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The Call-On-Doc Guide to ADHD

Published on Jan 11, 2024 | 3:40 PM

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Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, better known as ADHD, is a common mental disorder that affects millions of people throughout the United States. Identified by a struggle to regularly pay attention alongside hyperactivity and difficulty controlling impulses, the condition can make education and professional environments difficult. Although there is no cure for ADHD, prescription treatment has been shown to be effective for a majority of people to manage their symptoms. While many had confused attention deficit disorder or ADD with ADHD, ADD has now been rolled into the ADHD condition. 

What ADHD symptoms look like

Most commonly identified in childhood, ADHD is usually associated when a child, typically when a child is disruptive in class and social settings. (1) It's important to note that some disruptive behavior is normal for children to young adults, it's the consistency of such behavior that can help you spot symptoms. Other signs to look for when it comes to ADHD symptoms include: 

Hyperactivity: ADHD with hyperactivity is often characterized by excessive physical movement, often when it might be inappropriate. Such behaviors might especially be prominent in educational, professional, or strict social settings where someone is expected to be relatively mild-mannered. ADHD with hyperactivity can include, but is not limited to: 

  • Constant fidgeting, tapping, or drumming fingers.
  • Inability to stay seated in situations where it is expected, frequently getting up and moving around.
  • Restlessness, feeling compelled to move even in quiet or calm settings.
  • Talking excessively, often interrupting others.
  • Difficulty engaging in activities quietly, as there is a constant need for physical movement.
  • Actively seeking out situations where movement is possible, such as running or climbing inappropriately.

Impulsivity: ADHD with impulsivity is characterized by hasty decision-making without considering the consequences. Individuals may have difficulty waiting for their turn, frequently interrupt others, and act on sudden urges without thoughtful planning, leading to impulsive behaviors that can impact various aspects of their personal and professional lives. Such ADHD with impulsivity behaviors can include: 
Difficulty waiting for one's turn, whether in conversations or activities.
Frequent interruptions in conversations or tasks.
Impulsive decision-making without considering long-term consequences.

  • Acting on sudden urges or desires without thoughtful planning.
  • Difficulty controlling impulses in various private, social, and work settings.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors without fully assessing potential dangers.

Inattention: ADHD with inattention is marked by persistent difficulties in sustaining focus, leading to careless mistakes, forgetfulness, and an overall struggle to stay engaged in tasks. Individuals with ADHD may frequently shift attention between activities, impacting their academic, occupational, and daily functioning. Such habits related to ADHD with inattention can include: 
Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.

  • Frequent careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  • Forgetfulness in daily activities, such as forgetting to complete chores or keep appointments.
  • Easily distracted by unrelated stimuli, leading to an inability to stay on task.
  • Frequently shifting attention between multiple unfinished activities.
  • Avoidance or reluctance to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort.
what-adhd-symptoms-look-like

What other conditions are linked to ADHD?

ADHD often coexists with other conditions, and individuals with ADHD symptoms may be at an increased risk for experiencing additional conditions or comorbidities. Some common conditions linked to ADHD include:

Learning Disabilities: ADHD in adults and children alike is often accompanied by a learning difference. Up to 50% of children with ADHD symptoms can have a learning disability, making education difficult, even when children age into adulthood and go into college. (2) How ADHD affects learning differences differs per condition, but the most common include: 

  • Dyslexia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Dyspraxia

Anxiety: ADHD and anxiety often coexist, with individuals diagnosed with ADHD experiencing higher rates of anxiety disorders. The impulsivity, inattention, and difficulty with organization in ADHD can contribute to heightened stress, while anxiety may exacerbate ADHD symptoms. (3)

Oppositional Defiant Disorder: ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) frequently co-occur, being one of the most common to do so, with a significant overlap in symptoms. The impulsive and defiant behaviors seen in ODD may be exacerbated by the challenges of ADHD, leading to difficulties in self-regulation and social interactions. (4)

Depression: ADHD and depression commonly coexist, particularly in adolescence and adulthood. The persistent challenges associated with ADHD, such as difficulties in academic or occupational settings, can contribute to feelings of frustration and low self-esteem, potentially leading to depressive symptoms. Conversely, the emotional dysregulation and inattention associated with ADHD may be exacerbated by the impact of depression. (4)

Conduct Disorder: DHD and Conduct Disorder (CD) often co-occur, especially in childhood and adolescence. The impulsive and oppositional behaviors seen in ADHD can contribute to the development of conduct-related problems. Children with both ADHD and CD may display more severe behavioral issues, including aggression and rule-breaking. (4)

