ADD and ADHD Explained
ADD and ADHD is a neurobiological disorder resulting from problems in the dopamine neurotransmitter systems in the brain. Most cases are genetically inherited. If a parent or close relative has AD/HD there is a 30% chance that a child will have ADD and ADHD. Twin studies show that if an identical twin has AD/HD, there is a 50% chance the other twin will have it also. AD/HD is not caused by poor nutrition, ineffective parenting, drugs, or allergies. Other medical conditions may cause AD/HD-like symptoms (such as severe head trauma, thyroid problems, fetal alcohol syndrome and lead intoxication), however, and for this reason a professional evaluation should be obtained to rule out other medical conditions.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD and ADHD)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) usually becomes apparent in some children in the preschool and early school years. Those adults with ADHD were probably not recognized with the disorder as children and may have gone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years.
People with ADHD typically can focus only on things that interest them, and disregard less interesting things, are often faced with additional problems such as an academic underachievement, lack of social skills, an inability to stay organized, or complete important tasks. These often result in difficulty with personal relationships, staying employed, or completing an education. People may also stimulate themselves by doing reckless or dangerous activities and thus complicate their lives with physical and legal problems.
A child or adult with ADHD faces a difficult, but not insurmountable task in performing everyday functions. In order to achieve his or her full potential, he or she should receive help, guidance, and understanding.
ADD and ADHD in Adults
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a highly publicized childhood disorder that affects approximately 3 percent to 5 percent of all children. What is much less well known is the probability that, of children who have ADD and ADHD, many will still have it as adults. Several studies done in recent years estimate that between 30 percent and 70 percent of children with ADHD continue to exhibit symptoms in the adult years.
The first studies on adults who were never diagnosed as children as having ADD and ADHD, but showed symptoms as adults, were done in the late 1970s by Drs. Paul Wender, Frederick Reimherr, and David Wood. These symptomatic adults were retrospectively diagnosed with ADHD after the researchers’ interviews with their parents. The researchers developed clinical criteria for the diagnosis of adult ADHD (the Utah Criteria), which combined past history of ADD and ADHD with current evidence of ADHD behavior. Other diagnostic assessments are now available; among them are the widely used Conners Rating Scale and the Brown Attention Deficit Disorder Scale.
Typically, adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are unaware that they have this disorder—they often just feel that it’s impossible to get organized, to stick to a job, to keep an appointment. The everyday tasks of getting up, getting dressed and ready for the day’s work, getting to work on time, and being productive on the job can be major challenges for the ADD and ADHD adult.
Diagnosing an adult with ADHD is not easy. Many times, when a child is diagnosed with the disorder, a parent will recognize that he or she has many of the same symptoms the child has and, for the first time, will begin to understand some of the traits that have given him or her trouble for years—distractibility, impulsivity, restlessness. Other adults will seek professional help for depression or anxiety and will find out that the root cause of some of their emotional problems is ADHD. They may have a history of school failures or problems at work. Often they have been involved in frequent automobile accidents.
To be diagnosed with ADHD, an adult must have childhood-onset, persistent, and current symptoms. The accuracy of the diagnosis of adult ADHD is of utmost importance and should be made by a clinician with expertise in the area of attention dysfunction. For an accurate diagnosis, a history of the patient’s childhood behavior, together with an interview with his life partner, a parent, close friend, or other close associate, will be needed. A physical examination and psychological tests should also be given. Comorbidity with other conditions may exist such as specific learning disabilities, anxiety, or affective disorders.
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Dr. Helene Cohen – ADD and ADHD