Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are two of the most misunderstood and incorrectly treated illnesses today. People with ADD/ADHD may have trouble paying attention, trouble controlling impulsive behaviors (they may act without thinking about what the result will be), or they often may be overly active. Although ADD/ADHD can’t be cured, it can be successfully managed and some symptoms may improve as the person ages. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 20% of boys and 11% of girls are being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. While genetics, maternal alcohol or drug use, birth trauma, jaundice, brain infections and head trauma can play a causative role in ADD/ADHD symptoms, the increase in people being diagnosed is likely related to influences in our world today that negatively affect brain function, including limited physical activity, excessive use of video games or electronic devices, diets filled with processed foods, and exposure to environmental toxins (i.e. pesticides in the food supply) among other things.
Many people with ADD/ADHD are very intelligent, creative, spontaneous, fun and successful. However, on the other hand, left undiagnosed or untreated these illnesses can have alarming consequences and are associated with higher incidences of:
- Academic problems
- Higher risk of suicide
- Job failure or unemployment
- Incarceration or other legal involvement
- Unhealthy lifestyle (lazy, unmotivated, obese, etc.)
- Divorce or other significant relationship problems
- Alzheimer’s disease
Furthermore, 33% of people with ADD/ADHD never finish high school (3 times the national average) so they end up in jobs that don’t pay well or simply settling for less than their true potential. According to one study from Harvard, 52% of people with untreated ADD/ADHD abuse drugs or alcohol and persons diagnosed with ADHD are at one-and-a-half-times greater risk of developing a substance use disorder.
ADD/ADHD BRAINS WORK DIFFERENTLY!
Ideally, when we concentrate, blood flow should increase in the brain, especially in the prefrontal cortex. This increased activity allows us to focus, stay on task and think ahead. In the brains of most people with ADD/ADHD, blood flow actually goes down when they concentrate, making it harder to stay focused. In other words, the harder they try, the harder it gets! ADD/ADHD, like many other conditions, are not just single and simple disorders, therefore, treatment is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are 7 subtypes of ADD and each requires a different treatment plan because of the diverse brain systems involved.
Each of the ADD subtypes has its own set of symptoms as a result of the abnormal blood flow patterns in the brain, but for the most part, they all share the same core symptoms. These core symptoms include but are not limited to:
- A short attention span for regular, routine, everyday tasks (homework, chores, etc.)
- Organizational problems (like having a disorganized room and/or always running late)
- Problems following through
- Poor impulse control (saying or doing something before thinking it through)
If you are concerned about whether you or a loved one might have ADD or ADHD, the first step is to talk with a healthcare professional to find out if the symptoms truly fit the diagnosis. Determining if a child, teen or adult has ADD or ADHD is a several-step process that should occur only with an experienced clinician. Pine Lake Behavioral Health has experts onsite that do this everyday, and there is no single test to diagnose ADD or ADHD. It is important that the healthcare professional determine whether the child, teen or adult has another condition that can either explain the symptoms better, or that occurs at the same time as ADD/ADHD. In fact, many other problems like sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and certain types of learning disabilities, can often mimic or have similar symptoms. Collateral information is vital in this process, and for children specifically The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that healthcare professionals ask parents, teachers, and other adults who care for the child about the child’s behavior in different settings, like at home, school, or with peers before jumping to any particular diagnosis. Read more about the recommendations.
If you are concerned about you or a loved one’s behavior, it is important to discuss these concerns with a healthcare provider. CLICK HERE for a brief inventory of symptoms that a healthcare provider will ask about in the process of deciding whether you or a loved one has ADD/ADHD. Simply fill out the patient’s name and age then identify the signs or symptoms the person has shown. Once you click submit, the information will automatically be sent to our practice confidentially. You may also print the page to take to you or your child’s healthcare provider for more information. This brief checklist may help you to start the conversation.