What images come to mind when you think about ADHD? Most of us probably imagine a young child bouncing off the walls, talking out of turn, acting like a clown, and making impulsive decisions. Few of us imagine the silent child sitting in the corner with their head down, or the adult who struggles to hold down a job. There's so much more than meets the eye with this misunderstood and highly stigmatized diagnosis.
Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder is a very common disorder. Now encompassing both the hyperactive and inattentive types, ADHD is estimated to be present in 7.2% of children under the age of 18 according to data from the national health interview survey in 2016. It is estimated that world wide, 3.2% of adults are diagnosed with ADHD. This diagnosis causes a variety of problems for people throughout their lifetime. It's a very treatable problem with a lot of stigma.
It's understood that ADHD is a problem of executive functioning. Executive function is one's ability to make good decisions, see problems from multiple perspective, remember how to do things, stop and think before doing them, and use what has been learned to make choices. Executive functioning is also responsible for emotional regulation. People with executive functioning problems have trouble controlling their emotions, thinking before acting, learning from past experience, and regulating their behaviors. More than just being hyperactive and distractible, people with ADHD have trouble organizing, prioritizing, getting work started, transitioning from tasks, losing things, and being forgetful. They can also have trouble waiting their turn, picking up on social cues, and holding boundaries. They might get uncomfortably close to others.
The emotional dysregulation found in ADHD is often misunderstood. People with ADHD can have rapid mood swings, large overreactions to small frustrations, and big explosive tantrums out of context of the trigger. They may immediately calm down and act like nothing has happened. This can be very confusing to those who interact with them. ADHD also makes it hard for people to understand social cues and pick up on context. They can have a lot of trouble making and keeping friends. Coupled with impulsivity and a tendency to say whatever pops into their head at any time, it can be hard to appropriately interact with others.
The cost of ADHD can be very high. Those with untreated ADHD are more likely to self medicate with drugs, drop out of school, get in car accidents, have unwanted pregnancies, lose jobs, end up incarcerated, or die by violence. They'll chronically be changing jobs, may struggle finances, have difficulty maintaining relationships, and not meet their potential.
There are many high functioning people who have ADHD. They have ways of managing their symptoms and pushing through. These coping skills are sometimes exhausting and unnecessarily complicated. Yet due to the stigma associated with treatment, they might be suffering in silence.
There's no reason for there to be so much stigma against ADHD. People blame parents for their children's behavior, and blame parents for putting their kids on medication. People think "if you worked harder you wouldn't have problems." But just like any other mental health disorder, treatment is necessary and helpful. Allowing yourself or your child to get the help you need is heroic. You can change the entire trajectory of your life by getting the help you need.
Medications for ADHD are well tolerated and extremely helpful. It's estimated that 70% of people with ADHD respond to stimulants. And stimulant treatment seems to help the brain develop more appropriately, so children started on stimulants may not need them when their older.
If you are struggling with symptoms of that you think could be ADHD, schedule an appointment with Dr. Shaban to learn about your options.