ATTENTION DEFICIT / HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a prevalent mental health disorder usually diagnosed in children and teenagers. It affects a child’s ability to sit still, pay attention, and control their impulses.
Until recently, it was thought that a child outgrew ADHD during adolescence, due to developmental changes in brain chemistry. However, it seems that 7 out of 10 children with ADHD mature into adults with ADHD.
ADHD might present as primarily hyperactive or inattentive. However, many people have a combination of hyperactive and inattentive symptoms.
A person with ADHD may have difficulty in school, home, maintaining relationships or holding down a job.
If ADHD is not diagnosed and treated in childhood, then the child may have a long struggle with behavioural and scholastic problems – often leading to low self-esteem.
Rates of other psychological problems, such as mood disorders and anxiety disorders are high.
In many cases, adolescents and adults with ADHD turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cope with the uncomfortable feelings of frustration, low self-worth and failure.
When diagnosed and properly managed, children and adults with ADHD often have successful academic careers and show great imagination and creative flair.
CAUSES OF ADHD
Researchers believe that genes are responsible for certain chemicals (neurotransmitters) being less active in some areas of the brain.
These affected areas control attention, problem solving, planning, impulsivity, and the ability to understand social cues.
Some studies have also linked ADHD to prenatal exposure to cigarettes and alcohol.
SYMPTOMS ADHD IN CHILDREN
- Difficulties sustaining attention
- Cannot stay focused on a task
- Making careless mistakes on schoolwork
- Easily distracted
- Struggling to follow through on instructions
- Not seem to listen even when spoken to directly
- Cannot plan and organize tasks
- Frequently loses items
- Always on the go!
- Running and playing at inappropriate times
- Inability to stay seated
- Always fidgeting
- Being extremely talkative
- Cannot play quietly
- Interrupting others when speaking
- Blurting out answers
- Cannot wait their turn
As it’s normal for a child for be energetic, excited, active and healthy, it’s not always easy to tell if a child is just being a child or if their behaviour is a sign of an underlying problem.
If your child’s behaviour persists for six months or more and is negatively affecting their school performance or disrupting life at home, then you may need to make an appointment with Dr. Lerato for a thorough evaluation.
SYMPTOMS OF ADHD IN ADULTS
- Distractability – Distractions interfere with the completion of vital tasks at home and at work
- Disorganised – Trouble prioritizing, starting, and finishing tasks.
- Inability to stay focused and follow through on tasks – Derails careers, ambitions, and relationships
- Struggle concentrating while reading
- Hyperfocus – The ability to focus intently on things of interest, but struggling to pay attention to less interesting tasks.
- Forgetfulness – Forgetting important dates and commitments.
- Easily losing things like keys, paperwork and things needed for tasks
- Struggling to remain still – Restlessness, fidgeting and squirming in the seat.
- Constantly on the run
- Struggle waiting their turn in queues
- Excessive talkativeness
- Struggle to do things quietly
- Blurting out things without thinking
- Butting into conversations or other activities.
- Difficulty controlling anger outbursts
- Engaging in risky behaviour – risky driving, high adrenaline activities
Today’s life is very busy, with everyone multitasking between work, social media, responding to text messages, emails and calls. Although all of this can be distracting, most people still manage to focus on important responsibilities. For people with ADHD, these distractions interfere with the fulfilment of their responsibilities and the completion of vital tasks at home and at work.
COMPLICATIONS OF ADHD
If left untreated, ADHD can result in serious problems:
- Poor school/academic performance
- Work troubles
- Low self esteem
- Frequent injuries
- Difficult social interactions
- Unstable relationships
- Marital conflict
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Conflict with the law
CO-MORDIBITIES OF ADHD
ADHD often co-exists with other conditions:
- Major Depressive Disorder
- Anxiety Disorders
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Substance Use Disorder
TREATMENT OF ADHD
Dr. Lerato’s approach to the treatment of ADHD is BIO-PSYCHO-SOCIAL and personalised to address a person’s specific needs.
The treatment plan includes a combination medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes.
- Psychostimulants are the commonly used medication for ADHD. These meds have been proven to sharpen concentration by correcting an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain, helping to relieve symptoms.
- At times, Dr. Lerato may prescribe an antidepressant to stabilize mood or a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, to help control impulsive behaviours.
- Therapy teaches strategies to improve concentration and impulse control.
- Counselling for ADHD focuses on organizational skills, setting helpful routines, repairing relationships, and improving social skills.
- Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy is particularly helpful in managing problems of daily life associated with ADHD.
- Psychoeducation about ADHD improves insight and treatment compliance.
- Dietary changes:
High-protein foods, including nuts, meat, beans, and eggs, may improve concentration by providing brain fuel.
Replacing simple carbs with complex carbs, like whole-grain pasta or brown rice, can help decrease mood swings and stabilize energy levels.
- Physical exercise is helpful in managing the high energy levels.