How do I know if my child/spouse has ADHD?
ADHD is a diagnosis that requires careful consideration by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or pediatrician. It does not always require formal testing, though some degree of assessment that gathers information from teachers and parents is often part of diagnosis.
Some advertisements on the radio indicate that any child who wiggles or can’t pay attention well enough is likely ADHD and should be evaluated with expensive tests. While wiggly could be a part of hyperactivity, it is also part of being a child. Many complain that ADHD is overdiagnosed or that it simply doesn’t exist at all. ADHD is a real issue and includes both benefits and frustrations. It is important for a professional to help differentiate between normal and ADHD.
It is also true that there are different looks to those with ADHD. While some are hyperactive and impulsive, others may appear absent minded or lost in another world. Some may struggle with academics, while others are just organizationally challenged. Often, those with ADHD are very bright.
What is ADHD or ADD?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has changed over the years. First, we called it hyperactivity, and did not recognize the inattentive aspect alone. Then, we designated it as either ADD or ADHD depending on whether or not hyperactivity is involved. Currently, it is always called ADHD, and specified as “Predominantly Inattentive type”, “Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type”, or “Combined Type”.
ADHD, according to current criteria, must be evident before a child is seven years old. If ADHD symptoms did not appear until after age seven, it is likely another explanation exists. Often, depression or anxiety may be misinterpreted at ADHD. Bipolar disorder is also sometimes confused with ADHD. It is important that a qualified professional evaluate someone for the diagnosis of ADHD in order to rule out other similar disorders as well as to help with detecting possible comorbid disorders. Comorbid disorders is what we call it when more than one disorder exists at a time. Common comorbid disorders to ADHD are depression and anxiety. In adults, sometimes substance abuse or personality disorders are comorbid as well.
My dissertation looked at Adult ADHD and comorbid disorders including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and personality disorders. My finding concluded that while ADHD can exist alone, without comorbidity, it also is sometimes accompanied with another disorder such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, or substance abuse. It is likely that life with undetected and untreated ADHD may leave an individual with ADHD feeling bad, wrong, stupid, and often in trouble. Such self esteem can easily lead to self medicating with alcohol or drugs, depression, or anxiety. Early diagnosis and treatment are important in avoiding the development of comorbid disorders.
How do you treat ADHD?
Treatment for ADHD depends on how the individual is being affected. If functional in school or at work, and self esteem is not being sacrificed, no medication may be needed. If problems at work or school are what brings the diagnosis to light, medication may be necessary if change is to happen. Research tells us the best treatment for ADHD includes medication, and usually stimulant medication. While therapy can help with comfort, expectations, relationships, and lifestyle, only medication will alleviate the “disquiet” of the mind. Stimulant medication may be the only thing standing between your child and success in school, or yourself and success at work. When managed appropriately, ADHD can be much more of a blessing than a curse.
***As with any psychological disorder, do not consider information found on the internet sufficient in diagnosing or managing your condition. It can be used to find appropriate treatment from a healthcare professional. If in need of help, please call Dr. Austin at 972-986-0150, or if an emergency, always call 911.