By Laura Hickman,
of Centric Behavioral Health

We’ve all heard the term ADHD, but what is it really? ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to pay attention and control impulsive behaviors. If these issues are ongoing and you feel that they are negatively impacting your life, it could be a sign of ADHD.

People who have ADHD have combinations of these symptoms:
• Overlook or miss details, make careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities.
• Have problems sustaining attention in tasks or play, including conversations, lectures, or lengthy reading.
• Seem to not listen when spoken to directly.
• Fail to not follow through on instructions, fail to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace, or start tasks but quickly lose focus and get easily sidetracked.
• Have problems organizing tasks and activities, such as doing tasks in sequence, keeping materials and belongings in order, keeping work organized, managing time, and meeting deadlines.
• Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork or homework, or for teens and older adults, preparing reports, completing forms, or reviewing lengthy papers.
• Lose things necessary for tasks or activities, such as school supplies, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses.
• Become easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli.
• Forgetful in daily activities, such as chores, errands, returning calls, and keeping appointments.
• Getting up and moving around in situations when staying seated is expected, such as in the classroom or in the office.
• Running or dashing around or climbing in situations where it is inappropriate, or, in teens and adults, often feeling restless.
• Blurting out an answer before a question has been completed, finishing other people’s sentences, or speaking without waiting for a turn in conversation.

Showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean a person has ADHD. Many other problems, like anxiety, depression, and certain types of learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms. It is important to find a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner or a Psychiatrist who will take the time to learn all about you or your child in order to correctly diagnose and provide the correct medications.

What should I do if I feel that my child or I have ADHD?
ADHD is commonly treated with medication, education or training, therapy, or a combination of treatments. There are many different types and brands of medications—all with potential benefits and side effects. Sometimes several different medications or dosages must be tried before finding the one that works most effectively. Anyone taking medications must be monitored closely by their prescribing psychiatric nurse practitioner or psychiatrist. For many people, ADHD medications reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve their ability to focus, work, and learn.

What do I do if my medications aren’t working?
It is important to have a provider who takes the time to look at the individualized struggles. One tool that should always be used is to obtain the Vanderbilt ADHD Diagnostic Rating Scale (VADRS) from teachers. This allows the provider to determine if functioning changes throughout the day or with certain subjects. It also helps to determine the proper timing of medication administration. Nutrition, sleep, and gaming practices are also variables to consider and should be discussed.

What are the risks if I don’t treat ADHD?
It is imperative to treat ADHD and to treat it early on. The risks and benefits of treatment with medications should always be discussed, however, many times the risks of NOT treating ADHD can be much worse and are frequently overlooked. Examples are; academic challenges, social struggles, greater substance use risk, car accidents, and less likely to attend or graduate from college. For adults, untreated ADHD also affects job performance and lifetime earnings, marital satisfaction, and increases the likelihood of divorce.