ADHD Specialist in Overland Park, KS

What is Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common childhood disorders and can continue through adolescence and into adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior and hyperactivity. Studies suggest that ADHD affects 8 to 11 percent of children in the United States. ADHD impacts about 5 to 8 percent of adults, but the impulsivity and hyperactive components tend to dissipate in adulthood.

ADHD? You are not alone . . .

ADHD impacts even the most accomplished and successful people including Simon Biles (U.S. Olympic Gymnastic champion), Justin Timberlake, Adam Levine, Howie Mandel, James Carville and Paris Hilton. People with ADHD tend to be intelligent, curious about many things, and bold about starting and trying new things.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

People with ADHD show an ongoing pattern of three different types of symptoms:

  • Difficulty paying attention (inattention)
  • Being overactive (hyperactivity)
  • Acting without thinking (impulsivity)

People who have ADHD tend to exhibit a combination of these symptoms related to inattention:

  • Overlook or miss details, make careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities
  • Have problems sustaining attention in tasks or play, including conversations, lectures, or lengthy reading
  • Seem to not listen when spoken to directly
  • Fail to follow through on instructions, fail to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace, or start tasks but quickly lose focus and get easily sidetracked
  • Have problems organizing tasks and activities, such as doing tasks in sequence, keeping materials and belongings in order, keeping work organized, managing time, and meeting deadlines
  • Avoid or dislike tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as schoolwork, or – for teens and adults – preparing reports, completing forms, or reviewing lengthy papers
  • Lose things necessary for tasks or activities, such as school supplies, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses and cell phones
  • Become easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or stimuli
  • Forgetful in daily activities, such as chores, errands, returning calls and keeping appointments

Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity often include:

  • Fidgeting and squirming while seated
  • Getting up and moving around in situations when staying seated is expected, such as in the classroom or office
  • Running or dashing around or climbing in situations where it is inappropriate – or, in teens or adults – often feeling restless
  • Being unable to play or engage in hobbies quietly
  • Being constantly in motion or “on the go,” or acting as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talking nonstop
  • Blurting out an answer before a question has been completed, finishing other people’s sentences, or speaking without waiting for a turn in a conversation
  • Having trouble waiting his or her turn
  • Interrupting or intruding on others, for example in conversations, games or activities

How is medication used to treat ADHD?

Although there is no cure for ADHD, currently available treatments may help reduce symptoms and improve functioning. ADHD is commonly treated with medication, education or training, therapy or a combination of treatments.

For many people, ADHD medications reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity and improve their ability to focus, work and learn. The first line treatment for ADHD is stimulants.

Although it may seem unusual to treat ADHD with a medication that is considered a stimulant, it is effective. Many researchers think that stimulants are effective because the medication increases the brain chemical dopamine, which plays essential roles in thinking and attention.

Non-stimulant medications are also used to treat ADHD, but they take longer to start working than stimulants. Nonetheless, they can improve focus, attention and impulsivity in a person with ADHD. Non-stimulants are often prescribed for patients who have experienced bothersome side-effects from stimulants, or in combination with stimulants.

Although anti-depressants are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for the treatment of ADHD, they are sometimes used to treat adults with ADHD. Older anti-depressants, called tricyclics, sometimes are used because they – like stimulants – affect the brain chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine.

There are many types and brands of these medications – all with potential benefits and side effects. Sometimes several medications or dosages must be tried before finding the one that works for a particular person. Anyone taking medications must be monitored closely and carefully by their prescribing doctor.

How is therapy used to treat ADHD?

There are different kinds of therapy which have been tried for ADHD, but research shows that therapy may not be effective in treating ADHD symptoms. However, adding therapy to an ADHD treatment plan may help patients and families better cope with daily challenges.

Parents and teachers can help children and teens with ADHD stay organized and follow directions with tools such as keeping a routine and schedule, organizing everyday items, using homework and notebook organizers and giving praise and reward when rules are followed.

For adults, a licensed mental health provider can help an adult with ADHD learn how to organize his or her own life with tools such as keeping routines and breaking down large tasks into more manageable, smaller tasks.