October is ADHD Awareness Month, a special month dedicated to educating individuals on ADHD facts, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, and dispel the myths and stigma surrounding this disorder.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental condition of inattention and distractibility, with or without accompanying hyperactivity that affects more than 17 million people in the United States. Unfortunately, there is a common myth that ADHD is not a real disorder, resulting in children and adults diagnosed with ADHD feeling ashamed and stigmatized. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a wide range of symptoms and severity, and sometimes it can be challenging to diagnose. It is important to remember that ADHD can differ among each individual, and we, as a society, can help break the stigma and show the world the many different faces of ADHD.
Common facts associated with ADHD
- Approximately 13 percent of children and teenagers, 4-17 years of age, have been diagnosed with ADHD in the United States
- ADHD is known to be three to five times more common in boys than in girls
- Symptoms usually initiate in childhood before age 12; however, there is no specific age limit to when a diagnosis must be made
- ADHD is known as a childhood disorder. However, at least 10-20% of children will carry this disorder into adulthood
- Approximately 2-7 percent of adults are newly diagnosed with ADHD
Myth: Hyperactivity is always a symptom
Fact: The stereotype associated with kids who have ADHD is that they are constantly jumping out of their chairs and running up and down the hallways. However, this is not true. There are three different subtypes of ADHD that are characterized by specific predominating symptoms:
Predominately hyperactive-impulsive: restless behaviors, fidgeting, talking constantly, blurt out inappropriate comments, and impatient.
Predominately inattentive: trouble following directions, easily distracted, difficulty organizing thoughts and learning new things, trouble focusing on a single task, and seems to be daydreaming or not listening
Combined: symptoms don’t exclusively fall within the inattention or hyperactive-impulsive behavior, but rather a combination of symptoms from both of the categories is exhibited.
Myth: ADHD is a learning disability
Fact: ADHD symptoms can get in the way of learning, but they do not cause difficulty in specific skills such as reading or math.
ADHD is characterized by restless behaviors and the inability to focus, which can result in many individuals struggling to excel in the classroom. However, these students do not have a delay in language or cognitive skills, but rather may need more time on tests so they can have the ability to focus. Often times, many individuals with ADHD will be hyper-focused on a task or subject if they are interested. This intense focus is known as hyperfocus and can be a symptom of ADHD. Students with ADHD can excel in school with proper routines, organization, discipline, and positive opportunities in combination with medication.
Myth: Children who take ADHD medications are more likely to abuse drugs when they become older
Fact: Untreated ADHD can lead to an increased risk for a substance use disorder.
Individuals with ADHD who go undiagnosed or untreated are at an increased risk for anxiety and depression. Living with untreated ADHD can be burdensome, and many individuals may try to self-medicate in an attempt to eliminate their distressing symptoms.
ADHD is treated with a class of medications known as stimulants, specifically amphetamines. These include Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, and Strattera. When medically prescribed for ADHD, stimulants help regulate central nervous system functioning and assist people with ADHD with thought and behavior (primarily impulsiveness) disorders. Unfortunately, stimulants are often classified as commonly abused substances. They are often abused as “study” drugs to pull all-nighters and cram for an exam, or long work shifts, especially those who work the graveyard hours. These stimulants are also abused as party drugs since they increase energy, alertness, and awareness. Although stimulants, when used incorrectly, can lead to abuse and addiction, the rate of substance misuse is lower in individuals with ADHD who receive the appropriate medication.
“During October, we celebrate that ADHD does not define an individual; people with ADHD contribute positively to the world, bringing creativity, innovation, and accomplishment as shown by the many leaders, artists, and individuals from all professions with ADHD. It’s time to accept the differences in all of us and dissolve the shame. During ADHD Awareness Month, let’s not only ensure that the public has an accurate understanding of ADHD, let’s end the stigma associated with ADHD.”
Akua Mind & Body
Akua Mind & Body is a full-service treatment program that offers a wide range of “east meets west” treatment modalities for clients struggling with a mental illness or substance use disorders. We also treat co-occurring disorders and work diligently with each client and their family to ensure that treatment is specifically tailored to their needs. Akua Mind & Body offers detoxification, intensive residential treatment programs, and virtual and in person outpatient treatment programs all in safe and healthy facility.