What's ADHD and How Is It Treated? (2023)

Have you ever had trouble concentrating, found it hard to sit still, interrupted others during a conversation, or acted impulsively despite the chance of injury?

While most people — children and adults — experience all of these challenges from time to time, people living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may face them constantly.

Symptoms of ADHD will affect how you function, and in children, can interfere with development.

So if you have ADHD, you might be wondering: Can I grow out of it? Can it get worse? What treatments work best for me? Why do I have so many bad ADHD days lately?

These questions and concerns are natural and not uncommon. With the right information, you can learn just what ADHD is about and how you can cope.

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects how you behave.

Symptoms often include ongoing, persistent patterns of inattention, an inability to focus, hyperactivity, or impulsivity. These patterns may lead you to face challenges in how you function daily and develop skills.

ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood — around ages 6-12 — but symptoms can become apparent at any age.

A late ADHD diagnosis might mean you’ve had symptoms since childhood, but they were either misdiagnosed or missed.

About 11% of children, 8.7% of adolescents, and 4.4% of adults in the United States live with symptoms of ADHD. It’s more commonly diagnosed in males than females.

Not everyone experiences ADHD in the same way though.

Depending on the type of ADHD you have and your symptoms, some common challenges include:

  • hyperactivity: fidgeting, excessive talking, or restlessness
  • impulsivity: difficulty waiting for your turn or giving in to urges

You may also have a combo of both hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms.

(Video) What's the Most Effective Treatment for ADHD

ADHD can feel and look different for everyone. Symptoms of ADHD in adults might differ from symptoms of ADHD in children, for example.

You might have a different experience with ADHD than another adult also diagnosed with the condition. This isn’t uncommon.

Symptoms will also depend on the type of ADHD you have. You may tend to experience ADHD procrastination or perhaps have difficulty waiting for your turn.

There are three main types of ADHD, which are called specifiers in the DSM-5:

  • Inattentive ADHD: This type is primarily characterized by difficulty paying attention or focusing on a task. There’s also a tendency to be easily distracted. No hyperactivity symptoms are usually present.
  • Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD: This type is mainly characterized by extreme, excessive, or disruptive behavior and low impulse control. Distractibility or difficulty focusing is rarely seen in this case. This is the least common type of ADHD.
  • Combined ADHD: The most common type. It combines symptoms of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types.

General symptoms of ADHD include:

  • forgetfulness
  • being easily distracted
  • losing or misplacing things
  • abrupt or impulsive behavior
  • lack of motivation for specific activities or in general
  • difficulty organizing or completing tasks
  • not being able to follow instructions
  • constantly moving from one activity to another
  • engaging in behaviors that might put you or others in jeopardy
  • having a hard time focusing on a conversation

The exact cause of ADHD in either adults or children isn’t yet known. Experts believe it’s probably a combination of factors, including:

  • genetics
  • brain development
  • early life experiences
  • co-occurring conditions
  • brain injuries

There are no specific tests, such as C-rays or lab work, to diagnose ADHD. There are a few psychological tests, though.

The condition is usually diagnosed after spending a few sessions with a health professional.

Whether you’re concerned about your child’s behaviors or your own, a health professional will want to learn more about specific symptoms and when they began. They’ll probably also ask about your personal and family medical history.

Both ADHD and Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are neurodevelopmental disorders. This means they affect your brain and central nervous system in specific ways.

This doesn’t mean they’re associated or parallel conditions.

Although different diagnoses, symptoms of ADHD and autism do sometimes overlap. In fact, research indicates that approximately 1 in 8 children with ADHD have also received an ASD diagnosis.

The exact cause of this co-occurrence isn’t yet clear.

(Video) ADHD Medication

ADHD and bipolar disorder are also two separate and different mental health conditions, but they sometimes overlap.

A 2021 literature review found that 1 in 13 adults with ADHD also received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

The same review indicated that nearly 1 in 6 adults living with bipolar disorder was also diagnosed with ADHD.

Some children and adults with ADHD experience symptoms of anxiety disorders, though the connection between the two hasn’t been established.

(Video) How to Treat ADHD [Without Medication]

If you live with ADHD, it might be challenging to distinguish between the symptoms of this condition and the signs of anxiety.

ADHD mainly affects your behaviors and ability to focus on a task. On the other hand, anxiety mostly refers to intense feelings of worry and fear.

Despite the differences, it’s estimated that symptoms of the two conditions overlap in about 25% of the cases.

No matter what age you were diagnosed at, ADHD can be treated and symptoms can be managed.

ADHD isn’t something you spontaneously “grow out” of, though. It requires the help of a health professional in most cases.

Some of the common treatment options for ADHD include:

  • medication
  • psychotherapy
  • behavior management

In many instances, a combination of all is necessary.

