Occasionally, everyone has difficulty sitting still or concentrating on a task – especially if that task is boring or uninteresting. However, some people experience these problems on a grander scale, each and every day. These problems can become overwhelming and pervasive in daily life, impacting a person’s academic, occupational, and social performance. In this blog we hope to explain what ADHD is and share some tips for those impacted by ADHD.
What Is ADHD?
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by a range of symptoms including difficulty paying attention or staying on task, restlessness or fidgetiness, and impulsivity. According to the CDC, ADHD impacts 9% of children and teenagers in the United States (about 6 million children and teens). This number has grown over the last decade, most likely due to increased awareness and changes to the diagnostic process.
In addition to ADHD, 6 in 10 individuals have a coexisting diagnosis of a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. These conditions include anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, depression, autism spectrum disorder, and Tourette syndrome. Individuals with ADHD may also be impacted by learning disorders, sleep disorders, and/or substance use.
What Are The Symptoms?
There are three subtypes of ADHD: predominantly inattentive presentation, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive presentation, and combined inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive presentation. According to the DSM-5, symptoms of ADHD must be present before age twelve, deviate from typical development, and may be difficult to distinguish before age four.
The symptoms for the inattentive subtype include the following:
- Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
- Has difficulty sustaining attention
- Does not appear to listen
- Struggles to follow through with instructions
- Has difficulty with organization (messy, poor time management)
- Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort
- Loses things (keys, books, homework)
- Easily distracted
- Forgetful in daily activities
The symptoms for the hyperactive/impulsive subtype include:
- Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in chair
- Has difficulty remaining seated
- Runs about or climbs excessively in children; extreme restlessness in adults
- Difficulty engaging in activities quietly
- Acts as if driven by a motor; adults will often feel inside as if they are driven by a motor
- Talks excessively, often without breaks
- Blurts out answers before questions have been completed or raising their hand in class
- Difficulty waiting or taking turns
- Interrupts or intrudes upon others’ boundaries or conversations
How Is ADHD Treated?
Treatment of ADHD varies to meet the needs and available resources of the individual and family. This can include counseling, medication, parent training, skills training, psychoeducation, and education support. According to the CDC, nearly 77% percent of children with ADHD receive some form of treatment. Of those receiving treatment, 62% take ADHD medication and 47% receive behavioral treatment. It is important to know that treatment interventions are designed to meet the individual’s specific areas of need, and these areas can change over time. It is okay and normal to explore whichever methods may be beneficial for the individual.
Tips For Someone With ADHD
ADHD is typically a lifelong disorder. Coping with these impairments can be a daunting task involving several organizational and support systems – both of which are already tricky for those with ADHD.
Before we share these tips, we want to encourage you to remember a few key points:
- Tips and tricks may work for some while being detrimental for others
- Symptoms vary across the different subtypes, so be open-minded when reading these tips
- Some tips may work, some may be the worst, and some may lose their effectiveness over time
- Make sure to give yourself some grace as you find your individualized flow.
Below are some ways to accommodate and advocate for yourself:
- Visual timers – These increase awareness of time and help build understanding of how long a minute or hour is.
- Name your expectations prior to starting a task
- Divide tasks into smaller increments and schedule them throughout the task period
- Establish a routine that builds in self-care habits
- Use closed-captions or transcripts during meetings
- Schedule frequent breaks, or options to take a break – For example, if you’ve found your focus and are jamming with a task consider skipping that break. Make sure to schedule non-negotiable breaks for meals and bathroom breaks.
- Use a body double – For example, Facetime a friend and have them nearby while you complete a task
- Use an alternative workspace – Examples of this include using a standing desk, working in an area away from distractions, or using an exercise ball chair.
- Have fidget tools nearby to regulate sensory-seeking behavior
- Practice mindfulness to increase bodily awareness – Not the mind-clearing mindfulness, but rather the staying-in-the-present mindfulness
- Schedule NICU tasks mingled with tedious/boring tasks
Developing a community can also be extremely beneficial for individuals with ADHD. There are several ADHD advocates on social media that have built fantastic communities. Counselor Lynsey’s personal favorites include:
- Dani Donovan: Twitter, Instagram, TikTok
- Dr. Sasha Hamdani: Instagram, TikTok
- Pina: Twitter
- Dana Kidd: TikTok, YouTube
There are also several additional resources on YouTube, including Jessica with How to ADHD.
If you are looking for a counselor to support you in living with ADHD, we have offices in Jacksonville, Boaz, and Huntsville, in addition to online counseling options. Contact us today at (256) 239-5662 or online to start your counseling journey with us!
This article was written by Lynsey Leopard, a mental health professional at Garrett Counseling in Jacksonville, AL. Learn more about Lynsey here.