Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can involve inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness — symptoms often spotted at an early age.

Typical signs of ADHD are:

  • A short attention span
  • Restlessness or constant fidgeting
  • Being easily distracted

While ADHD in children can occur across all intellectual abilities, a significant proportion will have learning difficulties as well as being hyperactive.

How will ADHD be diagnosed?

If a child is suspected of having ADHD, diagnosis is normally attempted between the ages of 3 and 7.

To successfully identify ADHD, a doctor will want to know about the history of the symptoms and whether any recent changes have occurred to trigger hyperactivity or the other signs.

To be properly diagnosed, hyperactive children and children with other ADHD symptoms will be assessed for a number of months. A decision may then be made to make a referral to a psychiatrist, paediatrician or other specialist if the condition is affecting everyday life.

For adults, diagnosis can be much more difficult than hyperactive kids. A doctor may ask about an adult’s childhood including taking a look at school records to try and identify ADHD.

Adult symptoms may include:

  • Underachieving at work or in education
  • Dangerous driving
  • Difficulty with daily chores such as shopping
  • Difficulty making/keeping friends/partners

Even so, identification of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults can prove elusive. Doctors often require confirmation that you suffered in childhood before formal diagnosis can be made.

Are treatments available?

There is no cure for ADHD in children, but an education programme may be used to encourage positive behavioural techniques with the hyperactive child. There’s also medication available to improve quality of life.

Methylphenidate is thought to stimulate a part of the brain that changes mental and behavioural  reactions and can be taken by hyperactive children and children with other symptoms when they reach the age of 6. The exception is if the child suffers from glaucoma or severe depression.

There can be some side effects from the drug — such as trouble sleeping, headaches, stomach aches and mood swings.

Dexafetamine works in a similar way and may be particularly effective for hyperactive kids. Anyone with heart problems or an overactive thyroid should not take this medicine.

Atomoxetine differs from these drugs by inhibiting a brain chemical called noradrenaline to improve concentration and control impulses. If a child suffers from glaucoma, this drug should not be taken. It can also cause similar side effects to methylphenidate.

A patient’s health will be monitored when such drugs are used to check blood pressure, heart rate, height, weight and body mass. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not take any of these drugs.

While there’s no cure for ADHD, being aware of what it is and getting expert support as soon as possible greatly reduces its impact and makes life’s challenges much easier handle.

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