What is ADHD Awareness Month?
ADHD Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise the profile of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a neurological disorder that affects people’s behaviour and usually presents in early childhood and lasts into adulthood. In the UK alone, there are an estimated 2.6 million people living with ADHD.
People with ADHD have trouble with impulse control, organisation, and focus. Despite its prevalence, ADHD is often misunderstood and mischaracterised. People with ADHD are frequently regarded as lazy, rude, and unfocused, instead of being recognised for being neurodivergent.
ADHD Awareness Month highlights that there are thousands of people living unassisted and undiagnosed with ADHD, which can take a huge toll on people’s mental health and general wellbeing, communication, and relationships, unemployment, underemployment, health, and estimated life expectancy.
ADHD Awareness Month stresses that although some progress has been made, there is still work to be done.
What is ADHD?
It is a neurological disorder. Statistics show that around 3-4% of adults suffer from ADHD in the UK, and the majority are undiagnosed.
ADHD is regarded as a chronic and sometimes debilitating disorder known to affect many aspects of an individual’s life. ADHD can impact a person’s academic, professional achievements, relationships, and day-to-day activities.
What are the symptoms of ADHD?
- Inability to concentrate for extended periods of time.
- Easily distracted.
- Angry outbursts.
- Low self-esteem.
- Fidgeting and restlessness.
- Inability to listen when spoken to directly.
- Loses interest in long-term projects.
- Unable to partake in structured activities quietly.
- Loses or misplaces important items such as keys, wallets, and phones.
What are the different types of ADHD?
There are 3 different types of ADHD. While all of these types share certain commonalities, there are some key differences between them.
People with this type of ADHD have trouble focusing, finishing tasks, and following instructions. Researchers have concluded that many children with this type of ADHD often go undiagnosed because they do not tend to cause huge disruptions in their classrooms.
This type of ADHD is more common in girls than in boys.
People with this type of ADHD display hyperactive and impulsive behaviours.
Inattention is not the defining characteristic of this type of ADHD, but it can still prove difficult.
Combined hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive
This is the most common type of ADHD. People with this type of ADHD show inattentive and hyperactive symptoms simultaneously.
What are the causes of ADHD?
There is no scientific consensus on the cause of ADHD. Research indicates that genetics are largely responsible for determining who will have ADHD. This is because there is evidence of anatomical differences in the brains of children with ADHD in comparison to children without the condition.
Scientists are still investigating whether specific genes, particularly those associated with dopamine, contribute to the development of ADHD.
Although the research is currently inconclusive, there is some evidence that several non-genetic factors are linked to ADHD. These factors include premature birth, smoking during pregnancy, exposure to chemicals and toxins, and experiencing stress in utero.
How is ADHD diagnosed?
There is no single test to determine if a person has ADHD. It is likely that a diagnosis will follow a holistic assessment of any ADHD behaviours exhibited by a person over their life, as well as a physical and psychiatric evaluation to rule out any other conditions that may be causing symptoms.
What medications are used to treat ADHD?
Medications that are used to treat ADHD are controversial, but can be highly beneficial for people with ADHD when used correctly.
There are two main classes of drugs used to treat ADHD: stimulants and non-stimulants.
The most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD across the world are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin. These medications work by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which can help considerably with focus and concentration.
Stimulants can cause some detrimental side effects such as loss of appetite, nausea, and trouble sleeping. In some cases, the negative side-effects outweigh the benefits of stimulants, which may lead people to non-stimulant medications like Atomoxetine. The response rates are significantly lower with non-stimulant medications, meaning they are generally less effective than their stimulant counterparts.
What are some myths about ADHD?
People with ADHD are lazy
This misconception arises from the fact that people with ADHD can focus on topics that they are interested in. The term for this is ‘hyperfocus.’ Hyperfocus is a state in which a person with ADHD can become totally absorbed in a task.
Some argue that ADHD is inadequately named as people with ADHD are not completely unable to focus, but rather lose focus when it comes to tasks they perceive as mundane, boring, and repetitive. This is why many people with ADHD are sometimes regarded as ‘last minute’ people, as they are often more likely to complete a task under pressure.
You cannot have ADHD if you are not hyperactive
A widespread misconception is that ADHD only presents with symptoms of hyperactivity. In fact, it is sometimes the case that children with ADHD who do experience a lessening of symptoms in adulthood, will often see an improvement in their impulsivity and hyperactivity.
ADHD is not serious enough to cause any major disruption in your life
Untreated or inadequately treated ADHD can severely affect learning, working life, domestic life, relationships, and social life. Many people with ADHD can function extremely well, but there are many people with ADHD who struggle to cope with life. ADHD is associated with lower levels of educational achievement and lower levels of employment, with a history of frequent job changes. Studies of people with ADHD have shown they are significantly more likely to have been arrested and twice as likely to be divorced, as well as less satisfied with their family, social, and professional lives. ADHD is also associated with an increase in serious road traffic accidents.
ADHD Awareness Month is important as it continues to dispel the myths and the stigma that exist around ADHD.