Constant Distractions of ADHD
Imagine sitting down to read your favorite book. Open to the bookmarked page, find the next paragraph… in seconds a bag of potato chips on the table grabs your attention. You grab a few, eat them, and go back to that paragraph but then you hear some birds outside. It seems as if you’re drawn to watching them. Your mind harkens back to some nature documentary so for the next two minutes the art of bird-watching is being taught to you by a soft spoken British fellow. The chips, the birds, the fellow: all these distractions and you were supposed to be reading. A few minutes and many racing thoughts later the book is old news.
Now imagine if everyday at work or school felt like this. Job and academic performance would be surely be hindered. Not to mention basic quality of life. For patients with ADHD just following a movie can be futile.
When I was a kid I had some close friends who it seemed could never follow a lengthy conversation. In class they would draw a picture, pass me notes, talk brazenly to another student, and ultimately get scolded by a teacher. I always figured “Hey, some folks just have more energy than I do.” A few years later they were diagnosed with ADHD and shortly after beginning treatment some of them excelled in school.
ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is an illness dating back to the 1700’s when it was referred to as “the fidgets.” Fast forward to 2016, 9.4% of US children 2-17 years old have been diagnosed according to the CDC (Centers for Disease and Control Prevention). Symptoms begin at age twelve or younger. Hyperactivity and impulsivity are two inter-related signs of ADHD, some examples being:
- Constantly shifting in a seat,
- Inability to wait in line for a turn
- Speaking at inappropriate times
- Leaving one’s seat at school or work, etc.
The other sign is inattention, a few examples of which are:
- Errors on papers or tests
- Inability to stay focused on a book or lecture
- Failure to complete tasks
Adults could be diagnosed with ADHD but since visible signs reliably start in childhood symptoms must have been present since then. With a young diagnosis patients are spared a lot of trouble through adolescence. This could be seen as an opportunity to develop early on some tools and strategies against the disorder. Given free reign into adulthood ADHD could lead to unsafe driving, various injuries, and even an increased likelihood of early death.
Young ADHD sufferers may feel intimidated by the return of school so taking action is key this time of year. Medicine, therapy, and active parenting are crucial.
The most popular medications are stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin which increase dopamine levels in the brain allowing a child with ADHD to focus for longer periods of time. These medicines work in 70-90% of kids. An alternative could be certain antidepressants or blood pressure drugs which have proven useful.
Though numbers are encouraging, medication is far less effective unless paralleled with other treatments – ADHD drugs show the best results in tandem with behavioral therapy and mindful parenting. It clearly takes much longer than just feeding a pill to one’s child, but doctors insist therapy with a psychologist or psychiatrist can teach the brain new techniques for minimizing ADHD symptoms. This can be coupled with the parents’ role: positive reinforcement for good behaviors and discouragement of troublesome ones. Medicine lasts for hours but therapy and a good family environment help far longer and maybe even for a lifetime.
That the most common psychological problem for kids has such a definite treatment is promising. In this way parents are empowered with the knowledge on what to do and how to do it. The sad thing is, like with most disorders, there is no cure. But there is hope. The key is building life skills aimed to thwart ADHD where it stands.
Here’s a link to some helpful tips from the CDC’s website, including treatment options and parental advice: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/treatment.html
Note: For assistance with ADHD or other behavioral health issues, contact us at 305-740-3340 or schedule an appointment with BregmanMD.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018) Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved on August 18, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/index.html
Danielson, Melissa L. (2018) Prevalence of Parent-Reported ADHD Diagnosis and Associated Treatment Among U.S. Children and Adolescents, 2016. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. 47(2), 199-212. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2017.1417860
Foley, Denise. Growing Up With ADHD. http://time.com/growing-up-with-adhd/
National Institute of Mental Health. (2016) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved August 18, 2018, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/site-info/citing-nimh-information-and-publications.shtml