Child ADD/ADHD & Adult ADHD
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are syndromes that affect both children and adults. ADD often reflects profound difficulties in attention, concentration, learning, and retaining new information, while ADHD presents with more challenges in self-regulation that create internal states of restlessness, agitation, impulsivity, frustration, anger, and behavioral acting out. There is such a range of potential disruptive symptoms and behaviors that it becomes difficult to differentiate from other disorders that are commonly mistaken for ADHD such as attachment disturbances, trauma, dissociation, antisocial acts, and bipolar affective disorders. Only a highly trained clinician can determine the difference.
Common symptoms for children include:
Spacing out; daydreaming; inability to attend to verbal or sensory information in the moment
Inability to concentrate for extended periods of time unless highly interested or motivated
Appears not to be listening or capable of following instructions
Can't learn or retain new information
Is constantly restless, fidgety, agitated, active, moving around, or can't sit still
Is socially awkward, anxious, shy, or has trouble making friends
Is angry, mean, oppositional, impulsive, defiant, or has low frustrational tolerance
Is getting in trouble at school, home, or during social activities
Is aggressive toward others; can't get along with others
Adult ADHD is a controversial disorder but one that frequently goes unnoticed and affects many peoples' lives. Adults with this syndrome experience cognitive disorganization that affects their ability to process information, complete tasks, function interpersonally in an optimal manner, regulate their emotions, and fulfill their possibilities in work, family, and recreational life. Symptoms of ADHD in adulthood can have a significantly negative impact on interpersonal relationships, career success, and personal well-being.
Because this disorder is often misunderstood, many people who have it do not receive appropriate treatment and, as a result, may never actualize their full potential. It can be difficult to diagnose ADHD in adults because the presenting problems often mask as other difficulties in memory, mood, or behavior. Adult ADHD is also correlated with alcoholism, substance abuse, and antisocial behavior, which makes the diagnostic process that much more important.
Adult ADHD Symptoms
Symptoms for adults can differ markedly from that of children or reflect similar concerns that typically include:
Distractibility, forgetting, memory deficits, lack of concentration
Inability to remember recent sensory events (e.g., can't remember the content of a paragraph after reading a book, or can't remember what you were just watching on TV)
Restlessness, motor agitation; needs to keep busy, can't relax
Procrastination; can't finish tasks; disorganization, cognitive confusion
Is oppositional, argumentative, or aggressive
Doesn't listen to others; interrupts in conversations
Has a racing mind, can't slow thoughts down
Can't calm oneself or self-soothe
Abuses alcohol or drugs
Has mood swings; can't regulate emotions
Is antisocial or has been in trouble with the law
Assessment & Treatment for ADD/ADHD
ADD/ADHD in children and adults need to be properly identifed and diagnosed for effective intervention strategies to be successful. Many people, particularly children, are often misdiagnosed by family doctors, pediatricians, and mental heath professionals who mistake a few symptoms for the syndrome. Because ADHD symptoms overlap with or mask other disorders, it is important to have a clinical assessment where clear and objective results can be substantiated by extensive psychological testing.
Once ADD/ADHD is diagnosed or suspicions ruled out, there are many evidenced-based treatment options available. Pharmaceutical interventions are the most popular form of treatment, but research shows that medication alone is not the most effective in most cases. Even if medication is indicated, pills alone often do not alter the problematic behaviours of ADHD. Therefore, individualized treatment can address avenues and strategies for helping clients realize their goals, develop new socialization, communication, and interpersonal skills, manage their mood and disruptive affective states, deal effectively with anger and frustration, decrease impulsivity, contain aggression and acting out behaviour, improve distractability, concentration, and time management skills, reduce procrastination, set boundaries, reduce stress, and create a supportive environment for success.