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ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural condition that affects the ability to focus, organize, plan, and act appropriately. People with ADHD may experience difficulties in various domains of life, such as school, work, family, and social relationships. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that has biological origins and can be influenced by environmental factors. ADHD is diagnosed based on the presence of persistent and impairing symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity that are not better explained by another condition or situation (American Psychological Association [APA], 2022).

There are different types of psychological treatments that can help people with ADHD manage their symptoms and improve their functioning. These include behavioural therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, mindfulness-based interventions, neurofeedback, and psychosocial therapy. Psychological treatments can be delivered individually or in groups, and can involve the participation of family members or significant others. The choice of treatment depends on the specific needs and preferences of each person with ADHD, as well as the availability and accessibility of the services (Re & Capodieci, 2020).

Psychological treatments can complement medication or be used as an alternative option for some people with ADHD. Research has shown that psychological treatments can reduce ADHD symptoms, enhance self-regulation skills, improve academic and occupational performance, increase self-esteem and quality of life, and prevent or reduce comorbid problems such as anxiety, depression, substance use, or conduct disorders (Re & Capodieci, 2020; Young et al., 2020). Therefore, psychological treatments are an important component of a comprehensive and evidence-based approach to ADHD.

Signs of ADHD

ADHD can be diagnosed in children and adults, but the symptoms may vary depending on the age and situation of the person. According to the NHS (n.d.), some of the common signs of ADHD in children and teenagers are:

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  • Inattentiveness: having a short attention span, being easily distracted, making careless mistakes, forgetting things, changing tasks frequently, etc.
  • Hyperactivity and impulsiveness: being unable to sit still, fidgeting, talking excessively, acting without thinking, interrupting others, having little or no sense of danger, etc.

These symptoms can cause difficulties in school, social interactions, and self-esteem. Some children may also have other conditions along with ADHD, such as anxiety disorder or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) (NHS, n.d.).

In adults, ADHD may manifest as problems with:

  • Organization and time management: missing deadlines, losing track of tasks, being late or forgetting appointments, etc.
  • Focus and motivation: having trouble concentrating, getting bored easily, procrastinating, etc.
  • Mood and emotions: feeling restless, anxious, frustrated, irritable, or depressed, having low self-image, etc.
  • Relationships and social skills: having conflicts with others, being impulsive or aggressive, having difficulty listening or communicating, etc.

Adults with ADHD may also have other mental or physical health issues, such as substance abuse, sleep disorders, or learning difficulties (NHS, n.d.).

ADHD is a complex condition that has no single cause. It is thought to be influenced by genetic, environmental, and developmental factors. There is no cure for ADHD, but it can be managed with a combination of medication, therapy, education, and support. The treatment options may vary depending on the age and needs of the person with ADHD. The goal of treatment is to reduce the negative impact of the symptoms and enhance the positive aspects of the condition (NHS, n.d.).

ADHD Research

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of children and adults worldwide. ADHD is characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interfere with daily functioning and development (CDC, 2021). The causes of ADHD are not fully understood, but research suggests that genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors play a role (ADDitude, 2023). In this paragraph, we will review some of the main bodies of research regarding ADHD, focusing on the structural and functional differences in the ADHD brain, the diagnostic criteria and prevalence of ADHD, and the treatment options and outcomes for people with ADHD.

Neuroimaging studies have revealed the structural differences in the ADHD brain. Several studies have pointed to a smaller prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia, and decreased volume of the posterior inferior vermis of the cerebellum — all of which play important roles in focus and attention (ADDitude, 2023). Functional imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), have shown that people with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, as well as reduced activity in the fronto-striatal network, which is involved in executive functions such as planning, working memory, and inhibition (ADDitude, 2023).

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The diagnostic criteria for ADHD have changed over time, reflecting the evolving understanding of the disorder. The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines ADHD as a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is present before the age of 12, occurs in two or more settings (such as home, school, or work), and causes significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013).

