What is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder that includes persistent inattention (not being able to keep focus) or hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought). It also interferes with functioning or development. It is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children and also affects many adults. 

ADHD can’t be prevented or cured. But spotting it early, plus having a good treatment and education plan, can help a child or adult with ADHD manage their symptoms.

ADHD begins in childhood. However, many children go through phases where they’re restless or inattentive. This is often completely normal and does not necessarily mean they have ADHD.

Symptoms of ADHD

Symptoms in children

The following symptoms should be present for at least 6 months, are inconsistent with developmental age and negatively impacts social, academic and occupational activities.

  • Inattention

    • Is easily distracted
    • Doesn’t follow directions or finish tasks
    • Doesn’t seem to be listening
    • Doesn’t pay attention and makes careless mistakes
    • Forgets about daily activities
    • Has problems organizing daily tasks
    • Doesn’t like to do things that require sitting still
    • Often loses things
    • Tends to daydream
  • Hyperactivity/Impulsivity

    • Often squirms fidgets, or bounces when sitting
    • Doesn’t stay seated
    • Has trouble playing quietly
    • Is always moving, such as running or climbing on things. (In teens and adults, this is more often described as restlessness.)
    • Talks excessively
    • Is always “on the go,” as if “driven by a motor”
    • Has trouble waiting for their turn
    • Blurts out answers
    • Interrupts others

Symptoms in Adults

Symptoms of ADHD may also change as a person gets older.

  • Often being late or forgetting things

  • Anxiety

  • Low self-esteem

  • Problems at work

  • Trouble controlling anger

  • Impulsiveness

  • Substance misuse or addiction

  • Trouble staying organized

  • Procrastination

  • Easily frustrated

  • Often bored

  • Trouble concentrating when reading

  • Mood swings

  • Depression

  • Relationship problems

Causes of ADHD

The exact cause of ADHD is unknown, but there are various factors that may contribute to the development of the disorder.

  • Brain anatomy and function

    • A lower level of activity in the parts of the brain that control attention and activity level may be associated with ADHD 
  • Genes and heredity

    • ADHD frequently runs in families. 
    • A child with ADHD has a 1 in 4 chance of having a parent with ADHD. 
    • It’s also likely that other close family members, such as a sibling, will also have ADHD.
  • Significant head injuries may cause ADHD

  • Prematurity 

    • Children born before the 37th week of pregnancy may be at risk for developing ADHD.
  • Prenatal exposures 

    • like alcohol or nicotine from smoking, increase the risk of developing ADHD.

When to see a psychologist?

If you’re concerned about whether you or your child might have ADHD, the first step is to talk with a healthcare provider to get a confirmed diagnosis of ADHD.

Psychiatrists can help you by giving medications for symptoms of ADHD whereas best psychologists and good counsellors can help by providing different therapies. Both medications and therapies combined can lead to a comprehensive treatment.

How can a psychologist help?

  • Psychoeducation

    • Psychoeducation means you or your child will be encouraged to discuss ADHD and its effects. 
    • It can help children, teenagers and adults make sense of being diagnosed with ADHD
    • It can also help you to cope and live with the condition.
  • Behaviour therapy

    • It provides support for careers of children with ADHD.
    • involves behaviour management
      • uses a system of rewards to encourage your child to try and change their hyperactive or impulsive behaviour
    • This may involve teachers as well as parents
  • Parent training and education programmes

    • If your child has ADHD, specially tailored parent training and education programmes can help you learn specific ways of talking to your child, and playing and working with them to improve their attention and behaviour.
    • The aim of these programs is to teach parents and carers about behaviour management, while increasing confidence in your ability to help your child and improve your relationship.
  • Social skills training

    • It involves your child taking part in role-play situations and aims to teach them how to behave in social situations by learning how their behaviour affects others.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

    • A good counsellor would try to change how you or your child feels about a situation, which would in turn potentially change their behaviour.