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10 Fast Facts about ADHD

We’ve all heard about, or know someone who suffers from, ADHD. But what exactly is this disorder, who does it affect, and would you recognize if you or someone close to you was struggling with it? Here are 10 fast facts about Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

1. It’s common.

ADHD affects between 4-12% of school aged children. It is about 3-4 times more common in male students and is usually not diagnosed until around age 12, though symptoms are often present well before age 7. 

2. It is not laziness.

Though we don’t know exactly what causes ADHD, we are constantly learning more and we do know some contributing factors, like that brain anatomy and function is different for those with ADHD, genetics play a strong role and ADHD often runs in families, and substance exposure prenatally (particularly alcohol or nicotine) is shown to have some contribution. Regardless of where it comes from, it is a difference in thought patterns and organization that cannot be helped or controlled and definitely isn’t a sign of laziness.

3. Symptoms vary.

ADHD can fall into 3 categories:

Inattentive type, which involves symptoms such as daydreaming, poor focus, poor task initiation or completion, disorganization, distractibility, and forgetfulness.

Hyperactive type, which involves fidgeting, impulsiveness, talking out of turn, inability to wait, the need to move often, or difficulty sitting quietly.

Or Combined type where symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity are present. Symptoms may present as mild, moderate, or severe and those affected will have varying levels of success in school, at home, or at work. Just because someone is earning good grades doesn’t mean that they aren’t struggling with symptoms that make success more difficult.

4. It often pairs with other diagnoses.

ADHD is often, but not always, accompanied by other mental health issues like learning disabilities, oppositional defiant disorder, depression, anxiety, or bipolar.

5. It has imitators. 

Conditions that should be ruled out before treating for ADHD include problems with vision or hearing, anemia, lead poisoning, thyroid disorders, or genetic conditions. Anxiety and depression can mimic ADHD as well, but there is a high percentage of people who will experience two of these issues or all three together.

6. It requires a medical diagnosis.

A thorough personal and family history, as well as lab work, physical exam, and standardized questionnaires should be used to make a diagnosis of ADHD. Talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns for you or your child and they should be able to start the evaluation process or refer you to a professional who can.

7. It may improve when treating other issues.

Anxiety and depression often occur simultaneously but should always be treated first to assess if symptoms of ADHD improve when the other diagnoses are managed.

8. Environment has to be considered.

ADHD symptoms need to be present in two or more settings for a diagnosis to be made. Problem behavior in just one setting with no issues elsewhere may indicate an underlying issue with parenting style or student-teacher relationship. 

9. Sleep is an issue.

There is a chicken-or-egg argument about whether ADHD causes sleep problems or if poor sleep contributes to ADHD symptoms; but either way, up to 50% of people diagnosed with ADHD also report some sort of sleep disturbance. Unfortunately, some of the medications used to manage ADHD can also contribute to trouble sleeping.

10. There is a variety of treatment available.

Treatment options range from behavior modification, to modifying environment and organization techniques, to therapy, to medication. It is often useful for parents of children with ADHD to also attend therapy, as coping with the disorder can often be a struggle. A combination of treatment choices typically yields the best results and treatment regimens may change over the years as circumstances change. For example, many people who took medication all through traditional school find that they no longer need it when they enter the workforce with a hands-on job and aren’t expected to sit quietly at a desk all day. Or others find that they managed well without medication in grade school and middle school, but suddenly need medications to cope with the added rigor of high school classes.

About the Author

Sarah Schulze, NP

Sarah Schulze is a certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, specializing in Behavioral Mental Health medication management for children, teenagers, and young adults. Her mission is to establish effective and lasting health practices, so that a client can optimize their quality of life. In her previous experience, Sarah has worked as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, where she provided services to clients ages 0 to 23 years-old in a private medical practice. She has experience working with ADHD, ODD, OCD, and other mental health issues.

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