8 Things You Might Not Know About ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
What You Might Not Know About ADHDAttention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a common condition that affects individuals’ ability to control impulses and behavior. ADHD can make it difficult to sit still, pay attention, organize thoughts and actions, and resist impulses, which means that many people with ADHD struggle in school, in the workplace, and in personal relationships. The disorder affects both children and adults, as well as those who live and work with them. Learn more about ADHD, including causes, common symptoms, and available ADHD treatment options.
1. Approximately 3 to 10% of children have ADHD.ADHD affects 3 to 5% of all American children, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), but a 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, which used parent reports to gather data, found that 9.4% of American children between ages 2 to 17 have ever been diagnosed with ADHD; 8.4% had a diagnosis of ADHD at the time of the survey.
It’s difficult to estimate exactly how many children have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder because many children who exhibit symptoms of the disorder are never formally assessed or diagnosed.
2. ADHD affects adults too.Studies have found that most children who are diagnosed with ADHD will still have symptoms in adulthood. The condition persists from childhood to adulthood in about 60 to 80% of affected individuals, according to the organization, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD).
Some adults with ADHD symptoms were never diagnosed as children; many first realize they likely have the condition after one of their children is diagnosed. ADHD diagnosis and treatment can help adults too.
3. ADHD is often inherited.No one knows exactly what causes ADHD, but there’s a clear genetic link. According to CHADD, more than 20 medical studies have shown evidence that ADHD is “strongly inherited.” However, medical professionals know of other factors as well. There’s evidence that childhood exposure to toxins may increase the risk of developing ADHD. Low birth weight and brain injury can also contribute to the development of ADHD.
4. There are three different types of ADHD.The three subtypes of ADHD are: 1) predominantly inattentive; 2) predominantly hyperactive-impulsive; and 3) combined.
People with predominantly inattentive ADHD may not have a problem remaining in their seats, but may struggle with daydreaming. They may find it difficult to pay attention and stay on task. Individuals with predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD are the ones who have a hard time sitting still. They may fidget constantly and act impulsively. Those with the combined subtype show symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity and impulsivity.
5. Only trained professionals can diagnose ADHD.It’s not unusual to hear parents, teachers and others speculate that a child “has ADHD.” But while teachers and parents are in a position to notice symptoms of ADHD, they do not have the expertise required to make a diagnosis. According to NIMH, “A complete evaluation by a trained professional is the only way to know for sure if your child has ADHD.”
If you notice symptoms of ADHD, talk to your healthcare provider. Additional medical, education and psychological evaluation may be necessary.
6. Without treatment, ADHD increases the risk of substance abuse.Because people with ADHD are prone to impulsivity and low self-esteem (often resulting from poor performance in school, stemming from difficulty with paying attention and controlling behavior), they are at increased risk of developing substance abuse problems. Untreated ADHD also increases the likelihood of risky sexual behavior and reckless driving.
ADHD treatment helps control ADHD symptoms in the present and decrease the risk of harmful behaviors. Studies have shown that individuals who receive ADHD treatment are no more likely to develop problems than people without ADHD.
7. ADHD treatment improves self-esteem and academic achievement.There is no cure for ADHD, but treatment can dramatically improve symptoms and functioning. According to CHADD, “The earlier you address [ADHD symptoms], the more likely you will be able to prevent school and social failure and associated problems such as underachievement and poor self-esteem.”
ADHD treatment may include medication, therapy and school or workplace adaptations. Medication improves symptoms in about 70 to 80% of affected individuals; however, not everyone with ADHD takes medication. Some receive behavioral therapy alone. Often, combination treatment (medication + therapy) is the most effective treatment.
8. Two-thirds of people with ADHD have co-existing conditions.Most people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder also have at least one other condition. Many children with ADHD also have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ADDitude magazine says “some studies suggest that up to half of kids with ASD also have ADHD.”
Other common co-existing conditions include anxiety, depression, oppositional and conduct disorders, tic disorders (such as Tourette syndrome), sleep disorders, and learning disabilities. Ideally, people with ADHD should work with professionals who can diagnose and treat any co-existing conditions as well.
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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: 8 Things You Might Not Know