Attention Deficit Disorder Facts
These are facts about ADD/ADHD, but all of your questions won’t be answered here. Please visit our forum to post questions and share your information.
What is Attention Deficit Disorder?
Attention Deficit Disorder, also known as ADHD or ADD, is a biologically based brain difference that has a genetic component. This means that several members of a family may have ADD. It is not an imaginary disease, contrary to what many people who don’t have ADD/ADHD believe. People with ADD/ADHD are energetic, creative, intuitive and generous. Often they are the kind of people that we say “think outside of the box.” People with ADD/ADHD also have impulsivity, a low tolerance for frustration, and trouble completing tasks and projects. Tasks are difficult to complete when a person is forgetful or lacks organizational skills. Often their minds will race from idea to idea, leading to a lack of focus. For some people with hyperactivity, they feel like they need to be moving most of the time. While many people have these traits, the difference with ADD/ADHD is the intensity, duration and persistence of the traits.
How is ADD/ADHD diagnosed?
There is no one test for ADD/ADHD. The first step is usually noticing symptoms that are of sufficient intensity, persistence, and duration that the person stands out from the rest of his peers. This is true with both children and adults. These traits cause difficulty for people with ADD/ADHD, and they start looking for the reasons that they are having problems. The best place to look for help is from a pediatric psychiatrist, who would work with a child or an adult. Another option is to find a developmental pediatrician. They work with children. Find somebody with a lot of experience working with people who have ADD/ADHD. If you don’t know a health care professional with experience, call an organization like C.H.A.D.D. or a medical school. The professional whom you choose should take a history from you and at least one other person. They will look at the DSM-IV in light of your history. You may also have additional neurological tests.
Is ADD/ADHD over-diagnosed?
In some areas ADD/ADHD may be over-diagnosed. Other areas have a problem with under-diagnosis. Adult Attention Deficit Disorder is often under-diagnosed.
What is the treatment for ADD/ADHD?
The best treatment for ADD/ADHD is multi-modal. After diagnosis, many people need to make changes in their lifestyles. Get plenty of high-quality sleep. If your sleep area is noisy, use a white noise generator. A wholesome diet with an emphasis on fewer processed foods is helpful. Make sure to have protein with meals. Exercise can provide a natural source of chemicals to stimulate the brain’s circuits that inhibit excess activity. Martial arts are often effective for this. Capoeira is not well known, but it is a natural for people with ADD. Students can benefit from a tutor to help with organizational skills and to reinforce what they’ve learned in school. Choose a tutor who has experience working with students who have ADD/ADHD. A career coach is helpful for adults who want to be more effective at work. Cognitive therapy, to help with positive self-talk, is useful. Research has shown that medication is more effective when you add these things. For 80 to 90 percent of the people with ADD, it has also shown that properly prescribed medication is more effective than any other therapy.
Should I use medication for my child?
You should do your research and be comfortable with the idea of medication before having it prescribed for your child. As many parents do, I was fearful and waited several years after medication was recommended before getting a prescription for my child. I am personally sorry that I waited that long. Medication would have made a difference for him. He lost several years of being with his peers at recess due to his lack of focus.
Should I use medication for myself?
Many adults have learned coping mechanisms to deal with parts of their lives that are affected by ADD/ADHD. Medication can help with focus, procrastination, and organization.
What are some problems that people have with medication?
Any medication can have a side effect. Between 10 and 20 percent of the people with ADD/ADHD are not helped by any medications used for Attention Deficit Disorder. Some people are not helped by the first medication that is prescribed. Other medications might need to be tried. Doctors must find the correct dosage. This takes time and patience on the part of the doctor and the person with ADD/ADHD. Sometimes, especially with children, a medication is prescribed at the wrong level, and the child becomes lethargic and seems to lose his sparkle. This is not permanent. The dose needs to be adjusted. Stimulant medication is out of the system in between 4-12 hours. If the child does not do well on the medication, have your medical professional make changes. The parent is always in charge of medication.
Where can I find information about medication?
Beware of internet links that promote “natural” products that have not been scientifically tested. If a product has been scientifically tested, those results should have been published in a peer reviewed journal. Find reputable information. Links about medication are provided at the bottom of this page.
What are problems that come from not treating ADD/ADHD?
Parents often worry about using medication. Lost in the angst (I have never known a parent who chose medication without angst!) of choosing to medicate or not medicate is the question, “What happens if I don’t treat the ADD/ADHD?” The dangers of non-treatment cannot to be ignored. A child who is “class clown” is set apart from the other children. Children who cannot focus have significant underachievement. This is frustrating for them, because they can see what they should be able to accomplish. Lower self-esteem and depression can follow. Teens and adults with untreated ADD/ADHD may become involved in substance abuse. These include drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and food abuse. Are all of these problems guaranteed if a person with ADD/ADHD is not treated? No, but they are more likely than if the Attention Deficit Disorder is treated with a good multi-modal plan.
A short article can only scratch the surface of a subject. Edward Hallowell, M.D. and John J. Ratey, M.D. have been studying Attention Deficit for years. Both doctors have ADD, so they can write from personal and professional perspectives. This book is a wonderful resource.
Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder
Sometimes tips on living with ADD/ADHD can be helpful. This book is highly recommended as a very practical book for adults.
10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD: How to Overcome Chronic Distraction & Accomplish Your Goals