Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic neuro-developmental disorder with symptoms that carry into adulthood. ADHD is also a form of neurodivergence, which may sometimes be considered an identity. It can affect many aspects of an individual's life and may benefit from accommodation in school and work settings. The following articles discuss ADHD in detail, offering support to adults with the condition and parents of children with ADHD.
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Medically Reviewed By: Andrea Brant, LMHC
What Is ADHD?
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that impacts people of all ages, including adults. While some individuals are diagnosed during childhood, others don't receive a diagnosis until later in life. Because ADHD is a form of neurodivergence and a neurological difference, it is lifelong, and there is no cure. However, the distressing symptoms of ADHD can often be managed with treatment options like medication or therapy.
Some people with ADHD may be misunderstood because their symptoms may come off as personality differences. Although they may not be trying to offend others, they may have difficulty with certain behaviors, such as waiting for their turn in a conversation or focusing on schoolwork. Some people consider their ADHD a disability, and without accommodation, functional difficulties can occur. However, several support options are available, and you're not alone.
It is important to note that there are three specific subtypes of ADHD: predominantly Inattentive, predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined. The symptoms of ADHD may vary depending on the subtype one is diagnosed with.
Common Symptoms of ADHD In Children
While the symptoms of ADHD can vary from person to person, the following are common signs in children:
- Difficulty waiting for a person to finish speaking before talking
- Difficulty waiting in line or waiting their turn
- Difficulty focusing or "zoning out"
- Becoming disinterested quickly in long conversations or activities
- Avoiding mundane tasks due to difficulty or lack of interest
- Forgetting essential items
- Difficulty organizing their personal space and school space
ADHD is often considered a spectrum, with some people having more severe symptoms than others. Further, some individuals might struggle more with specific symptoms. For example, a child may be able to focus well but experience impulsiveness. This variation is due to the unique subtypes of ADHD, which are explored more in the articles above.
Common Symptoms of ADHD In Adults
Adults and children with ADHD often have overlapping symptoms because children with ADHD grow into adults with ADHD. These individuals may struggle with tasks they consider dull or uninteresting. Other symptoms of ADHD in adults may include the following:
- Driving recklessly
- Struggling to listen during conversations or speeches
- Difficulty in relationships, such as forgetting anniversaries
- Difficulty finishing tasks one has already started
- Difficulty getting an idea out of their head when it comes up ("hyper-fixation")
- Passion toward certain activities and avoidance of others
- Sensory challenges, such as difficulty eating certain textures
Misconceptions About ADHD
Some may assume that people with ADHD are "rude" or "lazy." These stereotypes are untrue and misleading. For example, someone with ADHD might struggle with interrupting because they're excited about the conversation, not because they don't care about what the other person is saying.
A person with ADHD isn't necessarily lazy, and there can be several reasons they may struggle to complete a task. For example, an individual may have a lack of focus or disinterest. In addition, they may struggle with a fear of making a mistake or not being "perfect" at an activity.
People with ADHD may not intentionally want to inconvenience those around them. They often struggle with managing their symptoms and trying to fit into a world that seems to misunderstand them. In addition, people who are different or think differently than the social "norm" may be bullied at a higher rate, which can lead to mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
ADHD And Comorbidity
Other mental illnesses are more common in people living with ADHD, such as anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. The rates of comorbidity with ADHD are high, with an estimated 60% to 100% of people exhibiting one or more comorbid conditions as adults.
In some cases, people with ADHD may try to explain their behaviors but find that others don't understand them. This challenge can play out throughout their lives, leading to self-isolation and withdrawal from their loved ones. While it may be difficult for them to express these feelings, they may benefit from journaling or talking to a provider.
Navigating Neurodiversity With A Professional
Seeking support for neurodiversity-related challenges, like coping with ADHD symptoms, may be difficult for those who experience symptoms that cause accessibility issues. In these cases, online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp may be more accessible.
With online therapy, you can receive tailored guidance from anywhere you have an internet connection. Whether you're a parent of a child with ADHD or live with ADHD and would like an alternative form of care, you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions with a licensed therapist using an online platform. In addition, you can send messages throughout the week as you have thoughts, which may be accessible if you forget topics you'd like to discuss during sessions.
Research has proven the effectiveness of online therapy for navigating various concerns, including those associated with ADHD. One study found that parents participating in an online behavioral parent training program experienced high engagement, acceptability, and parent treatment knowledge and fidelity. These outcomes were comparable to those found with in-person treatment. Further studies have shown that online interventions for ADHD can successfully improve attention deficit and social function in adults with the condition.
ADHD is a common neuro-developmental disorder that is lifelong, impacting children, adolescents, and adults. Its symptoms often include inattention, difficulty concentrating, and impulsivity, which may make it more challenging to achieve daily functioning. Learning more about ADHD and seeking support from a qualified professional can be vital in managing the symptoms. Consider contacting a therapist online or in your area to get started.