Millions of Americans Have ADHD: Here's How to Tell if You Do
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Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD, is a growing problem for both children and adults. According to the ADD Resource Center¹, around 6.4 million kids – and diagnoses are on the rise, increasing by 42 percent over the last decade.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impacts behavior, emotions, and learning styles. Though it can affect all aspects of life, there are options. Those with ADHD can learn to manage their disorder with medication and counseling. However, in order to manage ADHD, you first need to know its symptoms and get a diagnosis.
Common ADHD Symptoms
Spotting ADHD is difficult – often, the symptoms manifest as “bad” behavior in children, leaving both parents and teachers frustrated. However, there are a few telltale signs that can help you determine whether or not your child may be dealing with ADHD.
Kids with ADHD typically struggle in school. They can't sit still or stay on task, spending more time daydreaming than focusing on the tasks before them. A lack of self-control may lead to teasing, hitting, or destroying property.
Adults can experience the very same symptoms, and they often present in childhood. If you had trouble paying attention, staying still or controlling yourself as a child, you may have ADHD.
Here’s what inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity look like when ADHD is the root cause.
Lack of focus is a key sign, and it manifests in numerous ways:
- Most people catch their thoughts drifting during a movie or conversation, but they quickly snap to attention and catch up on what they missed.
- The smallest things are distracting, and you just can’t seem to finish anything. If you do finish, you’ve overlooked important details.
- At home, you’ve started and abandoned projects than you can count.
- You appear to be deliberately tuning out, and others get frustrated when they try to hold your attention.
- You forget about appointments or events.
- You have trouble managing your time and keeping things organized.
Impulsivity is one of the most significant reasons to treat ADHD. Being impulsive often leads to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and danger to oneself or others. The following are common problems:
- Interrupting others or talking over them. You may jump in to answer questions before someone has finished asking them.
- Blurting out the first thing that pops into your head. Sometimes, these impulsive remarks are unkind or socially inappropriate, but you can’t help it.
- Carelessly rushing through tasks. On the job, people with ADHD are often reprimanded for sloppy work or made to do it over. They tend to hop from one job to another.
- Others’ personal boundaries, whether physical or emotional, are difficult for people with ADHD to understand.
It’s extremely difficult for people with ADHD to keep still, even in their own minds. Look for these symptoms:
- You’re always in motion. Even when sitting, your hands and feet are busy.
- You take on too many tasks at once and overschedule activities.
- Anything that requires sitting for a long period makes you feel restless and anxious inside.
- You’re frequently bored and crave adventure.
- You’re overly talkative.
- Racing thoughts keep you awake at night.
These are the dominant symptoms of ADHD, and they highlight what it’s like living with undiagnosed, untreated ADHD. These symptoms make life frustrating and chaotic, and all these daily frustrations can lead to mood swings, depression, fatigue, lack of motivation, poor self-image, and even physical problems. Fortunately, there’s help for this common disorder.
Treating ADHD With Medication
There is no physical, medical, or genetic test for this disorder. However, your regular doctor or a psychiatrist can evaluate your symptoms, emotional health, and social concerns to determine whether you have ADHD. Often, meeting with a counselor or ADHD expert can be an important step in getting diagnosed.
If you do have ADHD, one of the first treatments many doctors and ADHD experts recommend is medication. There are many different ADHD medications you can try, but each falls into one of three different medicinal approaches:
Stimulants: Stimulants boost the levels of two natural brain chemicals, norepinephrine and dopamine, which typically keep people focused. Stimulants are the most commonly prescribed drugs for ADHD. They come in a variety of doses, and most are timed-release. Adderall, Ritalin, Dexedrine and Vyvanse are some examples.
Nonstimulants: Only one ADHD medication falls into the nonstimulant category: Strattera. It’s the first federally approved nonstimulant for individuals with ADHD. Strattera increases norepinephrine levels but not dopamine levels, so there’s no chance of building tolerance or becoming addicted to it.
Antidepressants: People with ADHD tend to experience depression. While antidepressants are not yet approved for treatment of ADHD, doctors can prescribe them off-label.
No matter which type of medication you try, you may need to use other treatments, such as counseling, talk therapy, or behavioral therapy. Often, those with ADHD respond to a combination of these approaches, working on managing the disorder while also improving focus medicinally.
Alternative ADHD Treatment Options
If you want to avoid drugs, there are alternatives. Some people find that more natural remedies or approaches help limit their ADHD symptoms and help better control focus. Here are a few of the most common alternative treatment approaches:
Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamin B6, magnesium, vitamin C, zinc, and iron are essential in the production of the neurotransmitters that aid concentration. Herbs like ginseng, ginkgo, and passionflower may help with hyperactivity, but don’t take them without your doctor’s approval.
A Clean Diet: Avoiding processed foods, additives, chemicals, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine will improve your cognitive health and help you stay calm. Take it easy on the salt as well.
Exercise: Staying active expends energy, boosts brainpower and improves sleep quality. Add a calming exercise, like yoga or tai chi, to your regular workout regimen. Get plenty of exposure to the outdoors, especially green spaces.
Do You Have ADHD?
Left untreated, ADHD can affect all aspects of your life. Daily tasks, job performance, and even relationships might suffer if your symptoms go unnoticed. Even worse, the daily struggles ADHD can cause might leave you feeling depressed or generally unhappy in life.
Improve your confidence and quality of life by talking to your doctor in order to start your treatment today. Make sure you look for doctors who have experience diagnosing and treating ADHD to ensure you’re getting the best care possible. Whether you opt for medication or alternative treatments, the most important step is taking action right now.
Like anything, it's always a good idea to be aware of the latest research. We recommend comparing at least 3 or 4 options before making a final decision. Doing a search online is typically the quickest, most thorough way to discover all the pros and cons you need to keep in mind.