Maybe you’ve always felt that the real you – organized and on time, patient and at ease with friends and family – is often out of reach because of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms. ADHD may affect all aspects of life for many adults, typically leading to significant problems in daily functioning and relationships.
ADHD and ADD symptoms, such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness and inattentiveness, can cause problems at home, school, work, or in relationships. Effective treatment of ADHD may require multimodal approach including psychological, coaching and educational interventions. Treatment goals may include: maximizing functioning to improve relationships and performance at school and work while increasing independence and building self esteem.
People with ADHD can be very successful in life, career and their relationship. However, without appropriate identification and treatment, ADHD can have serious consequences, including school failure, depression, conduct disorder, failed relationships, and substance abuse. The sooner the identification of the disorder including appropriate treatment the greater its success.
Managing ADHD requires support from professional and others while building life skills. spiral2grow, located in New York City, has qualified psychotherapists that treat ADHD symptoms for adults and children in an effective way. We see therapy as a process for change rather than merely an exercise in insight. Our approach is practical and solution-focused while emphasizing solving problems and reaching goals.
Introduction to ADD/ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity that occurs in academic, occupational, or social settings. Problems with attention include making careless mistakes, failing to complete tasks, problems staying organized and keeping track of things, becoming easily distracted, etc. Problems with hyperactivity can include excessive fidgetiness and squirminess, running or climbing when it is not appropriate, excessive talking, and being constantly on the go. Impulsivity can show up as impatience, difficulty awaiting one’s turn, blurting out answers, and frequent interrupting. ADHD manifests itself in different ways in different people and at different degrees.
The most common core features for ADHD include:
- Distractibility (poor sustained attention to tasks)
- Impulsivity (impaired impulse control and delay of gratification)
- Hyperactivity (excessive activity and physical restlessness)
The Difference Between ADD and ADHD
The difference is mainly one of terminology, which can be confusing at times. ADD or attention deficit disorder is a general term frequently used to describe individuals that have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder without the hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. The terms are often used interchangeably for both those who do and those who do not have symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness. The “official” clinical diagnosis is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or AD/HD. Whether we call it ADD or AD/HD, however, we are all basically referring to the same thing.
Who Has AD/HD?
ADHD usually persists throughout a person’s lifetime. It is NOT limited to children. Approximately one-half to two-thirds of children with ADHD will continue to have significant problems with ADHD symptoms and behaviors as adults, which impacts their lives on the job, within the family, and in social relationships.
ADHD can occur in both genders as well as in all ethnic and racial populations. Although it is diagnosed as much as nine times more often in males than in females, many researchers believe that it occurs equally in girls, but because females display more inattentive symptoms and fewer behavioral symptoms, they may never be diagnosed or may be diagnosed much later than males.
Common Symptoms of AD/HD
The following are common symptoms for ADHD:
(NOTE: many of these are also common to gifted people)
- Short Attention Span
- Easily Distracted
- Impulsive (May be prone to substance abuse in an attempt to self-medicate)
- Poor Organization
- Trouble Getting Started and Following Through
- Mood Swings (This may be initiated by chemical imbalances within the body)
- Low Self Esteem (This may be reaction to not being accepted as “normal”)
- Trouble With Intimacy & Communication
- Quick to Anger – Easily Frustrated
- Tendency to Transpose Words, Letters or Numbers
- Sleep Problems (May be lying awake thinking too much)
- High Sensitivity to Noise and Touch
Please keep in mind that the exact nature and severity of AD/HD symptoms varies from person to person. Approximately one-third of people with AD/HD do not have the hyperactive or overactive behavior component, for example.
Adult ADD is the name given to a variety of syndromes in which psychological functions such as planning, concentration, managing time and tasks, maintaining focus, and making thoughtful decisions are impaired, and no other condition can be found to explain the impairments. Affected individuals have serious problems in one or more of the following areas:
- screening out distractions
- starting and completing tasks
- remembering and organizing information and belongings
- being on time
- keeping priorities in order
Professionals trained in ADD can help adult:
- control impulsive behaviors
- develop and keep a daily schedule
- manage time and money
- get and stay organized
- boost productivity at work, home and school
- manage stress and anger
- communicate more clearly
Individuals with the disorder can get lost doing unimportant activities, heedless of more important jobs that need to be done. At times, they may have difficulty with their short term memory. They may not fulfill their obligations until the last moment or complete a task only when they feel an external pressure to do so. Symptoms are particularly burdensome to those whose work involves deadlines and/or organizing and recalling complex information.
