When people think of someone with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they usually think of a little white boy wiggling in his school chair – he just can’t seem to sit still and pay attention to the teacher. Yes, some little white boys have ADHD and so do many other people. ADHD can affect anyone regardless of factors such as sex, skin tone, race, and socioeconomic status.
But does wiggling in a chair and lack of focus signify ADHD in someone? Or, conversely, sitting for hours while playing a video game on their phone? Not necessarily. To be diagnosed with this disorder, certain symptoms must be present. Below is a list of 3 symptoms that might indicate that you or someone you know has this disorder.
Difficulty Concentrating or Hyperfocus
Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder will show signs of not being able to focus for sustained periods of time relative to their age. For example, a child will daydream in class or get distracted from seemingly random thoughts while watching a movie. This inability to focus regularly can be a sign of ADHD, although other symptoms must also be present, which will be discussed shortly. ADHD tests found online can also be a starting point to explore symptoms of ADHD.Online ADHD tests can be found here: https://www.mind-diagnostics.org/adhd-test.
Adults with ADHD can either have trouble focusing or be able to focus intensely for long periods of time, which is known as hyperfocus.
Issues with lack of focus for both children and adults can result in the following:
- Difficulty listening to others
- Difficulty listening when spoken to directly
- Having trouble completing work for jobs or school
- Being disorganized
- Struggling with forgetfulness
Issues with hyperfocus can result in the following:
- Being unaware for long periods of time of their surroundings
- Being unable to be present for family and friends
- Losing track of time
- Becoming engrossed in unproductive activities
- Not completing important tasks on time
Although some adults with ADHD experience hyperfocus, there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that some children might also experience this.
A child who seems to have boundless energy – moving their body, talking a lot – can be exhausting for adults to even watch. Having boundless energy in and of itself does not warrant a diagnosis of ADHD and it might even generate envy for those with a low level of energy. However, hyperactivity is one of the warning signs.
Children who have hyperactivity will have trouble sitting still, much like the little boy in the scenario at the beginning of this article. They will also get bored easily so will, for example, hop from project to project during art class. At the dinner table, they might swing their legs and bang them against the legs of the chair repeatedly. They will fidget and this ultimately will annoy the people around them.
By the time the child reaches their teen years, this expression of hyperactivity begins to morph into restlessness, which can then proceed through the early 20s and to adulthood. An adult with hyperactivity might talk a lot, much like a child with ADHD would, but instead of banging their legs against the legs of a chair, an adult will, for example, stretch out a leg and move it up and down while sitting at a conference table surrounded by others.
Someone who is impulsive will show little thought about what they’re about to say or do. People with ADHD are often characterized are such. Some of these characteristics are as follows:
- Taking risks (ex., skipping school, taking drugs, or driving recklessly)
- Interrupting others
- Finishing other people’s sentences
- Having difficulty waiting in line
- Having difficulty regulating mood, particularly anger
Most impulses can be annoyances to others, but taking risks and with little regard to the consequences can put the person and other people in harm. Even angry outbursts can damage relationships – sometimes beyond repair.
Treatment for ADHD
If ADHD is caught early, treatment can begin early. This is the best-case scenario for treating ADHD. Children as early as preschool can be diagnosed with this disorder. Early treatment will set these children up for success at school and in their relationships with family, educators, and friends and then later as adults in the workforce and in intimate or romantic relationships.
Medication therapy is often used in the treatment of ADHD. Stimulants are prescribed to curb the symptoms listed above in children, adolescents, and even adults. Some stimulants are extended release to avoid the wearing-off effect that often occurs in the afternoon. Although they also can take stimulants, preschool children can have a response to the medication that’s not as marked as with those who are older, and they experience more side effects.
Non-stimulant medication is another option for the management of ADHD and are considered the second line of treatment with stimulants being the first. Non-stimulant medication is comprised of medications used specifically for ADHD and those that are initially for treating other disorders, such as depression and high blood pressure. Non-stimulant medication might have a lower response rate, which is why stimulants are the go-to medication with a higher response rate. However, some people don’t tolerate stimulants well, so non-stimulant medication is the second option. Sometimes, a doctor will prescribe both stimulant and non-stimulant medication.
Whichever route one decides to take, it’s important to talk to one’s doctor and gather all the information necessary to make an informed decision about what medication is best suited for them. It’s also important to note any side effects and then report these to the doctor.
Along with medication therapy, a person with ADHD can enter therapy. In therapy, a person will learn skills to cope with ADHD symptoms, thereby minimizing the impact ADHD has on their life and those around them. A person can also become depressed or anxious when dealing with ADHD, so therapy can be effective in this regard, too.
Whether you or someone you know has ADHD, treatment can help minimize symptoms and bring about a more positive outlook on life.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with Mind-Diagnostics.org. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.