Insomnia: The restlessness and overactivity associated with ADHD can contribute to difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep, while the resulting lack of quality sleep may exacerbate ADHD symptoms, including inattention and impulsivity. (5)

Autism Spectrum Disorders: ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can co-occur, with over half of those with ASD getting diagnosed with ADHD. Both conditions share some common features, such as difficulties with attention, executive function, and social interactions, but should be understood as distinct. (6)

Substance Abuse: Individuals with ADHD are at an increased risk of developing substance abuse issues. The impulsivity and sensation-seeking tendencies associated with ADHD can contribute to the higher likelihood of being drawn to risky behaviors like smoking, alcohol consumption, and the use of illegal substances. (7) Alongside ADHD treatment, Call-On-Doc also offers smoking cessation to help those needing to kick the habit of smoking cigarettes. 
 

Can ADHD get worse with age?

Due to it having no cure, ADHD in adults is common but often less obvious than ADHD symptoms in kids. That said, while hyperactivity may decrease with age, challenges related to inattention, impulsivity, and executive functioning can persist or even become more noticeable in adulthood. External demands and responsibilities in adulthood may exacerbate the condition. However, modern forms of ADHD treatment have proven effective in managing cases of the mental disorder. 

How does ADHD develop?

ADHD is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder, with research suggesting a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors contribute to its development. There is evidence it is genetic or inherited, as ADHD often runs in families. Environmental factors, such as prenatal exposure to substances like tobacco or alcohol, premature birth, or low birth weight, may also play a role. Additionally, disruptions in early brain development and neurotransmitter imbalances are implicated. (8)

Who is most likely to have ADHD?

Most frequently developing in childhood between three to five years of age, boys are more likely than girls to develop the condition. Racially, African American and Caucasian youths are more likely to develop ADHD symptoms as compared to ethnicities such as Native American, Asian, and Hispanic. (9)(10)

How is ADHD officially diagnosed?

An ADHD assessment for adults and kids alike will use the criteria set by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5. To arrive at an accurate ADHD diagnosis, clinicians typically gather information from multiple sources, including interviews, observations, and standardized rating scales. The ADHD DSM-5 criteria specifies that symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity must be present for a prolonged period of time before the age of 12 (though a diagnosis can be granted for those older than), typically for six months or half a year. (11) An ADHD diagnosis is confirmed and classified in three different classifications: 

Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD

Combined Type ADHD

Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type ADHD

-Primary focus on difficulties sustaining attention, organization, and follow-through.

 

-Fewer noticeable hyperactive or impulsive behaviors.

 

-Struggles with details, makes careless mistakes, and challenges staying on task.

 

-Academic, occupational, and interpersonal difficulties may result.

-Presence of both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.

-Difficulties sustaining attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

-Comprehensive manifestation of ADHD symptoms across various daily life domains.

-Primarily involves noticeable hyperactivity and impulsivity.

 

-Fewer prominent symptoms of inattention.

 

-Exhibits restlessness, impulsive decision-making, difficulty waiting for turns, and constant need for physical activity.

 

-Challenges in maintaining appropriate behavior in various settings.

What is the most effective treatment for ADHD?

The most effective treatment for ADHD typically involves a multimodal approach, combining behavioral interventions, psychoeducation, and, in many cases, medications. (12) Each aspect of this combined approach typically includes: 

  • Behavioral Therapies: Behavioral therapies for ADHD focus on teaching individuals specific strategies to manage symptoms, including organization, time management, and impulse control. Techniques such as behavior modification, reinforcement, and cognitive-behavioral interventions aim to develop adaptive behaviors and improve overall functioning in daily life.
  • Psychoeducation: Psychoeducation in ADHD treatment involves providing individuals and their families with comprehensive information about ADHD, its symptoms, and available interventions. This education fosters awareness, understanding, and effective coping strategies to navigate the challenges associated with ADHD in daily life.
  • Medications: Medications commonly used for ADHD treatment include stimulants, which enhance neurotransmitter activity in the brain to improve attention and focus, and non-stimulants, which may target different neurotransmitters to alleviate ADHD symptoms. 
     

Can ADHD be treated without medication?

