What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD, affects an estimated 11% of children, and 5% of adults. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that hinders the region of the brain that executes daily activities, such as planning, focusing, and finishing tasks. While it is usually recognized during childhood years, more adults and teens are becoming diagnosed and affected by its symptoms everyday. The most common symptoms include: lack of focus, hyperactivity, poor time management, and mood swings. There is no specific cause known for ADHD, however, researchers believe that having a relative with the disorder can significantly up your chances of having it.
Three Subtypes of ADHD
An important thing to remember about ADHD is that it’s symptoms manifest differently, depending on the person. While ADHD is usually seen as just one set-in-stone diagnosis, there are actually three subtypes, which are based on symptoms and behavior of the patient, that aid in the diagnosing process.
People with the inattentive type usually go unnoticed until their teen/adult years, because they don't present the apparent symptoms, like hyperactivity. Some examples are: careless mistakes in tasks, trouble listening and focusing, forgetfulness, disorganization, and avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort. People with inattentive ADHD may not present the commonly known symptoms, but they still feel the effects just as much.
Those who are the primarily hyperactive type act as if “driven by a motor”, due to their lack of impulse control and hyperactive behavior. While they present symptoms of hyperactivity, those with the hyperactive type show no inattention or distractibility, making them the least common subtype of ADHD. Symptoms include: fidgeting/squirming, interrupting others, inability to sit still, acting before thinking, and excessive talking.
The most common type of ADHD, those with the combined type show both symptoms outlined above: hyperactivity and inattentiveness.
ADHD through Gender
The prevalence of ADHD is greater in males than females, but not because it is more common in males. It can be said that males usually present the ‘external’ symptoms like aggression, hyperness, and impulsivity, while females often struggle more with the ‘internal’ symptoms, such as inattentiveness, anxiety, and disorganization. More men are diagnosed with ADHD than women, rarely allowing them to get the resources and support they need.
* Disclaimer *
This is just what research and studies show, and it is important to remember everyone’s body is different and symptoms present themselves differently; there are no gender-specific symptoms.
This graph shows boy (blue) to girl (purple) diagnosis ratio by country
The science behind ADHD
Taken from the "Appalachian"
MISCONCEPTIONS SURROUNDING ADHD
Diagnosis & Treatments
The diagnosis of ADHD is done by a pediatrician or a mental health professional, like a psychiatrist. There is no way to identify the disorder by bloodwork or brain scans, so diagnosis is usually based on history and observation of behavior, and a diagnostic assessment about symptoms, needing to check six or more boxes to be diagnosed and start treatment. ADHD cannot be cured. There are many treatments to reduce symptoms of ADHD, and these include:
Medication: The main type of medication used to treat ADHD are stimulants, such as Adderall and Ritalin, which are the most prescribed. Stimulants work by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which help with focus and reduce hyperactivity in people with ADHD. If you don't have the disorder, stimulants have the opposite effect, making you hyper and jittery. *The use of medication doesn't work for everyone and there can be many trial and error runs before you find the one that works for you. Talk to your doctor if you are considering starting medication*
Behavior Therapy: The use of therapy can benefit almost everyone. As ADHD also affects relationships, therapy can strengthen positive behaviors, and reduce impulsivity and aggression. A specific type of therapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on recognizing cognitive and automatic thoughts that lead to emotional difficulties, and challenges irrational thought patterns. As many people with AdHD experience frustrating setbacks and are usually very hard on themselves, CBT can help replace their bad thought with realistic thinking, which in effect can help improve self esteem, daily life struggles, and helps them become more self aware. Studies show that those who completed a 12-session course of CBT training showed improvements in their ADHD symptoms.
Change in Diet: Studies have shown that foods such as sugar, caffeine, food dye, and artificial additives can all aggravate and worsen symptoms of ADHD in some people. Having a healthy, balanced diet is beneficial for everyone. Making sure to eat nutrient rich foods like eggs, leafy greens, fish, nuts, and fruit at least once a day is important, as getting the vitamins we need is not only essential for our digestive system, but for our brain development as well. It is proven that the way we eat affects our energy levels and attitude, so healthy food=happy mood!
Support: Being patient with yourself and having empathy helps when dealing with everyday struggles. It can be hard at first to not get down on yourself, but being open to your struggles and having a positive attitude will improve your motivation by a lot. Giving yourself credit for every success is vital, because you deserve it!
Coping with ADHD
While ADHD isn't curable, there are many tips and strategies that can be used to make your daily tasks easier.
Practice consistent study habits: No one studies the exact same way. We all have different ways of learning, and just because a study method works for someone you know, doesn't mean it will work for you. Being able to find a study method you enjoy will help you retain more information, and allow you to focus better. To learn more information about study habits, watch this video: 10 DIFFERENT STUDY METHODS for Different LEARNERS | StudyWithKiki
Talk with your teacher/employer about your ADHD: Being open about your disorder will allow for your mentors to cater to your needs, so you can still be successful. Knowing you have ADHD will authorize leniency, such as extra time to take tests, tutoring help, and having a seat in the front of the class.
