Demystifying attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Today, it isn’t unusual to come into contact with someone who suffers from attention-deficit, with or without hyperactivity (ADHD). However, this condition remains largely misunderstood and there are a number of myths circulating on the subject.

What’s important to know about ADHD?

ADHD is a neurological disorder that affects a large number of children, teens and adults in North America. It is estimated that roughly 5 to 8% of children and 4% of adults are affected by it. The exact causes are not known, but it has been shown that there is often a significant hereditary component (one or both parents are affected by it). ADHD is typically characterized by difficulty concentrating and behavioural control. The manifestations and impacts vary in nature and intensity.

ADHD may lower self-esteem and the ability to exchange and interact within family, social, professional and school settings. On the positive side, increased knowledge and improved treatment measures help more and more people deal with this disorder on a daily basis.

What are the signs and symptoms of ADHD in children?

If you observe the following behaviours in your child, he/she may be affected by ADHD and a professional evaluation may be needed. The child:

  • is easily distracted
  • can’t concentrate for more than a few minutes
  • is forgetful
  • gives the impression that he/she isn’t listening to you
  • makes you repeat things constantly
  • doesn’t remember instructions, especially when there are a string of them
  • has difficulty getting organized or completing a task
  • talks constantly or tends to interrupt others
  • gets sidetracked and doesn’t pay attention to details
  • avoids activities or tasks that require effort

Other manifestations can also be observed. ADHD sometimes goes hand in hand with hyperactivity, impulsiveness or aggressiveness. If you are unsure, talk to a school or health professional.

Common myths about ADHD

ADHD is sometimes misunderstood or subject to criticism. The myths surrounding it are numerous. Here are a few:

  • “Individuals affected by ADHD aren’t as intelligent as those who aren’t affected by it.” Most have normal intelligence, some are even exceptionally gifted. However, ADHD sometimes affects their ability to complete their daily activities and their academic performance.
  • “My child has ADHD because he/she has trouble concentrating and his/her teacher told me so!” You must first have seen a specialist before making such an assumption. ADHD is a recognized disorder that requires a medical diagnosis.
  • “All children with ADHD should take medication.” In certain cases, turning to psychostimulant drugs may be justified (see below). Drug treatment is one method among others and shouldn’t be considered as the first or the only option.

Use of psychostimulants—making an informed decision

In recent years, there has been increased use of drugs called “psychostimulants” to treat ADHD symptoms. However, psychostimulants shouldn’t be viewed as “miracle pills.” They don’t cure ADHD, but can reduce symptoms and improve functional abilities. ADHD’s clinical management objective must always consist of reducing the daily impact of this condition and enable those affected by it to reach their full potential.

The decision to take medication is an important one and must be based on thorough analysis of the advantages and inconveniences. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about treatment issues. Desired effects, short-term and long-term side-effects, drug interactions, contraindications, precautions to be taken and dosage are issues that should be discussed at length. Ask as many questions as needed.

Other treatment modalities

The degree of support individuals with ADHD receive can greatly impact the status of their condition. An individual approach based on various types of techniques increases the chances of achieving the set objectives. Here are a few examples of measures that can help people deal with ADHD on a daily basis. Applying these measures must always take precedence over drug therapy.

  • Health practices. Sleeping and eating well, avoiding stimulating beverages, staying active and using video games, internet and television with moderation.
  • Occupational therapy. The role of occupational therapists is to help their patients acquire tools and learn strategies that enable them to maintain their autonomy and improve their daily functional abilities.
  • Remedial instruction. Consists of a teaching method aimed at overcoming academic learning difficulties using specific strategies.
  • Special education and psycho-education. Facilitates rehabilitation, social integration and coping skills in the individual’s life, academic environment, etc.
  • Psychotherapy. Psychotherapists are health professionals that can evaluate attention disorders. They can also help patients and loved ones better understand the disorder and reduce its negative impacts.

Find out from school and CLSC staff, or from a doctor what resources are available to your child. You’ll be glad you took the time to do it.

Attention-deficit in adults

ADHD symptoms usually appear during childhood. However, this type of disorder can manifest itself at any time and affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or ethnic origin. A certain number of factors can explain why symptoms went unnoticed until adulthood. However, ADHD that appears in adults isn’t always taken seriously. Yet, the condition is very real and can have various repercussions in the following areas—work, social settings or personal relationships, family life, finances, etc. Distraction, spinning thoughts, disorganization, difficulty completing a project or task, poor priority management or time management are often a daily struggle.

If you believe you or a loved one may have attention-deficit, talk to them openly about it, but avoid jumping to conclusions too quickly. Remember that only a medical evaluation can provide a formal diagnosis and the appropriate measures.

Regardless of the age of individuals affected by it, ADHD deserves our full attention. For more information on the treatments available, talk to your pharmacist.

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Demystifying attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Today, it isn’t unusual to come into contact with someone who suffers from attention-deficit, with or without hyperactivity (ADHD). However, this condition remains largely misunderstood and there are a number of myths circulating on the subject.
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