Are you feeling overwhelmed, scattered, and unfocused? Do you have difficulty staying on task or focusing long enough to complete a project?
Suppose this starts sounding like your daily narrative. In that case, it might be time to consider if what you’re facing is more than just being busy — it may be Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Don’t worry - knowing what exactly ADHD is can help change how you look at things.
Let's dig into the details of this condition and explore the potential of living with this disorder!
What causes ADHD? Science behind
Short answer: we don’t fully know yet, but studies suggest that genetics and environment are contributing factors. One theory suggests that ADHD may be linked to the hormone dopamine, which plays a crucial role in attention, motivation, and reward.
ADHD and dopamine
Short answer: ADHD = low dopamine. People with ADHD have less neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain than neurotypical people, particularly in the prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for controlling feelings, attention, and behavior. Low dopamine levels cause difficulty concentrating, motivation, and the ability to regulate impulses.
ADHD emotional dysregulation
Emotional dysregulation is characterized by difficulty managing feelings, resulting in impulsivity and poor decision-making. This can lead to unsafe sexual activity, substance misuse, spending money on whims, and other adverse outcomes.
Forms of ADHD stimulation:
- Overstimulation. This can occur when there is too much sensory input, leading to anxiety, irritability, and restlessness.
- Understimulation. It can cause boredom, lack of motivation, and difficulty initiating tasks.
- Waiting mode. It is a state of inactivity, which can trigger impatience, frustration, and distractibility.These forms of stimulation can significantly impact ADHD-ers and affect day-to-day life and well-being.
The 3 Types of ADHD: What Are They?
3 Types of ADHD
ADHD symptoms might vary significantly from person to person. Understanding the differences between the three forms of ADHD allows ADHD-ers and their families to establish effective treatment strategies.
Inattentive Type ADHD
Inattentive ADHD (ADD) is the first subtype. People living with Inattentive ADHD have trouble paying attention and may have difficulty staying focused on a subject for an extended period or completing chores. In addition, they may give the impression of being forgetful or disorganized, having difficulty following directions, and avoiding activities that demand sustained mental effort.
Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD
People who have Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD are energetic and impulsive, yet they can pay attention to what's going on around them just fine. They could have difficulty sitting still, being antsy or fidgety, and talking more than others. They may also interrupt others frequently and act impulsively, engaging in behaviors without considering the potential ramifications of their actions.
Combined Type ADHD
Combined ADHD is the most common type of ADHD, with both attention and hyperactivity issues. It makes focusing, controlling impulses, and managing energy difficult.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD
Signs and Symptoms
ADHD is complicated. It manifests itself differently in each individual who has it. But some symptoms and behaviors are experienced by a large number of people.
Cognitive Signs and Symptoms
- Brain fog is common for ADHD-ers. It can be described as a mental haze or the inability to focus on specific activities.
- ADHD Paralysis is a condition in which a person's brain has the sensation that it is unable to accomplish tasks or make judgments. This might lead to postponing or avoiding the issue altogether, which makes the feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed even worse.
- ADHD eating disorder. ADHD-ers often struggle to remember to eat regularly, leading to unpredictable eating patterns and challenging maintaining a healthy diet.
- Executive dysfunction in ADHD. It manifests as difficulty in planning, organizing, and prioritizing work. ADHD-ers may find it difficult to accomplish work and keep up with their duties, which can be a big issue.
- Boooooredom is huge for ADHD-ers since the brain needs new experiences and stimuli. This can make it challenging to focus on duties and contribute to a propensity to seek out novel experiences.
Emotional Signs and Symptoms
- Burnout. ADHD-ers may be more susceptible to burnout due to the demands of managing the condition and the challenges it can present in daily life.
- ADHD masking is a behavior where ADHD-ers hide or downplay their symptoms in social situations. This can be exhausting and can lead to feelings of disconnection and loneliness.
Sensational Signs and Symptoms
- ADHD sensory overload: Sometimes, people with ADHD get overwhelmed by loud noises, lots of activity, or too much stimulation. This can make it hard to focus on the essential things and can even make them shut down.
- Body-focused repetitive behaviors ADHD: People with ADHD are likelier to pull their hair or pick at their skin when feeling anxious or stressed out. It's like a coping mechanism.
How is ADHD diagnosed?
ADHD is diagnosed through a thorough evaluation by a pediatrician, psychiatrist, or psychologist. The process involves gathering information from medical history, clinical interviews, and behavior questionnaires. These assessments are designed to identify the presence, frequency, and severity of ADHD symptoms and rule out any other potential causes.
ADHD Diagnosis in Adults
You could be diagnosed with ADHD, even if not during childhood. For a diagnosis in adults, the following criteria must be met:
- Sighs and symptoms must be present in multiple settings (home, work, social situations).
- Sighs and symptoms must have persisted for at least six months and be deemed age-inappropriate and excessive.
- Another mental disorder, medical condition, or substance use must not better explain symptoms.
- Some symptoms must have been present before the age of 12.
The process typically begins with a clinical interview and self-report questionnaires, such as ASRS (the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale) or the CAARS (Conners' Adult ADHD Rating Scale). In addition, a detailed history of childhood symptoms, academic performance, and social interactions is collected to provide further context.
ADHD Diagnosis in Women
ADHD in women is booming nowadays because of the popularisation of ADHD in social media. Women often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed due to the differences in presentation compared to men.
Women with ADHD are more likely to exhibit inattentive symptoms and internalize their struggles, which can be mistaken for anxiety or depression.
