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Fidgeting, forgetful, unable to focus. Could it be ADHD?



Whether you’re persistently moving or continually distracted, finding out if ADHD is the reason can bring new hope. 

For as long as you can remember, you’ve been forgetful. You have trouble getting day-to-day tasks completed on time. Your friends joke that you talk too much. Does this sound familiar? If so, it could be a sign of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

Frequently the punchline of jokes about short attention spans, ADHD is often misunderstood and stigmatized. First, let’s dispel some of the myths. ADHD is not:

  • An invented term to rationalize childlike behavior or horseplay
  • Found only in children
  • Just about having too much energy
  • Brought on by playing video games or eating a lot of sugar

ADHD is a complex, hereditary nervous system issue that affects many important brain functions including attention, memory, learning, and social skills. It’s most commonly diagnosed at age seven, but it is not unusual for a person to be diagnosed much later as a teen or adult.

“ADHD is one of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S.,” says Dr. Jeffrey Aronowitz, a psychiatrist and medical director for behavioral health at Horizon. “In adults, it can lead to poor work performance, poor self-esteem, and relationship problems. But fortunately, there’s so much we can do to help.”

Diagnosing ADHD in children

Not every child who squirms or daydreams in class has ADHD. Pediatricians often recommend connecting with a child psychiatrist or trained ADHD specialist to provide a complete assessment and diagnosis. There is no single test, which is why pediatricians may also gather input from family members and teachers.

Though symptoms vary from person to person, ADHD is divided into three types:

1. Hyperactive-impulsive. Generally more common in boys, this type is what most people think of when they hear ADHD. Symptoms include:

  • Fidgeting or squirming
  • Difficulty staying seated
  • Excessive running
  • Difficulty engaging in activities quietly
  • Talking excessively and/or interrupting others
  • Difficulty with waiting or taking turns

2. Inattentive. This type, originally referred to by the outdated term ADD or attention deficit disorder, is more common in girls. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Distraction
  • Appearing not to listen
  • Problems with organization
  • Forgetfulness/losing things

3) Combination of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive. This is the most common form of ADHD overall.

Diagnosing ADHD in adults

For a number of reasons, many people aren’t diagnosed with this condition when they are children. However, when untreated, ADHD can cause serious health, career, and relationship problems, so getting an accurate diagnosis as an adult can be life-changing.

Symptoms of adult ADHD include:

  • not being able to prioritize and organize
  • having trouble starting tasks and projects
  • not managing your time well
  • losing the ability to follow through on tasks that call for prolonged mental effort
  • having chaotic surroundings or life circumstances
  • losing objects and forgetting deadlines or appointments
  • acting on impulse, even in risky situations
  • feeling stressed and overwhelmed by everyday demands
  • becoming frustrated easily
  • feeling restless and uneasy
  • misusing substances

Managing ADHD starts with personalized treatment

Treatment for ADHD has evolved over the years and options are better than ever. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends behavioral therapy and medication, preferably together, for children 6 years old and up. The course of treatment will look a little different for everyone, and that's why working closely with a specialist is so important.

Because ADHD involves a chemical imbalance in the brain, medication can often have a significant impact. “With current medications, patients can see an effect right away,” says Dr. Aronowitz.

ADHD medications do require expert monitoring and follow-up by your specialist to ensure they are right for you. For example, the doctor will want to ensure you are maintaining an appropriate weight and sleeping well.

It’s never too late to address ADHD

Because ADHD is genetic, parents may recognize it in themselves or in family members once their children are diagnosed. While some symptoms like hyperactivity may diminish with age, ADHD usually lasts throughout life and may continue to impact daily life and relationships. If you’re an adult who thinks you may have ADHD or need additional support, talk to your doctor.

To find a behavioral health specialist or more information about ADHD, visit Horizon Behavioral Health.

Horizon Health News is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.