If you live with ADHD and other mental health conditions, your healthcare team might want to address first those symptoms that affect you the most.

Children with ADHD often undergo treatments based on behavioral therapy and medication. This depends on the particulars of the case, though. Bringing your child’s pediatrician into the conversation might offer you additional insight on the best options for them.

There are many types of prescription medications and over-the-counter options that are used to treat ADHD in both children and adults.

A physician, psychiatrist, or pediatrician will typically try different drugs and dosages to find the one that works best for you and your symptoms.

The process can sometimes take a while.

It’s natural to feel impatient or concerned about your treatment. You might even wonder if ADHD medication will change your personality or affect you in other ways. There’s no evidence to suggest this will be the case.

(Video) What is Adult ADHD? How is it treated? with Psychiatrist Dr Stephen Humphries

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by a new diagnosis and all the treatment options that you might have to choose from.

ADHD can be managed, though. And you can be an active participant in this process.

In addition to medication and therapy, there are a few things you can do on your own to help you cope.

Some ways to support your ADHD treatment include:

  • eating a balanced diet daily that includes plenty of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • getting plenty of exercise and activity throughout the day.
  • getting enough sleep. A minimum of 7 hours is recommended.
  • going out for walks or spending time outdoors every day
  • keeping your environment clutter-free
  • limiting screen time, including TV, computers, tablets, and phones
  • setting alarms and reminders for your to-dos or special dates
  • working on one thing at a time rather than multitasking
  • limiting distractions like loud noise, calendar pings, and keeping your phone within reaching distance all the time
  • keeping a list or journal to record some of your symptoms and experiences

In time and with practice, you can develop strategies that help you increase your concentration and control your impulses.

Every child and adult with ADHD is unique. ADHD doesn’t change who you are, only how you behave in some situations.

It’s definitely advisable to seek the help of a health professional to treat ADHD symptoms. It might be crucial to do so immediately if you’re:

  • giving in to urges and impulses that put your and other people’s safety at risk
  • thinking of hurting you or others
  • not being able to function in your daily life
  • experiencing physical symptoms
  • living with symptoms of other conditions such as depression or anxiety

ADHD can be managed and treatment options are available for both children and adults.

If you or a loved one are interested in learning more about the condition or seeking diagnosis and treatment, these resources can help:

FAQs

How is ADHD treated? ›

ADHD can be treated using medicine or therapy, but a combination of both is often best.
...
Medicine
  • methylphenidate.
  • lisdexamfetamine.
  • dexamfetamine.
  • atomoxetine.
  • guanfacine.

What ADHD means? ›

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What is ADHD and what causes it? ›

Overview. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often continues into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

What are the 4 ways ADHD can be treated? ›

Standard treatments for ADHD in children include medications, behavior therapy, counseling and education services. These treatments can relieve many of the symptoms of ADHD , but they don't cure it. It may take some time to determine what works best for your child.

What is the most successful treatment for ADHD? ›

The research is clear: ADHD medication paired with behavioral therapy is the most effective treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children — particularly those who also exhibit oppositional behavior.

What is a person with ADHD like? ›

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It's caused by brain differences that affect attention and behavior in set ways. For example, people with ADHD are more easily distracted than people who don't have it. ADHD can make it harder to focus, listen well, wait, or take your time.

What does a person with ADHD act like? ›

People with ADHD will have at least two or three of the following challenges: difficulty staying on task, paying attention, daydreaming or tuning out, organizational issues, and hyper-focus, which causes us to lose track of time. ADHD-ers are often highly sensitive and empathic.

Is ADHD a mental illness or condition? ›

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. Symptoms of ADHD include inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought).

Why is ADHD so serious? ›

Individuals with ADHD can be very successful in life. However, without identification and proper treatment, ADHD may have serious consequences, including school failure, family stress and disruption, depression, problems with relationships, substance abuse, delinquency, accidental injuries and job failure.

Is ADHD made or born? ›

ADHD tends to run in families and, in most cases, it's thought the genes you inherit from your parents are a significant factor in developing the condition. Research shows that parents and siblings of someone with ADHD are more likely to have ADHD themselves.

What does ADHD do to the brain? ›

ADHD affects brain functioning in several ways. The condition has links to abnormal cognitive, behavioral, and motivational functioning. ADHD can affect the regulation of moods, emotions, and brain cell connections. It can also affect communication between different areas of the brain.

How do you stop ADHD without medication? ›

What Helps ADHD Naturally? A well-balanced diet, exercise, and meditation are all good options for individuals looking to reduce their ADHD symptoms. However, while these natural ADHD remedies may reduce the severity of certain ADHD symptoms, they do not address the individual's underlying brain dysregulation.

