What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

ADHD and its effects can have a huge impact on the everyday aspects of someone’s life. It is thought of as a behavioural and neurodevelopmental disorder and it can affect both adults and children of all ages and intellectual abilities. ADHD can disrupt many day to day activities and decisions. It may be hard for someone with ADHD to establish relationships which are lasting and stable or to progress at work. It can be difficult to manage finances and to keep up with those everyday essential tasks. There is also evidence that adults and young people with ADHD are at an increased risk of substance abuse, anxiety and depression.

The symptoms of ADHD are often seen at an early age and become more noticeable when a child starts school. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 6 to 12 years old. Although the symptoms of ADHD usually improve with age, there are many adults who are diagnosed in early childhood but who continue to experience difficulties.

Children with ADHD can struggle in school and be challenging to parent at home. Sometimes, children with ADHD can appear to be ‘naughty’ and find it difficult to enjoy healthy relationships with friends, teachers and parents due to their impulsive, hyperactive or inattentive behaviour. With the right support, this neurodevelopmental condition can be managed to help children reach their full potential.

For some adults, ADHD is not diagnosed in childhood and there can be a significant relief when a diagnosis is eventually received. It can help in understanding difficulties over the course of a lifetime and put them into context.

Types of ADHD

There are three main subtypes of ADHD which can be diagnosed and knowing which you have can help to identify the best treatment plan for you.

Inattentive ADHD
Also known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and accounts for about 33% of all ADHD in adults. It is characterised with difficulties staying focused and paying attention to daily, routine but perhaps mundane tasks. People who experience this form of ADHD may be easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds, and move from one activity to another fairly quickly with completing them. This type of ADHD can be difficult to identify in children who might be seen as being shy or frequently day dreaming but without any particularly disruptive behaviour. Nevertheless, inattentive ADHD is very problematic for children and can be disruptive to healthy relationships and education.

Hyperactive & Impulsive
Hyperactive and impulsive ADHD accounts for 7% of all ADHD in adults. Inattention is less likely to cause a difficulty, however, impulsivity and hyperactivity can be very problematic. In adults, this can mean being very fidgety and unable to sit still for any length of time or finding it difficult to take turns in conversation without jumping in before another person has finish what they are saying.

It is often easier to identify this type of ADHD in children rather than the inattentive type due to the obvious behavioural difficulties that can result. Sometimes children with this type of ADHD engage in behaviours that are dangerous such as climbing to unsafe heights or simply speaking inappropriately such as blurting out offensive comments.

Combined ADHD is a combination of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity and accounts for about 60% of all ADHD in adults and even more in children.

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