ADHD is pretty common, and more guys tend to be diagnosed than girls. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 9.4% of all school-aged kids have ADHD. It’s usually diagnosed in childhood, but can sometimes go unnoticed until the teen years or adulthood.
ADHD often runs in families. It’s common for someone with ADHD to have a parent who also has ADHD, although their parent may never have been diagnosed.
ADHD is a spectrum disorder. This means that some people have a little bit, some people have a medium amount, and some people have a lot of difficulty.
Remember that people with ADHD are just as smart as other people. Some people think Albert Einstein had ADHD. In fact, people with ADHD are often very creative and adventurous.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
There are three types of ADHD:
- The Inattentive Type causes people to have a hard time focusing or concentrating and are easily distracted.
- The Hyperactive/Impulsive Type causes people to feel restless and sometimes to do things without thinking them through.
- The Combined Type causes problems with both attention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.
What are the signs of an attention problem?
A person with an attention problem might:
- Be easily distracted when doing something, especially school work
- Make careless mistakes in his school work
- Have a hard time finishing school work, chores or other tasks
- Be told he is “lazy” or “rude” because he tends to put off or not finish important tasks
- Daydream when he is supposed to be paying attention (such as during a class)
- Have trouble following directions
- Be forgetful
- Lose things easily
What are the signs of hyperactivity?
A person with hyperactivity might:
- Move around and feel restless a lot of the time
- Have trouble waiting patiently
- Get himself into bad situations because he doesn’t think things through
- Engage in risky behavior such as speeding while driving, drug/alcohol abuse, or unprotected sex without thinking about the consequences
- Have trouble getting along with people because he isn’t able to finish things they ask him to do, or because he is impatient
- Get frustrated easily
Is ADHD a Learning Disability?
No, ADHD isn’t usually considered a Learning Disability (LD), but about 20-30% of all kids with ADHD also have a learning disability. However, it is possible to have your ADHD recognized as a disability under a special act called the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA was designed to help students receive extra support with academics through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). If you think you may benefit from an IEP start by having a conversation with your parents and teachers.
What should I do if I think I have ADHD?
Talk to your parents or your health care provider. Your health care provider (or a qualified mental health professional) will ask you, your parents, and maybe your teachers questions about how you act at home and at school. He or she will also ask about what you were like when you were younger, because the signs and symptoms of ADHD usually show up at an early age. You may be asked to take some tests that will show if you are having trouble with attention or hyperactivity. This process is called neuropsychological testing.
Sometimes, people can have problems with attention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity because they feel depressed or preoccupied with other things, not because they have ADHD. That’s why it’s important to talk to your health care provider about your symptoms so he or she can figure out the best way to help you.
What is the treatment for ADHD?
The two most common forms of treatment for ADHD are medication and behavior strategies.
What medications can I take to help with ADHD?
Medications for the treatment of ADHD should only be prescribed from a doctor after you have received a diagnosis of ADHD. Many people take medication to help them with their ADHD symptoms. The most common medications used to treat ADHD are known as stimulants.
Examples of stimulants are:
A non-stimulant medication such as Strattera® can also be used.
Depending on what medication your HCP thinks is best for you, you may take the medicine once a day or several times a day. Some people find that they only need to take their ADHD medicine on school days or when they need to do homework. On weekends and during summer break, many teens even take “medication holidays” when they don’t need to take medicine. It’s important to NEVER share your medications with other people.
Taking ADHD medicine can cause some side effects in some people, such as loss of appetite, weight loss, trouble sleeping, headaches, stomach aches, and irritability. These side effects usually go away after the first month, but it’s important to tell your health care provider if they don’t. He or she may be able to change your medicine so that you don’t have these side effects.
Are there other non-medication based things I can do to help with ADHD?
Some kids use behavioral strategies with or without medication to help them with their ADHD symptoms. Here are some examples:
- Keeping a calendar or schedule to help you remember important things
- Color-coding your notebooks for school or finding other ways to stay organized, like creating a to-do list
- Practicing ways to help you remember to stop and think before you do something
- Setting small and realistic goals for yourself
- Break up tasks or chores into smaller tasks and take frequent short breaks.
- Rewarding yourself for sticking to your tasks and achieving your goals
There are people who can help you think of what strategies would work best for you. Ask your health care provider for a referral.
If you think you may have ADHD, talk to your health care provider. ADHD can be challenging but with proper treatment you should be able to cope with most, if not all, of your symptoms. Talking to a mental health counselor is also important to help you learn strategies to help you at school and socially. Remember, NEVER self-treat or share your ADHD medicine. This is a medical condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated by a health care provider.