What is ADHD?

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder which creates problems surrounding inattentiveness, mental and physical hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. ADHD starts in early childhood, where the most common symptom is hyperactivity and lack of concentration in school work. The disorder often continues in to adulthood, and between 3060% of those diagnosed experience symptoms in to adulthood. Hyperactive symptoms tend to decline, or disappear completely in adulthood, but often the inattentiveness and impulsivity symptoms continue.

Types

ADHD can be broken down in to three sub-categories:

  • Predominantley Inattentive
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive
  • Combined

The type of diagnosis depends on the symptoms you display, for example I presented more Inattentive symptoms and was diagnosed with Predominantly Inattentive, but I still struggle with hyperactive and impulsive symptoms.

Symptoms

ADHD symptoms vary among individuals, but there are set symptoms to meet the criteria of ADHD. Countries will use different criteria for diagnosing ADHD, but the symptoms are pretty much the same. I’ll link the DSM-5 and NICE Guidelines at the bottom of this blog.

To be diagnosed with ADHD in the U.K as an adult you must meet 5 or more of the symptoms in either categories, aswell as suffering from these symptoms since childhood, and they must have an impact on your daily life.

Inattentiveness

  • Having a short attention span or being easily distracted
  • Making careless mistakes e.g homework or tasks at work
  • Appearing forgetful or constantly losing things
  • Finds organising tasks and activities difficult
  • Constantly switching between activities and tasks, or find that you get side-tracked with other tasks
  • Unable to start, or stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
  • Appearing to not listen, or not carry out instructions as asked

    Hyperactivity and Impulsiveness

    • Being unable to sit still or fidget in their seat 
    • Constantly fidgeting with items
    • Unable to concentrate on the task at hand
    • Excessive physical movement
    • Unable to wait your turn
    • Excessive talking
    • Acting without thinking
    • Interrupting conversation
    • Little or no sense of danger

    Adult Symptoms

    The NHS also states that as we get older we tend to lose the hyperactive symptoms of ADHD, but impulsivity and inattentiveness can follow us, even if we have coping mechanisms. Some of these symptoms can include:

    • Driving dangerously, or not concentrating when driving
    • Mood swings, irritability, or a quick temper
    • Poor organisational skills
    • Bad time management
    • Continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones
    • Inability to focus or prioritise 
    • Inability to deal with stress
    • Procrastination

    Treatment

    There are a number of different treatments available to treat ADHD, which can be decided between you and your doctor. The type of treatment that will be available to you will be dependent on your background and current situation, as well as personal preferences. 

    Medication

    Medication is one of the most common treatments for ADHD, and can be used alongside other treatments. There are two types of medication: stimulant and non-stimulant.

    Stimulants work by increasing activity in the brain, especially parts where behaviour and attention are controlled. These can help dampen the symptoms of ADHD, but will not completely get rid of them. Common stimulants include Methylphenidate (Ritalin), Lisdexamfetamine (Vyanse), and Dexamfetamine (Adderall). 

    Only one non-stimulant is available for adults in the UK, which is Atomoxetine (Strattera) which works by increasing the amount of Noradrenaline. This can improve focus and control impulses. Non-stimulants are good for those who struggled with stimulant medication, or have other health conditions where taking stimulants could be harmful.

    Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

    CBT is a talking therapy focusing on changing the way you think and behave. It has a focus on the present and the future, and how negative thoughts and actions can create a vicious cycle. 

    By talking with your therapist you are able to recognise the behaviours or thoughts that are problematic, and how to overcome these with a positive outlook. 

    Not everyone will respond to CBT, but it can be incredibly useful in identifying your problems and finding coping strategies. 

    Resources

    NHS – ADHD

    CDC (DSM-5 Criteria

    NICE Guidelines

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