outlined above, but may exhibit themselves in more serious ways. The Mayo Clinic lists them this way:

-Impulsiveness-Disorganization and problems prioritizing-Poor time management skills-Problems focusing on a task-Trouble multitasking-Excessive activity or restlessness-Poor planning-Low frustration tolerance-Frequent mood swings-Problems following through and completing tasks-Hot temper-Trouble coping with stress

Now that we have some basic information, definitions, and fact about ADHD, we’ll delve deeper in the second part of this article by discussing some of the myths and misconceptions of ADHD.

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