Any parent knows that children can at times be wild and undisciplined. But what happens when your child’s inability to sit still or focus starts affecting his or her school work and lifestyle?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a commonly occurring neurodevelopmental disorder that is seen in children, adolescents and adults. This condition does not consist of just one or two specific symptoms, but rather a complex cluster of behaviors that often appear together. Some children with ADHD are restless and disruptive while others are quieter and get distracted more easily.
Although many of us might experience some mild characteristics of ADHD from time to time, those with the condition have more difficulties in day-to-day functioning.
ADHD is most often diagnosed in children before age 12, but could persist into adolescence as well as adulthood, particularly if unrecognized and untreated. It can stem from genetic, neurobiological and environmental factors. Other psychiatric conditions can coexist with ADHD, including oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, depression, anxiety, learning disorders and substance use disorders.
Doctors are able to diagnose ADHD after obtaining a thorough history, administering behavior-rating scales for parents and teachers, performing comprehensive neuropsychological testing, carefully listening to the family’s descriptions of behaviors and directly observing the child.
After careful assessment, the first line of treatment might be psychosocial interventions to promote specific behaviors that can manage ADHD. These behavioral tools can also improve educational needs.
Your doctor might also recommend medications, which can be extremely beneficial. There are several different types of such medications that can act as stimulants or non-stimulants. They affect individuals differently, so one person might respond well to one medication but not another. Medications can also be used in combination with behavioral and educational tools.
ADHD is a serious disorder that responds well to therapeutic interventions. However, if left untreated, it can have serious negative outcomes that could be lifelong. Early intervention is key to addressing this disorder so that children can begin treatment. With behavioral tools and/or medication, progress can be made throughout childhood and into adolescence so your child can become a productive, healthy adult.
Judith Regan, M.D., MBA, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at UHealth — the University of Miami Health System. To learn more about UHealth’s clinical services, visit umiamihospital.com/specialties/psychiatry.