What is ADD?
Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD, may be present with or without hyperactivity. When hyperactivity is associated, the condition is known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. The diagnosis and treatment are similar and the terms may be interchanged.
ADD has been an increasingly common problem in adults as well as children. Frequently over diagnosed, this disorder has become nearly epidemic in our society and requires careful and thoughtful evaluation.
The hallmark symptoms of ADD and ADHD are inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Symptoms usually present in childhood before the age of 7 but may be subtle as all children can at times display some of these behaviors. There are subtypes of the disorder which have the predominant symptom type…e.g. inattentive, hyperactive or most commonly combined.
The diagnosis is not made unless it can be demonstrated that there are actual impairments in functioning in a variety of different settings, e.g., home, school, and work.
Signs and Symptoms of ADD/ADHD
There are several signs and symptoms of ADD/ ADHD many of which are not apparent until the individual is in a setting that calls upon skill sets that bring into sharper focus his or her deficits. Some of these may include the following:
- Difficulty paying attention to details, carelessness with school work or work product in general
- Distractibility, poor concentration, focus
- Inability to sustain attention or focus on tasks
- Difficulty completing tasks, lack of follow through
- Inability to prioritize
- Procrastination, forgetfulness
- Generally disorganized work habits
Often, individuals recall a history of hyperactivity as a child which may include behaviors such as fidgeting and squirming, always being on the go, getting into trouble in class etc. In adolescents, teens and young adults this may present more as impulsivity e.g. difficulty-delaying gratification, which lead to all sorts of behaviors associated with poor judgment.
Diagnosis and Treatment of ADD/ADHD
Careful evaluation and history is vital to making a proper diagnosis. Particular attention must be paid to medical and neurologic issues in these individuals. Often Psychological testing is helpful and frequently other studies are useful tools in assisting in making an accurate diagnosis.
Treatments vary but often involve the use of stimulants, which are medications that require careful regulation. When correctly diagnosed and treated, individuals often report excellent response to available medications as well as the multiple therapies available to augment the pharmacologic treatments, all of which help to restore the individual to good mental health.