The DSM-5 also recognizes three subtypes of ADHD: predominantly inattentive presentation, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation, and combined presentation. The prevalence of ADHD varies depending on the source of data, the definition of ADHD, and the population studied. According to the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH), about 9.4% of children aged 2-17 years in the United States had ever been diagnosed with ADHD in 2016 (CDC, 2018). The NSCH also found that boys were more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ADHD (12.9% vs. 5.6%), and that the prevalence of ADHD increased with age (from 2.4% among children aged 2-5 years to 11.8% among children aged 12-17 years) (CDC, 2018).

The treatment of ADHD typically involves a combination of medication, behavioural therapy, and psychosocial interventions. The most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD are stimulants, such as methylphenidate and amphetamine, which increase the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain and improve attention and reduce impulsivity (ADDitude, 2023). Non-stimulant medications, such as atomoxetine and guanfacine, may also be used for some people with ADHD who do not respond well to or tolerate stimulants (ADDitude, 2023). Behavioural therapy aims to teach children and adults with ADHD skills to manage their symptoms, such as organizational strategies, time management techniques, and self-monitoring tools (CDC, 2021). Psychosocial interventions may include parent training, family therapy, school-based interventions, peer support groups, and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) (CDC, 2021).

The effectiveness of treatment for ADHD depends on several factors, such as the severity of symptoms, the type and dose of medication, the quality of behavioural therapy, and the adherence to treatment recommendations (CDC, 2021). Research has shown that treatment for ADHD can improve academic performance, social skills, self-esteem, and quality of life for children and adults with ADHD (ADDitude, 2023).

Dyslexia and ADHD

Dyslexia and ADHD are both neurodevelopmental disorders that can affect learning and academic performance. However, they have different causes, symptoms, and treatments. Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that affects the ability to read, spell, and process language. People with dyslexia have difficulties with phonological awareness, verbal memory, and verbal processing speed (Rose, 2009). Dyslexia does not affect intelligence or general cognitive abilities. ADHD is a behavioural disorder that affects attention, impulse control, and hyperactivity. People with ADHD have difficulties with focusing, organizing, planning, and following instructions. ADHD can also affect emotional regulation and social skills (Peterson & Pennington, 2015). ADHD can co-occur with other mental health or learning disorders.

The main difference between dyslexia and ADHD is that dyslexia is primarily a language-based disorder, while ADHD is primarily an executive function disorder. Executive functions are the mental processes that help us manage our thoughts, actions, and emotions. People with dyslexia may have some executive function impairments, such as working memory or processing speed, but they do not meet the criteria for ADHD. People with ADHD may have some language difficulties, such as reading comprehension or writing organization, but they do not meet the criteria for dyslexia. However, some people may have both dyslexia and ADHD, which can make their challenges more complex and severe.

The treatment for dyslexia and ADHD depends on the individual’s needs and goals. Dyslexia can be treated with specialized instruction that focuses on phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Dyslexia can also be accommodated with assistive technology, such as text-to-speech or speech-to-text software. ADHD can be treated with medication, behavioural therapy, or a combination of both. Medication can help reduce the symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Behavioural therapy can help teach coping skills, organizational strategies, and self-regulation techniques. Both dyslexia and ADHD can benefit from support from parents, teachers, and peers.

References

ADDitude. (2023). Current research on ADHD: Breakdown of the ADHD brain. https://www.additudemag.com/current-research-on-adhd-breakdown-of-the-adhd-brain/

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

APA. (2022). ADHD. https://www.apa.org/topics/adhd/

CDC. (2018). Data & statistics about ADHD. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

CDC. (2021). Research on ADHD. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/research.html

NHS. (n.d.). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/

Peterson, R. L., & Pennington, B. F. (2015). Developmental dyslexia. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 11(1), 283–307.

Re, A. M., & Capodieci, A. (2020). Understanding ADHD: A guide to symptoms, management and treatment. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429201738

Rose, J. (2009). Identifying and teaching children and young people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties. Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Young, S., Bramham, J., Gray, K., & Rose, E. (Eds.). (2020). Psychological treatments in adult ADHD: A systematic review. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

 

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