In recent years, ADHD has received more and more public attention. Rates of diagnosis have increased in children nationwide – 11% of all American children had been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011, compared to 7.8% in 2003 and 9.5% in 2007.[i] Understandably, such an increase has provoked skepticism and concern about the validity of the diagnosis, particularly as treatment for the disorder usually involves stimulant medications that can be easily abused. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why, in 2011 CDC data, statistics showed that less than a third of all US children over 6 with ADHD were receiving both medication and behavioral therapy as is generally recommended, and nearly 20% of children with the disorder were receiving neither.[ii] Plenty of people are skeptical about whether ADHD is all that serious a problem, when many of the symptoms seem to be simply magnified versions of normal behavior for children.
But in truth ADHD is a serious disorder, and left untreated it can and often will damage lives. ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; it used to be diagnosed as a different disorder from ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder, but as of recent years, the two are no longer considered separate by the American Psychiatric Association.[iii] The disorder always starts in childhood, although it may not always be diagnosed then, and people with it are grouped into three types based on the symptoms they display: Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined.[iv] As you might guess, people with inattentive type ADHD can be distracted, forgetful, and have difficulty staying on task, while those with hyperactive-impulsive type will often fidget with things, blurt out their thoughts out of turn, and be constantly in motion. People with combined type ADHD, the most common type, display many symptoms of both the other types. So how does this adversely affect people with the disorder? According to the CDC, children with ADHD have far more problems with their peers than those without the disorder – parents reported 3 times as many peer problems, and ADHD increased the likelihood of difficulties that interfered with friendships by 10 times. Furthermore, children with ADHD were significantly more likely to suffer injury, and young adults were at greater risk of drinking and driving or being involved in a car crash.[v] This is without even discussing any academic difficulties that result from being unable to focus in class or complete homework assignments. Even if it might seem like a minor problem, ADHD does in fact have a pronounced effect on those who suffer from it, and taking it lightly only makes these problems worse.
ADHD in adults is, if anything, even less known or understood by the general public. Often it is seen as a disorder that affects children, one that can be grown out of, but in fact around half of all children with ADHD will continue to suffer from it in adulthood.[vi] Under the burdens and responsibilities an adult faces, the symptoms of their ADHD manifest differently than in childhood. Adults with ADHD can have trouble with following directions and properly organizing their tasks, finishing work on time, and even arriving to work or other appointments promptly. The CDC estimates that across 10 countries, ADHD was associated with 143.8 million lost days of productivity, along with an increased likelihood of taking sick days.[vii] And that’s not all – people with ADHD will often develop problems with anxiety, depression, mood swings and low self-esteem, and are likelier to have relationship problems or struggle with substance abuse.[viii] Far from something to grow out of with maturity, ADHD left untreated can be a serious problem in adults, and needs to be taken seriously and managed well if those with it are to adapt and thrive in adult society.
People with ADHD are often creative and brilliant, but they face many obstacles to success in their day-to-day lives, whether they grow out of it with childhood or carry it into their adult lives. It is important to understand that children and adults with this disorder are being challenged every day, rather than laughing it off as something easy to fix or even a simple character flaw. With treatment and careful management of their ADHD, these people can find success as surely as their peers, and even turn some of their symptoms into personal strengths; and, while doing so is for the most part something they have to take care of themselves, understanding and support can make that process far easier on them. The disorder may be an obstacle to living well, but that doesn’t have to mean they can’t find success in their personal or professional lives by any means.
ADHD - DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT AND CAREFUL MANAGEMENT by UrbanSculpt Staff Writer Elektra Christensen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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