Yes, ADHD can be treated without medication through various non-pharmacological approaches. Behavioral therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and behavior modification, are effective in helping individuals develop organizational skills, improve time management, and address impulsivity. Psychoeducation provides essential information about ADHD, fostering self-awareness and understanding. Additionally, lifestyle changes are crucial to the success of ADHD treatment without medication. 
 

How can ADHD be managed?

Along with treatment, there are several habits and lifestyle changes that can be used to support symptoms of ADHD which include:

  • Regular Exercise: Engage in activities like jogging, swimming, or yoga, which not only provide physical benefits but also help regulate mood and reduce restlessness commonly associated with ADHD.
  • Structured Routine: Establish a consistent daily schedule with designated times for tasks, meals, and relaxation. Utilize tools like planners or digital calendars to create a visual representation of the day.
  • Organizational Tools: Use planners, to-do lists, and reminders on smartphones to keep track of assignments, deadlines, and daily responsibilities. Break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Balanced Diet: Prioritize a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, which may support cognitive function. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for overall health.
  • Adequate Sleep: Establish a consistent sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Create a relaxing bedtime routine and ensure a comfortable sleep environment.
  • Minimized Distractions: Arrange work or study spaces to minimize visual and auditory distractions. Use noise-canceling headphones, if necessary, to create a focused environment.
  • Stress-Reducing Activities: Practice mindfulness through activities like meditation or deep breathing exercises. Engage in hobbies or activities that bring joy and relaxation.
  • Breaks and Rewards: Break down tasks into shorter intervals with breaks in between. Establish a reward system, allowing small breaks or incentives upon completing specific tasks to maintain motivation.
  • Effective Time Management: Prioritize tasks, allocate specific times for each, and set realistic deadlines. Use timers or alarms to help maintain focus and prompt transitions between activities.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate mindfulness practices, such as guided meditation or progressive muscle relaxation, to manage stress levels and improve attention and emotional regulation. Regularly engaging in these lifestyle habits creates a holistic approach to managing ADHD symptoms and promoting overall well-being.

If you're looking for a way to help you or your loved ones with ADHD, start a visit online now with Call-On-Doc and choose between same-day pharmacy pick-up or home delivery options for the best medication pricing and your convenience.

Source:

  1. “Psychiatry.org - What is ADHD?” American Psychiatric Association, https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/adhd/what-is-adhd.
  2. “ADHD – Learning Disabilities Association of America.” Learning Disabilities Association of America, National Institute of Health, 2003, https://ldaamerica.org/disabilities/adhd/.
  3. Ellis, Rachel Reiff. “ADHD and Anxiety: Understanding the Link and How To Treat.” WebMD, 25 September 2023, https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/anxiety-adhd-link.
  4. “Other Concerns and Conditions with ADHD.” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/conditions.html.
  5. Pacheco, Danielle, and Alex Dimitriu. “ADHD and Sleep Problems: How Are They Related?” Sleep Foundation, 16 November 2023, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health/adhd-and-sleep.
  6. “ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder.” CHADD, https://chadd.org/about-adhd/adhd-and-autism-spectrum-disorder/.
  7. Zulauf CA, Sprich SE, Safren SA, Wilens TE. The complicated relationship between attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and substance use disorders. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2014 Mar;16(3):436. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4414493/.
  8. Thapar A, Cooper M, Jefferies R, Stergiakouli E. What causes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Arch Dis Child. 2012 Mar;97(3):260-5. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2011-300482, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3927422/.
  9. “Data and Statistics About ADHD.” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html.
  10. Chung W, Jiang SF, Paksarian D, Nikolaidis A, Castellanos FX, Merikangas KR, Milham MP. Trends in the Prevalence and Incidence of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Among Adults and Children of Different Racial and Ethnic Groups. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Nov 1;2(11):e1914344. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6826640/.
  11. “DSM-5 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition; ADHD: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” AAFP, APA, https://www.aafp.org/dam/AAFP/documents/patient_care/adhd_toolkit/adhd19-assessment-table1.pdf.
  12. “Understanding ADHD: Evidence Based Treatment of ADHD.” UC Davis Health, UC Davis, https://health.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute/research/about-adhd/adhd-treatment.html.
     

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Wayne Hahne,

English graduate and Call-On-Doc’s medical resource guide, Wayne C. Hahne is an experienced and passionate medical education content expert. Through diligent research, provider interviews and utilizing the industry's leading resources for wellness information, it is Mr. Hahne’s personal mission to educate the general public on medical conditions with in-depth and easy-to-understand written guides.

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