People suffering from ADD often feel unfairly nagged by those around them and sometimes become defiant when confronted with their performance problems. Their underachievement often leads to reduced self-esteem, depression and anxiety. Some undertake psychotherapy to deal with interpersonal conflicts that are caused by the disorder or to gain control over their seeming negligence.
What the Research Shows About AD/HD
ADHD is NOT caused by poor parenting, family problems, poor teachers or schools, too much TV, food allergies, or excess sugar. ADHD IS very likely caused by biological factors which influence neurotransmitter activity in certain parts of the brain, and which have a strong genetic basis. It appears from some researches hat a lower level of activity in some parts of the brain may cause inattention and other AD/HD symptoms.
Seeking ADHD Help
There are two basic clusters of symptoms that characterize ADHD: cognitive symptoms are seen in inattention; behavioral symptoms are seen in hyperactivity and impulsivity. If your child displays many of the symptoms below or if your child’s teacher is concerned about similar patterns of behavior being present in the classroom, you should speak to a professional and consider the possibility of having your child evaluated for ADHD.
Signs of Inattention
- does not pay close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in school work
- is easily distracted from tasks or play
- is often forgetful or does not appear to listen when spoken to
- does not follow instructions, or fails to complete school work or chores
- has trouble organizing tasks and personal belongings
- avoids or dislikes activities requiring concentration, such as schoolwork
Signs of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity
Your child –
- has difficulty sitting still, often fidgets and squirms
- often talks out of turn or excessively in the classroom
- displays high levels of energy and activity, often engaging in risky behaviors
- interrupts frequently or intrudes into conversations or games
- acts or speaks impulsively
- displays immaturity in a variety of social situations
ADHD can affect families by straining sibling relationships; causing a child to underachieve in school, which may lead to failure and truancy; diminishing parental bonding and family cohesiveness; and creating marital stress, tension, and potential divorce.
Since ADHD causes repercussions in so many aspects of a child’s life and affects the entire family, several professionals may be involved in accurately assessing the disorder and developing an effective treatment plan. A skilled psychotherapist may be the best professional to coordinate the overall plan and provide ongoing therapy to family members.
Treatment of AD/HD
Clinical experience has shown that the most effective treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication (when necessary), therapy or counseling to learn coping skills and adaptive behaviors, and ADD coaching for adults. We teach clients to recognize their triggers – emotions, interpersonal conflicts, or hgh-risk situations. We provide the coping skills that encourage personal acceptance-rather than shame, guilt, or self-blame-promote relaxation, and strengthen the ability to manage stress.
Medication is often used to help normalize brain activity, as prescribed by a physician. Stimulant medications (Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderall) are commonly used because they have been shown to be most effective for most people with ADHD. However, many other medications may also be used at the discretion of the physician.
Behavior therapy and cognitive therapy are often helpful to modify certain behaviors and to deal with the emotional effects of AD/HD. Many adults also benefit from working with an AD/HD therapist or coach to help manage problem behaviors and develop coping skills, such as improving organizational skills and improving productivity.
- For Parents Taking charge of ADHD. By Russell Barkley. NY: Guilford Press (1995).
- The attention zone. By Michael Cohen. NY: Brunner/Mazel (1997).
- For Children Putting on the brakes. By Patricia Quinn and Judith Stern. NY: Magination Press (1992).
- SHELLEY the hyperactive turtle. By Deborah Moss. Rockville, MD: Woodbine House (1989).
- Learning to slow down and pay attention: A book for kids about ADD. By Kathleen G. Nadeau, Ellen Dixon. NY: Magination Press (1997).
- For Adolescents I would if I could: A teenager’s guide to ADHD/hyperactivity. By T. Gordon. NY: GSI Publications (1992).
Adolescents and ADD: Gaining the advantage. By Patricia Quinn. NY: Brunner/Mazel (1995).
- For Adults Driven to distraction. By E. Hallowell and John Ratey. NY: Pantheon (1994).