Since ADD was more commonly referenced before ADHD was, people often get the idea that the two are separate issues, or that the latter is just ADD accompanied by hyperactivity. Actually, the National Center for Learning Disabilities states that ADD is more so a subset of ADHD than the other way around, noting its medical name as being ADHD, predominantly inattentive type. In fact, there are two other subsets falling under the ADHD category —ADHD, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type and ADHD combined type, which combines the former two.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder. It is observed in patients of all ages but generally develops during childhood.
In cases where diagnosis isn’t rendered until adulthood, the disorder was usually present and unnoticed all along, although symptoms first presented during childhood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attested that as of 2011, 11 percent of children ages four to 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD — a statistic that is expected to rise at least five percent annually. Of adults ages 18 to 44, a 2005 study completed by the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School estimated that 4.1 percent were impacted by ADHD in a given year.
ADD vs. ADHD
There are differences between the three types of ADHD — some subtle, some obvious. Once upon a time, there was only ADD, but in 1994, the ADHD diagnosis was formatted into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to note the distinctions between the varying kinds of attention deficit disorder. According to WebMD, symptoms of ADHD, inattentive type include:
- Trouble focusing on details
- Distraction from tasks at hand
- Difficulty maintaining concentration on a task at hand
- Trouble completing homework or things that require constant focus
- Jumping around from one task to the next
- Sloppy work habits
- Regular memory loss
- Failing to finish household chores and tasks
- Poor listening and conversation skills
- Failing to follow directions during a structured activity
Those with ADHD, hyperactive-impulsive type show the following symptoms, per the National Institute of Mental Health:
- Incessant talking
- Wiggling and fidgeting while seated
- Dashing around rooms while touching and playing with any and every object they see
- Almost constantly moving
- Trouble engaging in or completing silent tasks
- Difficulty staying still during times that require it, such as when eating or listening to a story
- In adults, symptoms of hyperactivity may present in less obvious ways, such as racing thoughts and a preoccupation with trying to do many things at once. Patients with ADHD, combined type generally show at least six symptoms of both the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types of ADHD, per
In order to render a diagnosis for ADD, diagnostic criteria for ADHD require that a child possess at least six symptoms from either the category of inattentive or that of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Per American Psychiatric Publishing, said categories include symptoms such as:
- Failure to pay precise attention to details
- Excessive talking or fidgeting
- Trouble categorizing jobs and activities
- Being unable to stay seated when required
According to the CDC, ADHD guidelines now permit the diagnosis of children whose symptoms didn’t appear up until age 12, whereas it was once required that symptoms be present by age six. At the time of diagnosis, symptoms must have been present for at least six months.
Stigma Associated with ADD/ADHD+
Over the years, the stigma against these disorders has waned some but still largely exists. One such study carried out by the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin accounted for healthy individuals expressing feelings that the symptoms of ADHD are aligned with childlike behavior and consider them to be unacceptable in social situations. Most often, the stigma unfortunately plagues children more than adults. While more mature peers might look down on those with the diagnosis at times, most believe these disorders are more easily treated in adults than in children. For this reason, children with an ADD/ADHD diagnosis frequently get a bad rap as being overactive to extremes, difficult to discipline and control, and defiant and, according to ADDitude Magazine, are seen as just plain bad.
Without the proper education on and support for the disorder, many children with ADHD grow into stigmatized adults. According to a journal review published by Pepperdine University, issues with low self-esteem seem to stem from a combination of the outside world’s view of what ADHD is compounded with the diagnosed party’s self-perception.
Cause and Effect+
Causes of ADHD are not fully understood. WebMD notes that genetics and neurotransmitter levels play a significant role in those affected with ADHD. Prenatal healthcare, smoking or drinking during pregnancy, low birth weight, environmental toxins, lead exposure, and damage to the frontal lobe may all make one more likely to develop ADHD. Prenatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) also seems to correlate with an increased risk of ADHD development.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse+
Co-occurring substance use and mental health issues aren’t uncommon in those diagnosed with ADHD. In fact, many come by way of the attention deficit diagnosis while in treatment or therapy for something else. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 50 percent of children who are diagnosed with ADHD also have at least one other major mental health condition. Often, overlapping symptoms can complicate the diagnosis and interfere with getting an accurate one. Oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, and learning disorders are some of the most common issues that are found in conjunction with ADHD.
Sadly, the other two most probable mental health problems someone with ADHD faces are depression and anxiety, per NAMI. Substance abuse is a risk with ADHD alone, but the chances of drug or alcohol problems increase significantly when accompanied by other problems, like said mood disorders. WebMD touts that nearly a quarter of adults who are treated for drug and/or alcohol abuse have ADHD.
Those who are diagnosed during childhood may actually be at an increased risk of substance abuse later in life. According to the results of a 1998 study completed by the Pediatric Psychopharmacology Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, there is a twofold increased risk of drug or alcohol abuse for those diagnosed with ADHD in childhood when compared to their adult-diagnosed counterparts. This may, in part, be due to the fact that stimulants are the number one preferred treatment for ADHD.
The Importance of Treatment
Since the diagnosis of ADHD has only really ramped up in the past couple decades or so, many still don’t even know they have the disorder until adulthood. For this reason, treatment is often delayed. Fortunately, most treatments for these disorders are highly effective. Medications like Vyvanse, Adderall, Focalin and Concerta have made huge impacts on the lives of sufferers of ADHD. Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder – an organization aligned with improving resources and quality of life for the diagnosed — cites an impressive 85 percent success rate using stimulant medications as treatment for the disorder.
Those who are addicted to stimulant medications do have other options for treating their ADHD symptoms. You are not condemned to a life of self-medicating or battling your mental health. In fact, studies like the Impact of ADHD and Its Treatment of Substance Abuse in Adults, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2004, recommend non-stimulant medications as the primary course of treatment for those who are faced with the Dual Diagnosis of ADHD and substance abuse.
Everyday Life with ADD and ADHD
Talk therapy can help you to improve your self-esteem, something that is vital to living a healthy and drug-free life with ADHD. A 1997 review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry detailed that half of the adolescent drug abusers observed met the diagnostic criteria for ADHD started using drugs earlier in life and had a poorer self-image prior to using drugs, which improved while using them.
All variants of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are lifelong disorders but they don’t have to control your life. Having ADHD makes you more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol for a longer period of time, as well as making you more likely to take longer to reach remission. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Addictions showed that patients with ADHD who were recovering from psychoactive substance abuse disorder took 37.2 months longer to do so than those without ADHD.
At Black Bear Lodge, we can help you to detox in a comfortable setting while undergoing evaluations by some of the nation’s most skilled professionals. Here, your family can engage in group therapy sessions with you to learn how all of you, as a unit, can recover and learn to manage the symptoms of ADHD. Whether you’re coming to us with a diagnosis or need to confirm one, we can help you get on the right track to recovery. All you have to do is call.