ADHD: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADHD often distinguishes ADHD with hyperactivity (ADHD) and without hyperactivity (ADD).
What is ADHD?
In the seventies, scientists began to use the term attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder, ADHD, to describe the symptoms (see below). Although most complaints are often related to children, it is known that symptoms such as lack of concentration, impulsivity and overactivity persist into adulthood. Relatively few of these adults are diagnosed or treated as such. They can still benefit from medication (such as Ritalin, Concerta or Strattera) and / or neurofeedback.
ADD with hyperactivity (ADHD)
ADD with hyperactivity is indicated by a lack of concentration, impulsivity and hyperactivity that begins before the age of seven, persists at least six months and is not due to other psychiatric disorders or environmental influences, such as reaction to problems in the family environment.
ADD without hyperactivity (ADD)
The main characteristic of ADD without hyperactivity is a clear lack of concentration. Studies of children with this diagnosis show that they often suffer from anxiety and learning problems. Although no studies have been done on adults with this disorder, it is expected that ADD without hyperactivity has a different effect than the ADD with hyperactivity. The latter one shows more behavioral problems associated with oppositional and conduct disorders.
Characteristics of adults with ADHD
Adults with this disorder, especially those who are not diagnosed and treated, can suffer from a number of problems, some of which are directly caused by ADHD and other compensatory behavior associated with ADHD. These symptoms may of course also be seen in children with ADHD.
Symptoms of an adult with ADHD may include:
- Easily distracted
- Being chaotic
- Chronically being late
- Chronically being bored
- Mood swings
- Low self-esteem
- Problems finding a job
- Excessive abuse drugs/alcohol or addiction
- Relationship problems
The symptoms of ADHD can be situational or constant. Some people with ADHD can concentrate if they are interested or excited, while others will never be able to concentrate. Some actively seek stimulation, others avoid it as much as possible. Some are recalcitrant, bad mannered and later antisocial, while others do their best to please people. Some are extroverted, while others are very introverted. Targeted neurofeedback can make people more flexible in these styles.
What causes ADHD?
The cause or causes of ADHD are not exactly known. Scientific research shows that the disorder is often genetically transmitted. ADHD is probably caused by a combination of factors including neurochemical factors, genetic factors, etc. Genetics is often mentioned as a cause, but also problems during prenatal development, complications at birth or neurological damage can lead to ADHD. Scientific research has little evidence so far that ADHD is caused by environmental factors, excessive intake of sugar or dyes, middle ear problems or visual motor problems.
Recently, it is increasingly getting clear that there is a relationship between falling asleep late and ADHD. This is not the cause for all ADHD patients, but probably a substantial number of about 70-80%. Within our research it is also further investigated, and in this research you can also find more scientific information about the different sub-types of ADHD and its relationship with sleep.
How common is ADHD in adults?
How often ADHD in adults occurs is unknown, there is little research on ADHD in adults. The research that has been done shows that ADHD occurs equally in men and women. Of the children diagnosed with ADHD during their primary school time, approximately two third has still behavioral problems during adolescence. During this period also learning and emotional problems related to ADHD manifest. Approximately one-half to one-third of these adolescents still have ADHD symptoms persist into adulthood.
Why a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD in Adults?
The identification of ADHD in adult and good management of their education and personal/social development increases the likelihood of a successful course of the symptoms. Effective intervention can improve self-esteem, work and learning and skills.
A diagnosis of ADHD can help an adult to put his/her problems in the proper perspective. These people often have a negative image of themselves because of an accumulation of failures at school, in their social environment and at work. Many of them are called “a slow learner” by others. It is also said that they have a bad attitude or lack of motivation. They would be immature, lazy, sloppy or egocentric. Instead of seeing their problems as the result of a genetic or acquired neurobiological disorder, many have assumed the wrong idea that they are to blame themselves for their problems.
ADHD: After the diagnosis
Treatment sponsored by professionals may include: coaching for the adult or child, his/her family and close friends, support for education and work, medication (such as Ritalin, Concerta and Strattera), Neurofeedback / EEG biofeedback and counseling. The suitable selection of these is determined on the basis of the severity of the disorder and the type and number of problems that come with it.
Many people benefit from a treatment plan that includes medication, cognitive behavioral therapy and neurofeedback. This treatment can be, combined with education and counseling, a base from which adults can build new successes. The purpose of the medication, such as Ritalin, Concerta, Strattera, is to help the adult to help him/herself. It provides the biological support needed for self-control. This means that the person is not “controlled” by medication, the effort to succeed comes from the person himself. After stopping the medication, the symptoms will come again quickly. Neurofeedback however, can lead to permanent improvement of function as a result of learned changes in brain activity.
Tips that patients with AD(H)D found useful:
- Provide internal structure. These include calendars, lists, notes to yourself, color coding, routines and things to make you remember things.
- Take a “good addiction”. Find a way of exercise or other healthy and fun activity for a regular, structured “blow-out” time.
- Put a rewarding environment. Design projects, tasks, etc., in order to minimize frustration. Break large tasks into smaller steps and set priorities.
- Use time-outs. Take time to calm down and regain perspective when you feel angry or overwhelmed. Walk away from the situation if necessary.
- Use humor. It helps if partners and colleagues constantly remember you to keep busy with your job, as long as it is done with humor and respect. Learn about symptoms of ADHD with humor and make jokes with friends and family about symptoms such as getting lost, forgetting things, and so on.
- Be pupil and teacher. Read books. Talk to professionals about medication, neurofeedback and behavior. Talk to other adults who have ADHD. Let the people who matter know what the pros and cons of your ADHD. Inform others
- Make sure you get enough hours of sleep (age-appropriate) and have a regular sleep-wake rhythm.
- Make sure to get as much natural daylight (or sunlight) during the day, and prevent exposure to computers and tablets in the evening, before bedtime. If you would still like to use tablets and computers, consider installing the free software F.Lux which reduces the amount of blue light as a function of the time-of-day. LED lights and energy savings lamps (CFL) also emit a lot of blue light, so switching to old fashioned light-bulbs could be useful as well.
For more information on therapy and treatment for ADHD also see the ADHD treatment section