Attention Deficit Disorder / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC

Condition updated on October 18th, 2018


What Is Attention Deficit Disorder / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a disorder that affects both children and adults. It is often diagnosed in childhood. ADD is a disorder in which a person has a hard time focusing. This difficulty in focusing can cause a person to be inattentive, forgetful, or impulsive.

Some also can be hyperactive, over-talkative, and difficult to control. Under these situations a person is diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Both ADD and ADHD cause cognitive and behavioral impairments. These impairments can be managed, with close monitoring from parents and professionals. Often people like family members, teachers, babysitters, and tutors will all need to be involved in managing symptoms.

Symptoms of ADD/ADHD

There are telling signs that a person is suffering from ADD/ADHD. A person with either of these diagnoses will show cognitive and behavioral symptoms. These symptoms can be noticed by people like parents/guardians, friends, doctors, and teachers. The following are all symptoms of ADD/ADHD:

Cognitive symptoms

  • Poor academic performance
  • Forgetfulness
  • Learning impairments
  • Poor motor skills
  • Imaginative and creative
  • Trouble completing projects
  • Inattentiveness
  • Trouble focusing

Behavioral symptoms

  • Impulsivity
  • Disorganization
  • Misplacing belongings
  • Responds to questions without thinking
  • Excitability
  • Tantrums
  • Trouble with making friends
  • Trouble communicating thoughts and feelings
  • Combative or confrontational
  • Hyperactivity
  • Anger or aggression

With a diagnosis of ADHD the child will be hyperactive and may cause issues in controlled environments. It is not uncommon for a child with ADHD to disrupt settings like classrooms. A child with ADD will have less symptoms of hyperactivity. They will not show strong signs of disruptive behavior in controlled environments.

Causes and Risk Factors of ADD/ADHD

  • Genetics – ADD/ADHD does run in families. Those who have family members, especially parents, with related issues are likely to be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Typically, when ADD/ADHD is inherited there are neurological causes. Research supports that there is a chemical imbalance in the brain of people who suffer from ADD/ADHD.
  • Birth Complications – If a baby is delivered under traumatic circumstances, or was born with complications, they are at risk for developing ADD/ADHD. Such complications include: low birth weight, prematurity, and head trauma. A child is also at risk if it was exposed to harmful chemicals related to substance use, smoking, or environmental toxins.
  • Environmental Issues – Many children with ADD/ADHD are brought up in a chaotic environment. Environments without structure and stability are likely to cause ADD/ADHD symptoms in children. Modifying these environment components can help manage symptoms of ADD/ADHD.

ADD and ADHD Treatment

ADD and ADHD are often treated with psychiatric medication. Stimulant medication is often prescribed to patients with ADD/ADHD. These medications affect the chemical composition in the brain. The results allow the patient to focus more easily.

Behavioral and cognitive therapies are also helpful with treating ADD/ADHD. They help the patient learn how be aware of and cope with their symptoms.

It is important to consider family therapy when dealing with a child or adolescent with ADD/ADHD. Having a child diagnosed with ADD/ADHD can be a challenge for all family members. That is why it is important to consult with a professional to learn how to cope with and manage a child with ADD/ADHD. Family therapy will teach parents and family members about what to expect and how to develop a plan of action for difficult circumstances.

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