What is it?
ADHD or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is identified by behavioral problems and cognitive impairments. An individual exhibiting impulsivity and inattentiveness, most commonly observed in children, are most susceptible to being diagnosed with this chronic disorder. Other characteristics following an ADHD diagnosis are pervasiveness, developmentally excessive and impairing levels of impulsivity and inattentiveness, as well as overactivity. Children are not typically diagnosed until school-age or older. There is considerable evidence that symptoms often emerge by the preschool years, and a smaller body of research suggests that onset may be even earlier. It is important to recognize and treat ADHD symptoms in a timely manner, as it will provide an opportunity to enhance positive long-term outcomes and will lower the rate of potential risk factors including difficulty with employment, and educational underachievement.
ADHD is recognized to exist in males and females although the literature supports a higher prevalence in males. This is partly because boys’ symptoms are more easily observed, while girls’ symptoms are often subtle and harder to identify. Boys with ADHD usually show externalized symptoms, such as hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Girls with ADHD, on the other hand, typically show internalized symptoms. These symptoms include inattentiveness and low self-esteem. Boys also tend to be more physically aggressive, while girls tend to be more verbally aggressive. In a classroom setting, those with inattentive symptoms often tend to be labeled as the “daydreamers”, while the hyperactivate type is often labeled as the “troublemakers”.
Diagnosing & Treatment
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th edition.; DSM V-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2013), an individual with ADHD experiences a persistent pattern of inattention and/or impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. For someone to be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms would need to be present for at least 6 months and be inconsistent towards one’s intellectual development, as well as negatively influencing their socialization, education, or occupation.
The majority of research concerning ADHD has recognized a heritability factor in that there is a higher frequency of the disorder observed in children who have an affected relative. Even the presence of symptoms in either parent will increase the likelihood of their child having the disorder and if both the parents have ADHD it constitutes a significant risk factor for the child.
Prescription stimulants and non-stimulants have been developed and been proven to be effective when treating ADHD, however, if patients are to benefit from such treatments, it is important to have a thorough evaluation to ensure a correct diagnosis. Evidence-based psychosocial interventions, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and psychoeducation are useful for those diagnosed with or at risk for ADHD. CBT is a common type of psychotherapy or talk therapy, where you work with a mental health professional. CBT helps you change your thoughts patterns and responses to challenging situations. Psychoeducation refers to the process of providing education or information to those with mental health conditions and to their family members. Psychoeducation helps teach parents, children, and adolescents, who have or are at risk for ADHD, strategies for increasing positive parent-child interactions and strategies to manage the condition. Psychoeducation, for example, can help families learn how setting effective limits has been shown to reduce challenging behaviors exhibited by a child who is diagnosed with or deemed at risk and will also help discontinue those behaviors long-term.
A mental health diagnosis, such as ADHD, can feel scary, but the positives are numerous and mighty!
Want to learn how to set effective limits when it comes to challenging behaviors? At Well Child, we offer monthly parenting skills classes. If you are interested in the class or you would like more information on ADHD, please call the office at 518-480-4002.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder (5 th ed). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Brown, H., & Harvey, E. (2019). Psychometric properties of ADHD symptoms in toddlers. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. 423-439.
Bruchmuller, K., Margraf, J., & Schneider, S. (2012). Is ADHD diagnosed in accord with diagnostic criteria? Overdiagnosis and influence of client gender on diagnosis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80(1), 128-138.
Freitag, C. M., Rohde, L. A., Lempp, T., & Romanos, M. (2010). Phenotypic and measurement influences heritability estimates in childhood ADHD. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 19(3). 311-323.
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