IEP/ 504 Plan: If your ADHD heavily affects your daily functioning in school or work, you may be eligible for a 504 plan under the law. A 504 plan is a school developed plan for children with disabilities to get the support they need, preventing discrimination and protecting the rights of the individual. It can be hard to get a plan since you need to go through many observations and tests, but if your symptoms limit your ability to learn, you are entitled to some form of a plan. Services include: free education, extra time to complete work, and access to therapy, but services mainly depend on your provider and how much they are willing to accommodate your needs.
Finding an organization plan: Being organized will help tremendously when being faced with school, or life in general. As teenagers, it can be even harder to stay organized, but training yourself can make it easier. For example, using a planner when organizing schoolwork and calendar events, will help you stay on track of your grades, and miss less meetings and important dates. A good way is also to make your bed every morning, or pick up your room before you go to bed. These two actions will soon turn into habits and it will become easier and seem more natural to be organized.
Practice Relaxation and Meditation: Practicing meditation and relaxation can lower stress, calm you down, and can train your attention. A soothing, low impact form of exercise known as Yoga boosts energy while also relaxing you, lowering stress levels, and giving you something to focus your thoughts on. Yoga also has physical benefits too, like improving heart function, strength, balance, and overall better moods. There are many videos you can follow that practice guided meditation and yoga, which are: Yoga For Complete Beginners - 20 Minute Home Yoga Workout!, Yoga For Focus & Productivity - 10 min practice, & 5-Minute Meditation You Can Do Anywhere
Take Pride In Yourself: Having ADHD can be frustrating at times, especially when you feel like you aren’t good enough compared to others. Remember that having ADHD doesn't define you, it is just a small part of your life. Seeing past your diagnosis and seeing yourself for who YOU are, not what your disorder is, will allow you to dig deeper into yourself. Do the things you enjoy and pursue your interests, nothing is holding you back. Be proud of everything you have accomplished so far! “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, and how you can come out of it.”-Maya Angelou
Remember you aren't alone: Over 9 million people around the world suffer from ADHD on a daily basis. Even successful people like Simone Biles, Justin Timberlake, Johnny Depp, Emma Watson, Michael Phelps, and Paris Hilton are diagnosed with ADHD. Would you have ever guessed that they dealt with the effects of ADHD, and possibly are/were in the same shoes you are in now?
CLICKTHROUGH FOR AFFORABLE HEALTH CARE RESOURCES
If you don’t have health insurance, there are still ways to get the help and treatment you need, without causing stress and debt. You don’t need health insurance to get treatment, but in the long run, it’s recommended to obtain some form of affordable health coverage even if you don't have much money, with some options you can find below!
CHADD - Improving the lives of people affected by ADHD
a great non-profit organization that focuses on improving the stigma around ADHD. There are local chapters all over the U.S. and they have local online communities, and you can even connect with an ADHD specialist during their website hours. If you want to connect and possibly talk to someone with the same struggles as you, check it out!
this foundation works with talented students who have trouble reaching their full potential due to a learning disability. Not only do they offer blogs that talk about ADHD, emotional withdrawal, and signs in girls, but they also offer coaching programs such as private coaching, in-school coaching, and webinars. An Edge coach specializes in providing those with ADHD skills they need to overcome learning challenges and maintain healthy relationships.
Approaching a Loved One with ADHD
The most important thing about approaching someone with ADHD is remembering that their actions aren't their fault, and that most of the time they don't know any better. Instead of scolding, be understanding, ask them where they are coming from, and just be a “support bubble” for them. Shaming them for their actions doesnt help them learn, and can affect their self esteem. Dr. Francine Conway, also a mother of a child with ADHD, gives a great Tedx talk titled “Cultivating Compassion for the ADHD Child”, which goes into detail on how using empathy is ultimately a more effective approach in dealing with symptoms. This is targeted towards parents, however, it’s really good advice for relationships as a whole no matter what age! You can watch the full video here: Cultivating Compassion for the ADHD Child | Dr. Francine Conway | TEDxAdelphiUniversity
If you are depressed, thinking about suicide,
or believe you are having a mental health emergency, consider looking for guidance with one the hotlines below: Emergency (US): 911
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-366-8288
American Association of Poison Control:
Text Based Hotlines:
Crisis Text Line: text REASON to 741741
7 Cups: Click ‘Get started’ and you will be transferred to a trained listener
Lifeline Chat : Lifeline: complete a short survey and get connected to a caring representative
Youth Based Hotlines/Other Mental Health Hotlines
The Trevor Project Lifeline: 1-866-488-7836 OR text START to 678678
National Eating Disorder Helpline: 1-800-931-2237
YouthLine: text TEEN2TEEN to 839863 OR call
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