To diagnose ADHD in women, doctors must recognize these gender-specific differences and tailor their evaluations accordingly. It may include administering gender-sensitive questionnaires, such as the Barkley Adult ADHD Rating Scale (BAARS-IV) for women, and conducting interviews that explore the unique challenges faced by women with ADHD, such as managing household tasks, work, and relationships.
ADHD Diagnosis in Children
It can be challenging because typical childhood behaviors overlap with ADHD symptoms.
The child must exhibit symptoms in multiple settings (home, school, social activities) and have persistent symptoms for at least six months to receive a diagnosis. Additionally, the symptoms must interfere with the child's functioning in these settings and not be attributable to another mental or physical condition.
The diagnostic process for children involves gathering information from parents, teachers, and the child. This may include behavior rating scales, such as the Conners 3 or the Vanderbilt Assessment Scale, as well as clinical interviews and direct observation. It is essential to involve all relevant parties to comprehensively understand the child's behavior and experiences.
ADHD and Other Disorders
ADHD intersects with other disorders and sometimes leads to confusion and misdiagnosis. Here we will explore the connections between ADHD and autism, borderline personality disorder (BPD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and bipolar disorder.
Also, we will show the differences between ADHD and anxiety and the importance of accurate diagnosis.
1. ADHD and Autism
ADHD and autism are the most popular neurodevelopmental disorders. They share overlapping symptoms, such as difficulty with social interactions, impulsivity, and problems with executive functioning.
Approximately 30-50% of individuals with autism also have ADHD. It is critical to recognize and address both conditions when they co-occur, as appropriate interventions can significantly improve the quality of life for those affected.
2. ADHD and BPD
Unstable moods, self-image, and relationships characterize Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD. ADHD and BPD can manifest similar symptoms, such as impulsivity and emotional dysregulation.
About 10-20% of individuals with ADHD may also have BPD.
3. ADHD and OCD
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) symptoms are recurrent, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
Share signs of ADHD and OCD: difficulty with attention and focus. But they differ in crucial aspects. For example, ADHD is associated with impulsivity, while an excessive need for control characterizes OCD.
Today 3-12% of individuals with ADHD also have OCD.
4. ADHD and Bipolar
The symptoms of ADHD and bipolar disorder overlap regarding impulsivity and inattention.
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by periods of extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression). But mood fluctuations in bipolar disorder are much more challenging than those in ADHD-ers.
Around 10-20% of ADHD-ers may also have bipolar.
5. The Difference Between ADHD and Anxiety
Shared common symptoms: restlessness and difficulty concentrating.
Anxiety is characterized by excessive worry and fear. ADHD involves attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity challenges.
Misdiagnosis is unfortunately common because of the overlapping symptoms between ADHD and other disorders. Self-tests are excellent but go to the doctor.
Treatment for ADHD
Medications for ADHD
Medications are frequently used as the first line of treatment for ADHD. Stimulant drugs, such as Ritalin and Adderall, raise dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain, whereas non-stimulant medications, such as Strattera, raise norepinephrine levels.
Medications can significantly improve focus, attention, and impulse control for ADHD-ers. But remember, “Pills don’t teach skills.”
Coupled with coaching and CBT, it can provide a significant long-term effect.
Therapy for ADHD
Therapy can help you manage your ADHD symptoms. ADHD-ers can learn via Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) how to regulate impulses and improve organizational skills. Also, it helps with anxiety, sadness, low self-esteem, etc.
Strategies for Living with ADHD
The management of ADHD can be complex, but many ways can help people with ADHD live happy and fulfilling lives despite their condition. The following are some helpful hints for coping with ADHD:
Methods for Maintaining Focus Despite ADHD
- Break things into smaller, more doable parts.
- Be clear about your objectives and deadlines.
- Work in a calm and well-organized environment.
- Keep distractions to a minimum by working in an ordered space - Rely on visual aids like calendars and to-do lists to keep yourself organized.
Productivity Strategies for People with ADHD
- Determine your most pressing responsibilities, and work on those first.
- Stay on track by setting a timer or using a stopwatch, and give yourself regular breaks to prevent burnout.
- Motivate yourself by positively talking to yourself.
The routine of ADHD
Make sure that your everyday activities follow the same pattern every day.
- Make time for exercise, healthy food, and sleep; avoid multitasking as much as possible and concentrate on one thing at a time.
- Set reminders or alarms to help you stay on track.
- Break things into smaller, more doable parts.
- Keep yourself motivated by talking to yourself well - Establish concrete objectives and timetables for achieving them.
- Determine the source of any underlying worry or concerns contributing to procrastination, and take steps to address those fears and anxiety.
ADHD at work
Maintaining your order requires using a planner or a list of things to do.
- Be explicit in both your goals and your timelines.
- Keep distractions to a minimum by working in a calm and well-organized area.
- Be upfront and honest with your employers and coworkers regarding your needs.
Finding a job that fits the best your ADHD type can be challenging. For those who are wondering how to embrace your ADHD superpower we collected 20 really good jobs for ADHD-ers (Hyperactive, Inattentive, or Combined)
Tips for learning
- Chunk you're studying into smaller, more manageable pieces during each session.
- If you need assistance understanding the material, use visual aids like diagrams or mind maps.
- Taking frequent breaks is essential for preventing burnout.
- Make sure you study in a calm and well-organized setting.
Tips for relationships
- Be honest with those you care about your struggles and needs.
- Engage in constructive self-talk to maintain motivation.
- Develop the skill of active listening and make an effort to comprehend the viewpoints of others.
- Think about participating in couples or family therapy to resolve any issues arising from your relationships.
Tips for parenting
- For assistance with organization, use visual aids such as charts and schedules.
- Taking care of yourself is essential to warding off burnout.
- Maintain open and honest communication with your children about your requirements and difficulties.