ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and is also sometimes referred to as ADD, generally when the person with the disorder does not display symptoms of hyperactivity.
Although there are several different predominant clusters of symptoms that people can experience, the diagnosis is still ADHD.
ADHD is one of the most common health disorders affecting children. It is estimated that around 11 percent of children aged between 4 and 17 in the United States have ADHD, which equates to around 6.4 million children. However, adults can also have ADHD.
This article will explain the three different types of ADHD.
ADHD is often first identified in school-aged children. A key sign is when their behavior becomes disruptive, and they show signs of:
- not being able to focus
- making impulsive decisions
- being hyperactive
ADHD is more common among boys than girls.
There are three main types of ADHD, which differ according to the symptoms that present most commonly. The three types are:
- ADHD, combined presentation: This is the most common type of ADHD. The person will show impulsive and hyperactive behavior, as well as getting distracted easily and struggling to maintain attention.
- ADHD, predominantly impulsive/hyperactive: This is the least common type. The person will show signs of hyperactivity and the need to move constantly, as well as displaying impulsive behavior. They do not show signs of getting distracted or inattention.
- ADHD, predominantly inattentive: People with this type of ADHD do not exhibit signs of hyperactivity or impulsivity. Instead, the person will get distracted easily and find it difficult to pay attention.
The predominantly inattentive type is the one often referred to as ADD (standing for attention deficit disorder) as the term does not contain the word "hyperactivity."
The disorder was described as ADD before the word 'hyperactivity' was added in 1987. Essentially, ADD is now an outdated way to refer to ADHD.
It was once believed that children with ADHD outgrew the disorder during adolescence because hyperactivity is often reduced as children become teenagers.
However, adults can also have ADHD and often they do not even realize that they have it. While it is true that hyperactivity is less of an issue in adults with ADHD, often other symptoms can get worse. These include:
- impulsive behaviour
- poor concentration
While most people diagnosed with ADHD as adults recall having similar problems as a child, it is not always the case, and it is possible that the symptoms have developed later in life.
Some small children naturally display some of the signs of ADHD. These include:
- high levels of activity
- difficulty staying still
- inability to pay attention for long periods of time
However, this behavior becomes an issue if it is causing them problems at home, at school, or with their family and friends.
There are some key signs of ADHD that can be broken down into three main types.
Signs that suggest someone is experiencing inattention, include:
- having trouble staying focused on tasks or activities
- getting quickly bored with a task or activity and struggling to complete it
- seeming not to be listening when spoken to
- having difficulty following instructions
- showing signs of forgetfulness and making simple mistakes
- trouble with organization and planning ahead
- frequently losing or misplacing belongings
- not enjoying study or prolonged periods of mental effort
Signs that someone is experiencing impulsivity include:
- having difficulty waiting their turn
- often interrupting others
- blurting out answers or inappropriate things rather than waiting to hear the question or to be called upon
- problems controlling powerful emotions, which can lead to anger issues
- taking risks and not understanding the consequences of their actions
If someone has the symptom of hyperactivity, they may be showing signs of:
- constantly fidgeting or squirming
- having difficulty sitting down and staying still
- talking all the time
- constantly moving around, including running and climbing
Often children are not diagnosed with ADHD until they attend school. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that doctors do not diagnose children until they are at least 4 years old.
Just because a child shows signs of inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity, it does not mean they have ADHD. Some other medical conditions, psychological conditions, or life events can cause similar symptoms, such as:
- learning disabilities, or problems with reading, writing, and language
- traumatic experiences, such as moving house or school, bullying, parents' divorce, or the death of a loved one
- psychological disorders, such as anxiety or depression
- behavioral disorders
- medical conditions, including sleep issues, epilepsy, and thyroid problems
There are no specific tests that can diagnose ADHD, so a qualified health professional needs to gather lots of information before they can make a diagnosis.
Parents, carers, and teachers will often have to give a detailed history of the child's behavior. The doctor will also observe the child's behavior and may recommend psychoeducational tests, which are used to identify and assess potential learning disabilities.
There is no cure for ADHD, but there are many treatments that can help people manage the disorder.
The type of treatment recommended will depend on a variety of things, including:
- personal preferences
- the age of the person
- severity of the symptoms
- whether they have undergone different treatment before
Drugs are often used to help manage symptoms by balancing the chemicals in the brain that are responsible for attention and controlling impulses.
Common medications for ADHD include:
These drugs can cause side effects, including:
- decreased appetite
- trouble sleeping
- stomach aches
If side effects occur, discuss them with the doctor.
Many types of therapy seek to address any social, behavioral, and emotional issues that the person may experience.
This form of treatment can include working in small groups or one-on-one to help the person develop the social skills that will help them to interact with others.
Often therapy can be undertaken as part of the school program for children with ADHD, so discuss this option with both the doctor and the school to find out the best way forward.
Although ADHD can be managed, not addressing it can lead to serious problems, so it is important to seek help if concerned.
Some things can also be done at home to help the situation, such as:
- ensuring proper exercise and sleep
- establishing a routine for children with ADHD and sticking to it
- observing and listening to a child with ADHD to look for triggers
- organizing daily tasks and breaking them down into more manageable steps
Some people have noticed a relationship between hyperactivity and eating foods that contain lots of sugar. If this is the case, cut back the amount of sugary foods the child eats.
There are many positive aspects to ADHD, particularly when the disorder is properly managed. For example, people with ADHD are often creative, enthusiastic, and have lots of energy and drive.