“It’s just my ADHD kicking in,” is what a lot of people say when they can’t focus, have too much energy or they become easily distracted. But actually, ADHD is a very serious condition that must be treated by a professional. What are the real facts about ADHD? What are the things you don’t know about the condition?
Vinay Saranga M.D. is a child and adult psychiatrist and founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry He says the 8 facts everyone must understand about ADHD are:
1. Boys vs. girls: The reason it seems that girls aren’t diagnosed as much with ADHD as boys is because they develop symptoms a little later on than boys, and those symptoms are different. Generally speaking, girls seem to show less disruptiveness and more inattention.
2. ADHD can continue into adulthood: As we age, ADHD can present itself in other ways and lead to mood disorders, anxiety, substance abuse, agitations, sleep difficulty, and other behavioral problems. The hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms are more prominent in childhood years, but these symptoms tend to improve as a child gets older. The inattention symptoms tend to continue on into adolescence and adulthood.
3. ADHD is often mischaracterized as a learning disability: The reason ADHD is sometimes mischaracterized as a learning disability is because roughly 2/3 of kids with ADHD do have some sort of diagnosable learning disorder or other mental health disorder. However, there is a clear distinction between ADHD and learning disorders.
4. It’s not that ADHD is overly-diagnosed: We see more kids being diagnosed with ADHD because of greater awareness and improved detection of the condition, including those kids who may have less severe forms of it. As more people learn about ADHD and can recognize its symptoms, children as young as age four, and more adolescents, girls, and adults with this condition are being identified and treated.
5. ADHD is not just acting out or failure to concentrate: Unfortunately, in our society, it’s become all too common to mischaracterize children who misbehave or act out as having ADHD. ADHD is not a term to toss around lightly. ADHD is a very serious condition that can hamper the behavior and functionality of both children and adults. It must be treated by a trained professional.
6. Trying harder is not the answer: If you have ADHD, don’t let people convince you or your kids that they need to try harder, concentrate more or try to control their hyperactivity. It’s the equivalent to telling a diabetic that his blood sugar shouldn’t spike out of control. Medication, therapy and behavioral changes are what’s needed to see an improvement.
7. Get a proper diagnosis: 10 percent of children between the ages of four and 17 are reported by their parents as being diagnosed with ADHD. Make sure and get a proper diagnosis from a trained mental health professional who specializes in ADHD and can prescribe the right combination of treatment including medication and therapy.
8. ADHD is not a reflection of parenting style: Parents should never be blamed because their child has ADHD. ADHD is a real condition rooted in the makeup of the brain just like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and other psychiatric illnesses. Your child would have been diagnosed with ADHD regardless of how he/she was raised.
Thank you, Dr. Saranga!
In my 19 years of teaching, I’ve had quite a bit of experience working with children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, as well as supporting parents and children as they pursue a diagnosis. Please note that teachers are NOT qualified to diagnose ADHD, but after everything I’ve seen, I have a pretty good track record for knowing when to suggest that parents see a doctor to explore reasons for their child’s difficulties at school.
I love how Dr. Saranga reminds parents that ADHD (or any brain disorder/mental illness) is not their fault. I also want to reinforce his diabetes analogy when it comes to medication: if your pediatrician said your child needed insulin, would you say “No, I don’t believe in medicating children?”
While there are certainly students with ADHD who don’t require medication (and many successful accommodations that can be made in the classroom), I can think of a few specific examples where the difference in terms of the child’s ability to focus and learn was nothing short of miraculous after starting on meds – and I promise, my joy was not about things being easier for me in the classroom. Medication completely changed their lives and their capacity to thrive at school, which was wonderful to see, so please have an open mind if your doctor suggests it as part of your child’s treatment.