Understanding ADHD

Author and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Jose Toledo

Understanding ADHD - Tikvah Lake Florida

ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a mental health condition that is believed to affect around 50 million people on the planet.

Someone diagnosed with ADHD is likely to have persistently suffered from difficulty staying focused, hyperactivity, restlessness, impulsive behavior, and problems with paying attention.

Most people with ADHD are diagnosed before the age of 12 after issues at school increasingly highlight the problem. Two times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with it.

Between a third and a half of children diagnosed with ADHD will see certain symptoms continue when they become adults. It frequently causes unhealthy relationships; anxiety; low functioning at school, college, or work; poor self-esteem; and problems at home.

As well, many people diagnosed with ADHD will suffer from depression; sleep disorders; and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Understandably these symptoms can make normal living virtually impossible.

What are the reasons for ADHD?

Despite it being the most frequently diagnosed mental health condition in children and teenagers – and with years of research into it –  ADHD’s exact cause remains unknown. 

However, some studies show that it is something that can be passed on through the generations. Other potential aspects that could be linked include:

  • Premature birth or being born with a low birthweight.
  • Substance abuse, smoking or drinking alcohol excessively during pregnancy. 
  • Brain damage that happened while in the womb or following a major head injury.
  • Toxic substance exposure, such as to certain insecticides.


Common symptoms of ADHD

The majority of those with ADHD symptoms will have problems that come under two categories: inattentiveness; and hyperactivity with impulsiveness.

Inattentiveness can include:

  • Frequently changing tasks.
  • Misplacing and losing things on a regular basis.
  • Being careless in a way that often leads to making mistakes.
  • Difficulty in following instructions.
  • Seeming inability to finish anything that is boring or that takes time.
  • Being forgetful on a frequent basis.
  • Being easily distracted and finding it hard to pay attention.


Hyperactivity with impulsiveness can include:

  • Having no or very little ability to concentrate.
  • Being excessively talkative.
  • Frequently irritable.
  • Constantly restless and fidgeting, sometimes more noticeably when it’s calm and quiet.
  • Being impulsive time after time with little or no regard for consequences and little or no sense of danger – and so doing many risky and potentially dangerous things.
  • Having very changeable moods.
  • Tendency to break in on and interrupt conversations.
  • Having little or no patience.


ADHD and ODD

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) is a mental health condition with behaviors that are openly defiant, uncooperative, irritable, and purposely annoying. These are especially towards authority figures.

ADHD and ODD frequently occur together. In fact, experts in child and adolescent mental health at the Child Mind Institute think that up to 40 percent of young people diagnosed with ADHD also show symptoms of ODD.

A lot of children diagnosed with ADHD develop negative behaviors as a reaction to often feeling as if they are in continual conflict with adults, especially authority figures.

“There’s no malicious intent on the part of these young kids,” explains David Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. “Because of the hyperactive and impulsive symptoms of ADHD, they don’t want to stay in their seat.

“They want to explore the entire restaurant. They want to run away from you at the park to check something out that looks cool. That can result in pretty stressed-out parents pretty quickly.

“So if you’re told from an early age that your behavior is wrong or isn’t what a kid is supposed to be doing, either you internalize it and you start thinking: ‘There really is something wrong with me,’ or you react aggressively towards the people who are telling you that you’re wrong.”

How to live with ADHD

Living with ADHD - Tikvah Lake Florida

If one of your children or you are diagnosed with ADHD, it can help to get in touch with a national or local ADHD support organization. Some other suggestions to help are:

  • Keep to set routines as much as possible – that can be broken down into structured stages. Making lists helps some people.
  • Avoid doing stimulating things for two to three hours before going to bed. 
  • Learn new ways to relax.
  • Go to bed at the same time every evening. Get out of bed at a regular time every morning too.
  • Keep active with exercise most days every week.
  • Eat healthily and at regular times, allowing time for food to digest properly after eating.
  • Become aware of warning signs that can lead to negative or damaging behavior. Take time out as soon as you notice any of these, allowing time to calm down.
  • If going to social events, ensure to keep them brief.


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David Hurst - Tikvah Lake Recovery

About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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