‘ADHD’ Awareness Month 1st-31st October
(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviours.
These brain operations include important functions such as attention, concentration/staying focused, memory, motivation and effort, learning from mistakes, impulsivity, hyperactivity, organisation, and social skills.
There are various contributing factors that play a role in these functions including chemical, structural and connectivity differences in the brain as well as genetics. It is one of the most common childhood disorders and it can continue through adolescence and into adulthood.
ADHD is NOT caused by poor parenting, falls or head injuries, traumatic life events, digital distractions, video games and television, lack of physical activity, food additives, food allergies, or excess sugar.
Researchers used to believe that ADHD was related to minor head injuries and brain damage, but most people with ADHD have no such history and this theory has been disproved. It has also been widely speculated upon that refined sugar and food additives cause ADHD symptoms. While refined sugar isn’t good for one’s health in general, there has not been any scientifically proven correlation between sugar and food additives and ADHD.
A diagnosis of ADHD is based on the following criteria:
- Inattention: (This will require six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16 or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults). The symptoms of inattention will also need to have been present for at least 6 months and are inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities
- Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores or duties in the workplace (ie loses focus, gets side-tracked)
- Often has trouble organising tasks and activities
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework)
- Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, glasses, mobile phone)
- Is often easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities
- Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: (This will require six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16 or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults). The symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity will need to have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:
- Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat
- Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
- Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless)
- Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly
- Is often always “on the go”
- Often talks excessively
- Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed
- Often has trouble waiting his/her turn
- Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g. butts into conversations or games)
In addition to the above criteria for a diagnosis, further conditions also need to be met:
- Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before the age of 12 years
- Several symptoms are present in two or more settings, for example at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other places/activities
- There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning
- The symptoms cannot be better explained by another mental disorder such as Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder or a Personality Disorder)
Research has shown that the most effective treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication and therapy.
Medication serves to manage brain based functions and symptoms and therapy addresses daily thoughts, behaviours and coping strategies.
ADHD Awareness Month this October, encourages everyone to get involved with understanding the syndrome better and to help promote awareness of it to parents, families, carers and teachers.
For more advice and information on ADHD there are resources in the UK to help you get started:
- livingwithadhd.co.uk – resources and information for teenagers, parents and teachers
The ADHD Foundation Neurodiversity Charity is an integrated health and education service in the UK for those who live with ADHD (as well as Autism, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia and Tourette’s syndrome).