What is ADHD?
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and it is one of the most common mental health disorders. Approximately 5 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults are diagnosed with ADHD.
The symptoms of ADHD are characterized under three different categories:
- Inattention (not being able to keep focus)
- Hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting)
- Impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought).
Are ADD and ADHD the same thing?
ADHD and ADD are often referred to interchangeably, although they differ in one primary symptom. ADD stands for attention deficit disorder, and lacks the hyperactivity symptom usually associated with ADHD. So, those with ADD still experience the inattention and impulsiveness that are symptomatic of ADHD, but they lack the hyperactivity.
This can be slightly problematic for recognizing ADD, especially in children. Children who express the hyperactive symptoms of ADHD also tend to draw more attention to themselves. They might act out in the classroom, or have a clear inability to sit still, which catches the attention of teachers or parents. On the other hand, those with ADD are more likely to appear shy, quiet, or introverted. So, their disorder may be more likely to go unseen by those around them.
Who is Affected by ADHD and ADD?
ADHD is more common in males than females, and it’s usually diagnosed in children. However, it’s not uncommon for adults to be diagnosed with ADHD or ADD later in life. As explained previously, with ADD, the symptoms may go unseen throughout childhood, but still cause someone to struggle with inattention and impulsiveness until they finally obtain a diagnosis in adulthood.
At The Center for Psychological Health, located in north Seattle, we help children, teens, and adults to navigate the challenges of ADHD and ADD.
Recognizing ADHD in Children
Recognizing ADHD in children can be difficult because many of the symptoms are considered common childhood traits in general, such as limited attention span, or an inability to sit still for long periods.
For children with ADHD, though, their symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention are greater than expected for their age and they interfere with the child’s ability to learn or interact with others.
This is why the first signs of ADHD often arise during school, in one of two ways:
- The child is struggling to pay attention during school.
- The child is acting act out, or disrupting the classroom.
When either of these problems occur, it usually captures the teacher’s attention, and can then be brought to a parents attention. At this point, it’s important for the parent to seek help from their child’s physician or a qualified mental health expert to obtain an evaluation or diagnosis.
Getting a diagnosis is especially important for school aged children because it can give them access to a support system that will help them succeed. If a child is diagnosed with ADHD, ADD, or another learning disability, they can qualify for special education assistance. With the right assistance and treatment, a child with ADHD can be very successful in school and beyond. But to obtain assistance and treatment, you have to start with an evaluation.
The Center for Psychological Health provides evaluations, and treatment for children, teens, and adults. We have locations in both Seattle and Federal Way. Call us at 206-466-5649, or contact us online to schedule an appointment.
Recognizing ADHD in Adults
The signs of ADHD can change as a person matures. Since, many adults don’t realize they have the disorder, it’s often identified when they experience problems in the workplace, relationships, or even addiction.
Here are some additional challenges that adults with ADHD often experience:
- Trouble managing time or meeting deadlines
- Chronic lateness and forgetfulness
- Trouble holding down a job
- Trouble being organized
- Easily frustrated or overwhelmed
- Trouble concentrating when reading
- Low self-esteem
- Drug or alcohol abuse / addiction
In order to diagnose ADHD in an adult, psychologists need to perform a comprehensive evaluation. They’ll take into account the patients current and past symptoms, as well as their medical history. Once an evaluation is done, your psychologist will work with you to develop a customized treatment plan that fits your needs and diagnosis.
ADHD Testing & Diagnosis
If you think you or a loved one might have ADHD, it’s very important to reach out to a qualified mental health provider, who has experience in diagnosing ADHD.
Although the signs and symptoms sound easy enough to recognize, ADHD is a complex diagnosis, that can only be done by a doctor, psychiatrist, or psychologist. It’s possible for a primary care physician to diagnose ADHD, but they’ll typically refer their patients to a psychiatrist or psychologist for treatment.
At our Seattle and Federal Way autism clinics we have licensed psychologists, who provide evaluations and psychotherapy treatment. We also have a licensed psychiatric nurse practitioner who is able to treat patients with medication, when appropriate.
Symptoms of ADHD
As mentioned earlier, the symptoms of ADHD are categorized into the following three categories:
- Inattentive symptoms
- Hyperactive symptoms
- Impulsive symptoms
When a doctor or psychologist does an ADHD evaluation, one of the factors they consider, are the number of these different symptoms that have occurred over the past six months. Here are some examples of the symptoms in each category that they look for.
Symptoms of inattention include:
- Easily distracted
- Difficulty listening or following directions
- Difficulty with completing tasks
- Inattention to detail
- Makes careless mistakes
- Difficulty organizing their daily schedule
- Can’t sit still
- Forgetful or often loses things
Symptoms of hyperactivity include:
- Can’t stay seated or sit still
- Fidgeting, squirming, or tapping of hands/feet when sitting
- Excessive talking
- Difficulty being quiet
- Interrupting or finishing people’s sentences
- Difficulty waiting in lines
- Is always moving, or “on the go”
Symptoms of impulsivity include:
- Trouble waiting or having patience with others
- Frequently interrupting in conversations
- Intruding into conversations, or situations without asking permission
Research has shown that the most effective treatment for ADHD is a combined approach that includes both psychotherapy and medication. However, the specific approach should be individualized based on a patient’s unique needs and diagnosis. That’s why it’s important to work with a team of mental health experts, experienced in treating ADHD.
At The Center for Psychological Health, our treatment plans are highly individualized based on the needs and goals of our clients.
Psychotherapy for ADHD
Through psychotherapy we teach our patients strategies to reduce distractions, and develop structures that increase their productivity. During this process, we also work to develop self-awareness, so they can identify their own behavior patterns and self-correct using the strategies we introduce.
ADHD Medication Management
Medication cannot cure ADHD, nor should it be used as a singular treatment, or substitute for psychotherapy. Any treatment with medication, should also include psychotherapy treatment.
When use in conjunction with psychotherapy, medication can be highly effective for treating ADHD. ADHD medications help reduce the symptoms of ADHD at a biochemical level, by targeting certain neurotransmitters in the brain. This can sometimes reduce the behavioral symptoms of ADHD enough to also improve the effectiveness of psychotherapy, where patients learn the skills to better manage their ADHD.
However, taking any kind of medication should not be taken lightly. It’s important to work with a qualified medication provider, such as a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner, who’s experienced in ADHD medication management. The right provider will work with you to find an ADHD medication that reduces symptoms, but also has minimal negative side effects, and will not interfere with other co-existing conditions.
At our Seattle clinic, medication management is provided by our resident psychiatric nurse practitioner, Geoffrey Fong.
Reach Out for Help With ADHD
Are you looking for help with ADHD? At The Center for Psychological Health, we help people of all ages, from children to adults. Whether you’re looking for an ADHD evaluation, psychotherapy, or medication management, we’ll match you with the best provider for your situation. We’ll also help you find a therapist who accepts your insurance.