What is ADHD?

what is adhd

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition that affects about 5 percent of American children and adults. It’s a chronic brain disorder that can cause problems with focus, memory and other areas of life. It’s not caused by a chemical imbalance or bad genes.

It’s a condition that can be diagnosed by a doctor or other healthcare professional. The diagnosis is based on the presence of certain behaviors, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — Fifth Edition, or DSM-5.

The behaviors most common with ADHD include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. People with ADHD often have trouble paying attention, have difficulty following directions and are unable to stay focused on tasks for long periods of time.

Inattentiveness: Has trouble paying attention to tasks, especially when they are new or different. For example, they may forget to turn in their homework, forget the address of a friend’s house or not finish their reading assignment.

Uncontrolled impulsivity: Makes careless mistakes or acts without thinking before doing something that could be considered dangerous, such as driving or throwing items. They may blurt out an answer to a question in front of others or interrupt conversations.

Hyperactivity: Acts out of control by running about, climbing, or bouncing on things, often when not expected to behave in this way. They may also have an inability to sit still or stay seated when they’re expected to do so.

Symptoms of hyperactivity are usually the result of dopamine deficiency in the brain, which helps regulate movement and impulses. Dopamine is the brain’s “reward center,” and people with low levels of dopamine can’t feel the euphoric high it brings.

They can do activities that will raise their dopamine levels and make them feel good. For example, if they eat their favorite fluffer-nutter sandwich, their dopamine will be high enough to make them feel satisfied and happy.

Medication: Many adults with ADHD use medication, which can help them with their symptoms. Medication can improve their focus, sleep, mood and behavior. It can also prevent future episodes of impulsivity.

Combination treatment: A combination of medication and behavioral treatments is the best approach to treating ADHD. Medicines can help reduce the symptoms and side effects of ADHD, while behavioral therapies can help people with ADHD learn how to manage their symptoms.

The combination approach is supported by substantial research. It is the most effective way to treat the disease and can improve quality of life, including job performance and relationships.

How to get an ADHD diagnosis:

The first step is to talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider about your concerns. They will ask you about your current symptoms and how they’re impacting your daily life. They’ll also perform a physical exam and review your medical history.

They’ll also look for other conditions that can be causing your symptoms. Those conditions can include learning disabilities, anxiety and depression, tics or Tourette syndrome, substance abuse, sleep disorders, and more.

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