ADHD is known to be one of the most common disorders diagnosed in children.
A diagnosis of ADHD means having a persistent pattern of inattention or hyperactivity prior to the age of 12 years. These symptoms affect the child’s life negatively in different aspects such as school, home, and social situations and relationships. ADHD occurs in 5.9% of youths, and 2.5% of adults, which can cost billions of dollars worldwide.
When a child with ADHD reaches adulthood, they maintain very similar symptoms as do children, however, some symptoms can subside as they grow older. For example, hyperactivity can decrease in some people, but inattentiveness will increase. This can lead to an adult experiencing frustration, especially with work as it can heavily disrupt their performance.
If you feel like you may have been experiencing symptoms of ADHD, as an adult you may seek help from a qualified Psychologist and Psychiatrist, who will be able to assess, diagnose, and guide you to the best plans and strategies to tackle your symptoms
There are 3 main subtypes of ADHD which are:
Impulsive and hyperactive: dominant symptoms are behavioral in nature, mostly focused on the person’s behavior without attention problems.
Inattentive and distractible: dominant symptoms are mostly focused on a person’s attention and distractibility, without the hyperactivity.
Combined type:Also the most common type, symptoms include a combination of both types of ADHD mentioned above
The main causes of ADHD are unknown, however there are several risk factors associated with ADHD. Such risk factors include some of the following:
Family history of mental health disorders
Exposure to toxins during pregnancy
Low birth weight or premature delivery
Maternal drug or alcohol use
There are many misconceptions when it comes to sugar and sweets, too much television causing ADHD. Research does not support this view at all, they can however in some situations increase or worsen the symptoms.
It’s also important to note that ADHD comes with co-existing conditions. ADHD does not cause the conditions, however, they are likely to also have other conditions such as:
Anxiety Disorders: Anxiety refers to a family of related disorders that feature excessive fear and other related behavioral and physiological disruptions.
Substance abuse & addiction: Common, legal, and illegal substances available in our societies, as well as certain behaviors, that can be abused, and eventually become addictive to an individual. These behaviors in isolation may not be an issue of concern, but when/if it gets out of control, one will need more to satisfy a craving, which may lead to addiction. These patterns can become increasingly toxic as time goes by, and an individual would continue taking the substance even when there are very apparent negative effects on someone’s overall wellbeing and life
Oppositional Defiant Disorder: A group of behavioral problems in children and adolescents, which are in defiance or opposing authority figures. However, this does not mean that the behaviors can also be directed towards others who are not authority figures such as siblings or classmates
Mood Disorders: A group of disorders that result in an altered emotional state or mood, and interferes with one’s ability to function. Examples are Depression and Bipolar Disorder
Learning Disabilities: Learning difficulties or disabilities are common co-existing conditions for individuals with ADHD. Therefore it is important to diagnose and intervene with any condition that might come up since the symptoms might exacerbate the effects of ADHD. Examples of learning disabilities are Dyslexia and Dyscalculia
Autism Spectrum Disorder: Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects Social Interaction, Verbal/non-verbal communication, and Behavior. Many children also present repetitive behavior. It affects how people communicate, behave, and learn. Diagnosis typically occurs at the ages of 2 - 3 years old, however, some children are only diagnosed at an older age.
The symptoms display differently with each individual person. Therefore symptoms are categorized into 2 types of problems: Inattentiveness, and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Some of the typical signs of each type are as follows
Difficulty staying on task
Making careless mistakes
Unable to carry out instructions
Difficulties organizing tasks
Unable to sit still
Fidgeting in one’s seat
Excessive physical movement
Difficulty waiting for their turn
As mentioned earlier, symptoms that appear on each individual differ, and depending on the subtype of ADHD a person can have a combination of symptoms. This can also change over time, for example a person may develop symptoms of inattentiveness, and lose the hyperactivity as they get older.
The first step to diagnosing any mental health condition is to exclude any possible physical conditions.
A diagnosis requires a qualified professional to examine the individual
Only trained healthcare providers (such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or pediatrician) can diagnose and/or treat any mental health condition. There are no direct single test or assessment to diagnose ADHD, therefore healthcare providers must take a comprehensive assessment of an individual’s life to determine a diagnosis.
They look for a persistent pattern of 5-6 of the symptoms, for at least 6 months, and that there is a significant impact on daily life activities, such as school, work, and social circles. In the case of children and adolescents, they may take reports from the child's family and teachers. It is also the duty of the mental health professional to diagnose any other mental health conditions that are possibly present.