What is the number one treatment for ADHD? ›

ADHD specialists recommend methylphenidates as the first-choice medication for treating children and adolescents, and amphetamines as the first-choice medication for adults.

Is ADHD a disability? ›

Yes. Whether you view attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as neurological — affecting how the brain concentrates or thinks — or consider ADHD as a disability that impacts working, there is no question that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers individuals with ADHD.

Can ADHD people love you? ›

Yes, ADD/ADHD people are hard to love, but once you understand the burden they are carrying, your heart will open up. Love and compassion will take the place of anger. You will see into their sweet and good soul.

What are the 3 main symptoms of ADHD? ›

The 3 categories of symptoms of ADHD include the following:
  • Inattention: Short attention span for age (difficulty sustaining attention) Difficulty listening to others. ...
  • Impulsivity: Often interrupts others. ...
  • Hyperactivity: Seems to be in constant motion; runs or climbs, at times with no apparent goal except motion.

What things are hard for people with ADHD? ›

People with ADHD aren't lazy.
  • Trouble completing and organizing tasks.
  • Frequently losing important belongings.
  • Forgetfulness and distraction.
  • Restlessness.
  • Difficulty following details.
  • Impatience.
13 Nov 2021

How can you prove someone has ADHD? ›

Getting Diagnosed. There's no one test. Instead, doctors and psychologists get information about what and how many symptoms you have, when they started, how long they've lasted, and how severe they are. In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, you need to have several symptoms, not just one or two.

How do people with ADHD communicate? ›

Blurting out answers, interrupting, talking excessively and speaking too loudly all break common communication standards, for example. People with ADHD also often make tangential comments in conversation, or struggle to organize their thoughts on the fly.

Is ADHD a learning difficulty or disability? ›

There are many different types of learning difficulty, some of the more well known are dyslexia, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyspraxia and dyscalculia. A person can have one, or a combination. As with learning disability, learning difficulties can also exist on a scale.

Can ADHD go away? ›

Many children (perhaps as many as half) will outgrow their symptoms but others do not, so ADHD can affect a person into adulthood.

Is ADHD a part of autism? ›

Autism spectrum disorder and ADHD are related in several ways. ADHD is not on the autism spectrum, but they have some of the same symptoms. And having one of these conditions increases the chances of having the other. Experts have changed the way they think about how autism and ADHD are related.

Why ADHD is a good thing? ›

Living with ADHD may give the person a different perspective on life and encourage them to approach tasks and situations with a thoughtful eye. As a result, some with ADHD may be inventive thinkers. Other words to describe them may be original, artistic, and creative. Being hyperfocused.

How does ADHD feel? ›

ADHD is a condition that both children and adults can have. The symptoms include an inability to focus, being easily distracted, hyperactivity, poor organization skills, and impulsiveness. Not everyone who has ADHD has all these symptoms. They vary from person to person and tend to change with age.

Is ADHD a severe mental illness? ›

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a severe mental illness, associated with major impairment and a high comorbidity rate.

Which parent passes down ADHD? ›

Thayer's study shows that the ADHD group of children had larger and more frequent variations. Fathers with ADHD will pass this code discrepancy to offspring. Barkley explains that the heritability of ADHD runs around 80 percent. Genetics account for 80 percent of the components that define ADHD.

What chemicals cause ADHD? ›

ADHD was the first disorder found to be the result of a deficiency of a specific neurotransmitter — in this case, norepinephrine — and the first disorder found to respond to medications to correct this underlying deficiency. Like all neurotransmitters, norepinephrine is synthesized within the brain.

Is ADHD caused by trauma? ›

Trauma and traumatic stress, according to a growing body of research, are closely associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD). Trauma and adversity can alter the brain's architecture, especially in children, which may partly explain their link to the development of ADHD.

Can you see ADHD on a brain scan? ›

Can brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) diagnose ADHD? Unfortunately, but unequivocally, no. No brain imaging modality — MRI, SPECT scan, T.O.V.A, or other — can accurately diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD).

What parts of the body does ADHD affect? ›

ADHD develops when the brain and central nervous system suffer impairments related to the growth and development of the brain's executive functions — such as attention, working memory, planning, organizing, forethought, and impulse control.

What part of the brain is damaged in ADHD? ›

At the brain circuitry level, the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) and cortico-limbic areas are dysfunctional in individuals with ADHD.

How do you calm ADHD naturally? ›

Exercise helps the ADHD brain function more effectively and efficiently. One well-known benefit of exercise is an increase in endorphins, which can improve mood. Exercise also elevates the brain's levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which increases focus and attention.

