Having an understanding of conditions that can change the daily lifestyle of both you and your child is an important factor in having the best possible outcomes. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (commonly referred to as ADHD) is a brain disorder marked by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. ADHD symptoms can appear as early as between the ages of 3 and 6, often continuing through adolescence and into adulthood.
In the United States, ADHD affects more than 17 million people of both sexes and of every age, race, IQ, and socio-economic background. More than 30 years of imaging research shows that the brain of a person with ADHD develops differently than those of people without ADHD.
According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of ADHD, which include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, often are mistaken for emotional or disciplinary problems or missed entirely in quiet, well-behaved children, leading to a delay in diagnosis. Adults with undiagnosed ADHD may have a history of poor academic performance, problems at work, or difficult or failed relationships.
ADHD symptoms can change over time as a person ages. Among young children diagnosed with ADHD, hyperactivity-impulsivity is the most predominant symptom. Continuing into elementary school, inattention may become more prominent and cause the child to struggle academically. In adolescence, hyperactivity seems to diminish, and may show more often as feelings of restlessness or fidgeting, but inattention and impulsivity may remain. Many adolescents/teens with ADHD often have a hard time with relationships and antisocial behaviors. Inattention, restlessness, and impulsivity tend to persist into adulthood. As many teens reach adulthood, they learn to overcome or compensate for many of the behaviors associated with ADHD to pursue a career they can be successful in and passionate about.
Long Term Health Outcomes of Children with ADHD
While there is no cure for ADHD, currently available treatments can help reduce symptoms and improve functioning. Treatments include medication, psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of treatments that may continue into adulthood.
CHADD, a national non-profit, tax-exempt organization that provides education, advocacy and support for individuals with ADHD reports that children with ADHD may be at risk for potentially serious problems in adolescence and adulthood, to include academic failure or delays, driving problems, difficulties with peers and social situations, risky sexual behavior, and substance abuse. Adults with ADHD can exhibit more severe negative behaviors with co-existing conditions, such as oppositional defiant disorder or conduct disorder.
Around one-third of children with ADHD continue to meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis as adults. And the ADHD symptoms tend to evolve into more adult problems, such as depression, mood or conduct disorders, and substance abuse. Adults will often cope with difficulties at work and in their personal and family lives related to ADHD symptoms. Inconsistent performance at work or in their careers, difficulties with day-to-day responsibilities, relationship problems; and even chronic feelings of frustration, guilt, or blame are all associated with adult ADHD.
Individuals with ADHD may also have difficulties with maintaining attention, executive function, and working memory. Recently, deficits in executive function have emerged as key factors affecting academic and career success. Executive function is the brain’s ability to prioritize and manage thoughts and actions. This ability permits individuals to consider the long-term consequences of their actions and guide their behavior across time more effectively. Problems with executive functioning may precipitate difficulties completing tasks or cause someone to important things.
While the prognosis may seem negative, some have repurposed their hyperactivity and focus into life-enhancing benefits. Many CEOs, first responders, engineers, and service professionals such as mechanics and electricians, credit their success to being able to focus on things they are interested in and multi-tasking.
Diagnosis of ADHD requires a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed clinician, such as a pediatrician, psychologist, or psychiatrist with expertise in ADHD. A thorough diagnosis is essential for making sure that any ADHD symptoms are not due to another medical or psychiatric condition. Most children with ADHD receive a diagnosis during their elementary school years. For an adolescent or adult to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, the symptoms need to have been present prior to age 12.
The medical professionals at Children’s Health Care of Massachusetts (CHC Mass) can help you determine if your child has ADHD and will provide compassionate and personalized care for your family. Please contact your preferred CHC location in Newburyport or Haverhill to schedule a comprehensive health consultation.