Treatment may require longer-term treatment and can be tackled by medication, and psychotherapy. Common Treatment Methods for ADHD are as follows
Psychotherapy: while by itself, it may not be an effective treatment for ADHD, it can however help to mitigate other symptoms that may come due to living with the condition such as low self-esteem, and feeling of helplessness.
Behavior Therapy: The goal is to eliminate unwanted behaviors, and strengthen positive behaviors. This would be usually done in environments that are familiar to the individual, such as at home, school, workplace, and others.
In educational settings for children, Behavior therapy (and many other forms of therapy) can be combined alongside educational goals with the use of therapy tools.
Therapy tools are important as they help successfully teach students with psychiatric disorders or learning conditions. Examples of these therapy tools can be:
Visual Support: The use of visual items/pictures to communicate a message to a child who may have difficulty receiving instructions or using language. They come in many forms such as photographs, drawings, objects, or words. Research evidence has shown that visual support helps children by removing barriers to learning both at home and at school. An important type of visual support is Visual Schedules. These are images that represent a schedule of tasks, or activities. For schoolwork, visual schedules help with establishing goals of what needs to be completed in order to access a break or a reward. These schedules can also establish a basic home routine such as getting ready for school, or when study time and playtime are during the day. A visual timer is another great example, which is used to show exactly how much time is left to complete or engage in an activity before they are able to move on to something else.
Social Skills Training: This intervention is used to improve social skills and teach how to display acceptable and functional social skills in different scenarios. Using different teaching methods, an individual can learn to act appropriately in the correct social situations, or target specific issues such as social awkwardness and shyness
Emotional and Self Regulation skills: These skills refer to one’s ability to regulate their emotions in an appropriate and functional manner. Individuals with many conditions can display low tolerance to frustrating circumstances, difficulties transitioning from one activity (or place) to another, impulsivity, unable to accept “no” as an answer, difficulties waiting to receive a desired activity, item, or person. Intervention methods vary depending on the environment and situation it is occurring in, and each of these situations is taught as skills to be learned and attained. The teacher in this case must be aware of how to teach each situation effectively, and slowly build up the child to be able to tolerate a situation, and teach them replacement behaviors that they can engage in so they can access what they need without having any problems.
Sensory tools: These are helpful tools that aim to improve focus, reduce impulsive behavior (such as leaving one’s seat in a classroom), and help one’s ability to self-regulate. These tools (many are toys) stimulate one’s senses and make many environments more appealing tolerable. Many toys out there are being sold as classroom-friendly fidget toys, designed to keep distraction to others to a minimum and increase the focus of the individual
Cognitive Behavior Therapy: The goal of CBT treatment is to eliminate negative, and irrational patterns of thinking for other symptoms that come due to living with the condition. Some individuals may have unhealthy internal dialogues, and CBT helps to eliminate those thought patterns. CBT has been shown to be an effective form of psychological treatment and is used to intervene with a wide range of conditions and problems
Healthy diet and lifestyle: Research suggests that developing a consistently healthy diet, adequate sleep, and exercise plan can play a big factor in mitigating symptoms and improving the overall quality of life
Medications: Works best in combination with an appropriate and individualized therapy, there are several kinds of medications that work for ADHD such as:
Stimulants: Stimulants are a type of medication that speeds up communications between the mind and the body. With ADHD, stimulants are used to improve symptoms such as impulsive behavior, hyperactivity, and short attention span. It can help the individual feel calmer and focused. However, they carry with them a risk of dependency and addiction if not taken under the supervision of a qualified Psychiatrist and Psychologist.
Non-Stimulants: Non-stimulants are also used for the treatment of ADHD and can be considered when stimulants are not effective or cause side effects. They are longer-lasting and contain some anti-depressant attributes. They are however not as effective as stimulants and may not work for everyone
The Saudi ADHD Society - https://adhd.org.sa/en/ : This is a great resource for information and research about ADHD in Saudi Arabia, offering insight into the condition in the Arab world. It contains Arabic and English resources on the condition, projects, programs, and events that would be useful to anyone involved with ADHD (whether they are living with it, or as a professional working with ADHD in their field)
Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) - https://chadd.org/ : A US-based National non-profit organization that aims to be an online directory for all resources related to ADHD
IXL Worldwide - https://www.ixl.com/ : A comprehensive and personalized learning tool for school, that targets individuals with learning difficulties
Child Center for Evaluation and Teaching - Kuwait - https://www.ccetkuwait.org/ : A non-profit organization that provides resources, conduct research, diagnosis, and testing center, and a special needs school based in Kuwait. They offer educational evidence-based resources in Arabic and English for children and adolescents with special needs.
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). American Psychiatric Association, 2013.