Can ADHD be self controlled? ›

In fact, in research studies, children with a diagnosis of ADHD possess the self-regulation or self-control of children approximately two-thirds of their chronological age. It's not that their self-control isn't developing, it's developing at a much slower pace.

Does ADHD worsen with age? ›

ADHD does not get worse with age if a person receives treatment for their symptoms after receiving a diagnosis. If a doctor diagnoses a person as an adult, their symptoms will begin to improve when they start their treatment plan, which could involve a combination of medication and therapy.

Are there any successful ADHD people? ›

Many successful people have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad, singer Justin Timberlake and comedian-actor Howie Mandel. On the more local level, Daniel Arrigg Koh is among successful people who don't let ADHD get in the way of their accomplishments.

Are ADHD people successful? ›

Some even argue that ADHD doesn't exist at all. However, one thing that is indisputable is that there is an abundance of highly successful people with ADHD.

What jobs are best for someone with ADHD? ›

Fast-paced job environments are a great fit for those living with ADHD because there is often a focus on being flexible and engaged in many different tasks.
...
Fast-paced jobs that may be a good fit if you have ADHD:
  • emergency responder (firefighter, EMT)
  • retail worker.
  • service employee.
  • journalist.
  • teacher.
  • athlete.
30 Mar 2022

Why does ADHD make you tired? ›

A 2017 study supported these general findings. Researchers have not conclusively shown why ADHD causes fatigue in some people, but one possible explanation is the condition's effects on dopamine. ADHD can affect dopamine levels, making it more difficult for the body to respond to this important neurotransmitter.

Does caffeine help ADHD? ›

Some studies have found that caffeine can boost concentration for people with ADHD. Since it's a stimulant drug, it mimics some of the effects of stronger stimulants used to treat ADHD, such as amphetamine medications. However, caffeine alone is less effective than prescription medications.

Can ADHD be cured or grown out of? ›

Many children (perhaps as many as half) will outgrow their symptoms but others do not, so ADHD can affect a person into adulthood.

Can ADHD be permanently treated? ›

Can you cure ADHD? While there's no cure for ADHD, many treatment options are available to help you manage your symptoms. Clinicians call ADHD a neurodevelopmental disorder, meaning that it affects a person's behavior, memory, motor skills, or ability to learn.

Can ADHD be treated successfully? ›

It may be hard to learn that there is no cure for ADHD. But the symptoms can be successfully managed and treated. With appropriate treatment, you can expect to see improvements in your school or work performance, and you may notice your relationships, confidence, and self-esteem improve as well.

Can ADHD be trained away? ›

Those with ADHD may be able to improve ADHD characteristics through brain training, but it's still best to support with other treatments. “Brain training is a non-pharmaceutical intervention that uses technology tools to help people with ADHD improve executive functioning,” explains counselor Joshua McKivigan.

Is ADHD a mental illness or disorder? ›

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children.

Does ADHD count as a disability? ›

Yes. Whether you view attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as neurological — affecting how the brain concentrates or thinks — or consider ADHD as a disability that impacts working, there is no question that the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers individuals with ADHD.

What is it like living with ADHD? ›

People with ADHD will have at least two or three of the following challenges: difficulty staying on task, paying attention, daydreaming or tuning out, organizational issues, and hyper-focus, which causes us to lose track of time. ADHD-ers are often highly sensitive and empathic.

Are you born with ADHD? ›

ADHD tends to run in families and, in most cases, it's thought the genes you inherit from your parents are a significant factor in developing the condition. Research shows that parents and siblings of someone with ADHD are more likely to have ADHD themselves.

Can you live a normal life with ADHD? ›

While living with ADHD can be challenging, treatment and lifestyle changes can help manage difficult symptoms for overall well-being.

Why is ADHD so hard to treat? ›

Those diagnosed with ADHD are impulsive for a reason; it is how they are wired. Repeating the painful experience of unsuccessfully explaining symptoms will not forge a therapeutic bond, but it might convince the patient that treatment is a waste of time.

Why can ADHD not be cured? ›

There is no cure for ADHD because it is a neurological difference rather than a disease. In fact, some people with ADHD see it as a positive rather than a negative. In the neurodivergent community, ADHD is sometimes known as a "superpower."

What exercise is best for ADHD? ›

Studies show that being in nature while you move can reduce your ADHD symptoms even more than when you exercise inside.
...
Aerobic exercise.
  • Running.
  • Walking briskly.
  • Biking.
  • Swimming laps.
12 Sept 2020

When Does ADHD peak? ›

ADHD peaks during childhood. According to Nationwide Children's Hospital, 50% to 80% of people diagnosed with ADHD as children still meet the criteria as adolescents, and 35% to 65% meet the diagnostic criteria in adulthood.

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