FACT SHEET ON ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER
Important Disclaimer- Please Read This: The following
information is not intended to provide any type of professional
advice nor diagnostic service. If you have any concerns
about ADHD or other health issues, please consult a qualified
health care professional in your community.
IS IT ADD? OR ADHD? WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
The difference is mainly one of terminology, which can be
confusing at times. The "official" clinical diagnosis
is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. In
turn, ADHD is broken down into three different subtypes: Combined
Type, Predominantly Inattentive Type, and Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive
Many people use the term ADD as a generic term for all types
of ADHD. The term ADD has gained popularity among the general
public, in the media, and is even commonly used among professionals.
Whether we call it ADD or ADHD, however, we are all basically
referring to the same thing.
WHO HAS ADHD:
According to epidemiological data, approximately 4% to 6%
of the U.S. population has ADHD.
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.
DEFINITION OF ADHD:
ADHD is a diagnosis applied to children and adults who consistently
display certain characteristic behaviors over a period of time.
The most common core features include:
- distractibility (poor sustained attention to tasks)
- impulsivity (impaired impulse control and delay of gratification)
- hyperactivity (excessive activity and physical restlessness)
In order to meet diagnostic criteria, these behaviors must
be excessive, long-term, and pervasive. The behaviors must appear
before age 7, and continue for at least 6 months. A crucial consideration
is that the behaviors must create a real handicap in at least
two areas of a person's life, such as school, home, work, or
social settings. These criteria set ADHD apart from the "normal"
distractibility and impulsive behavior of childhood, or the effects
of the hectic and overstressed lifestyle prevalent in our society.
According to the DSM-IV (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition) some common symptoms of
ADHD include: often fails to give close attention to details
or makes careless mistakes; often has difficulty sustaining attention
to tasks; often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly;
often fails to follow instructions carefully and completely;
losing or forgetting important things; feeling restless, often
fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming; running or climbing
excessively; often talks excessively; often blurts out answers
before hearing the whole question; often has difficulty awaiting
Please keep in mind that the exact nature and severity of
ADHD symptoms varies from person to person. Approximately one-third
of people with ADHD do not have the hyperactive or overactive
behavior component, for example.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SHOWS ABOUT ADHD:
ADHD is NOT caused by poor parenting, family problems,
poor teachers or schools, too much TV, food allergies, or excess
sugar. One early theory was that attention disorders were caused
by minor head injuries or damage to the brain, and thus for many
years ADHD was called "minimal brain damage" or "minimal
brain dysfunction." The vast majority of people with ADHD
have no history of head injury or evidence of brain damage, however.
Another theory, which is still heard in the media, is that refined
sugar and food additives make children hyperactive and inattentive.
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded
that this may apply to only about 5 percent of children with
ADHD, mostly either very young children or children with food
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. Studies at NIMH using
a PET (positron emission tomography) scanner to observe the brain
at work have shown a link between a person's ability to pay continued
attention and the level of activity in the brain. Specifically
researchers measured the level of glucose used by the areas of
the brain that inhibit impulses and control attention. In people
with ADHD, the brain areas that control attention used less glucose,
indicating that they were less active. It appears from this research
that a lower level of activity in some parts of the brain may
cause inattention and other ADHD symptoms.
There is a great deal of evidence that ADHD runs in families,
which is suggestive of genetic factors. If one person in a family
is diagnosed with ADHD, there is a 25% to 35% probability that
any other family member also has ADHD, compared to a 4% to 6%
probability for someone in the general population.
TREATMENT OF ADHD:
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.
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
Behavior therapy and cognitive therapy are often helpful to
modify certain behaviors and to deal with the emotional effects
of ADHD. Many adults also benefit from working with an ADHD coach
to help manage problem behaviors and develop coping skills, such
as improving organizational skills and improving productivity.
ADHD is recognized as a disability under federal legislation
(the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Americans With Disabilities
Act; and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act). Appropriate
and reasonable accommodations are sometimes made at school for
children with ADHD, and in the workplace for adults with ADHD,
which help the individual to work more efficiently and productively.