Child with fidget spinners

What are the Signs and Symptoms of ADHD?

Authored by The Rx Advocates, / Medically Reviewed by Dr. Conor Sheehy, PharmD, BCPS
Last Updated: August 12, 2021

ADHD, which stands for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a condition that has impacted more than six million children in the United States, according to the CDC. This number includes:

  • 388,000 children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old.
  • 2.4 million children between the ages of 6 and 11 years old.
  • 3.3 million children between the ages of 12 and 17 years old.

Statistically, it is something that seems to affect boys (12.9%) more than it affects girls (5.6%).

Of course, adults also struggle with ADHD, and many take medications to help with their symptoms, just as children do.

It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of ADHD for those who think they or their children might have this condition. Fortunately, treatment is available that can help.

 

What is ADHD?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ADHD is, “a disorder marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. A person who has this condition – whether they are a child or an adult – may find it difficult to stay on task, stay focused and remain persistent. They may also have a hard time sitting still, which is often seen in excessive fidgeting and/or talking. 

People who have ADHD may take actions that would seem hasty to other people. They can become socially intrusive or interrupt other people without giving any thought to the consequences of doing so.

When it is left untreated, ADHD can make it difficult or even impossible for people to function normally in their everyday lives. Children may find it hard to complete their schoolwork or even socialize appropriately with their friends. Adults may find it challenging to complete an education and be productive at work.

 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of ADHD? 

The DSM-5 has listed specific criteria that must be met in order for a person to be diagnosed with ADHD. Their criteria fall under two different headings – inattention, and impulsivity and hyperactivity. 

Inattention Criteria 

In order for children to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, children up to the age of 16 must have six or more of the inattention criteria. For adults, five or more must be met in order for a diagnosis for people ages 17 or older. 

Symptoms must also be present for at least six months and must be inappropriate for the developmental level.

The following are the inattention criteria:

  • Often failing to pay close attention to details or making careless mistakes at school, work or other activities.
  • Often not listening when spoken to.
  • Often finding it difficult to pay attention.
  • Often not following through on instructions. This can include not finishing schoolwork, chores, or work-related responsibilities.
  • Often struggling to organize tasks.
  • Often reluctant to complete tasks that require a lot of mental effort.
  • Often losing things, such as pencils, glasses, or other items.
  • Often becoming easily distracted.
  • Often forgetting things throughout the day.

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity Criteria

For children to be diagnosed with a hyperactivity and impulsivity component, children up to the age of 16 must have six or more of the criteria. For adults, aged 17 and older, they must have five or more. Symptoms must be present for at least six months.

The hyperactivity and impulsivity criteria are as follows:

  • Often fidgeting, squirming or tapping.
  • Getting up and walking around when they are expected to be seated.
  • Running or climbing in inappropriate situations.
  • Often finding it difficult to play or participate in activities quietly.
  • Feeling as though they are constantly on the go.
  • Excessive talking.
  • Answering questions before the person has finished asking them.
  • Often finding it hard to wait their turn.
  • Often interrupting or intruding on other people.

In addition to these symptoms, the individual must also meet the following conditions:

  • They have several symptoms from either list that were present before the age of 12.
  • They experience symptoms in multiple settings.
  • Their symptoms are interfering with their quality of life, including school, work or in social situations.
  • Their symptoms are not better explained by another mental health condition, such as a personality disorder or an anxiety disorder.

 

Being Diagnosed with Adult ADHD

As mentioned above, five or more of the criteria in each category must be met in order for an adult to be diagnosed with adult ADHD. In order to properly diagnose this condition, practitioners may need to gather information about the patient from multiple sources. They can include:

  • Symptom checklists
  • Detailed histories
  • Information from family members
  • Standardized behavior rating scales
  • Cognitive ability tests
  • Academic achievement history

There are many adults who should have been diagnosed with ADHD as children, but for some reason, they were not. It is up to their doctors to determine if that diagnosis is appropriate in adulthood. Also, the symptoms in adults can be quite different than those in children, and they can also change over time. For example, while children may run around or climb furniture, adults might only feel restless.

 

What are the Three Types of ADHD?

There are three types of ADHD that can be present in both adults and children. They are:

  • ADHD, combined presentation – This is the type of ADHD that most people are diagnosed with. It is characterized by impulsive and hyperactive behavior, problems paying attention, and getting distracted easily.
  • ADHD, predominantly impulsive/hyperactive – This type of ADHD is the least common. Although the individual shows signs of hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors, they are not easily distracted and do not struggle to pay attention.
  • ADHD, predominantly inattentive – This type is the opposite. The individual has no signs of hyperactivity or impulsivity, but they struggle to pay attention and get distracted easily.

 

What are the Most Common Treatments for ADHD?

Every ADHD case is different, but there are two types of treatment that are offered that can help. They are behavioral therapy, including training for parents, and medications.

Behavioral Therapy and Training for Parents 

Behavioral therapy is critical for individuals with ADHD because it can help them understand their behaviors. Therapy can reduce unwanted behaviors as well as strengthen relationships between family members who may be affected by those behaviors.

During parent training, parents can learn more positive ways to interact and communicate with their children. Therapists will suggest activities they can do together to reinforce proper behaviors. Parents can also learn various skills to help them use positive reinforcement, more structure, and proper discipline to help curb unwanted behaviors.

Medications for ADHD

Either stimulants or non-stimulants may be prescribed to help treat the symptoms of ADHD in children and adults. Some of these medications include:

 

The Rx Advocates Can Reduce Costs on ADHD Medications

At The Rx Advocates, we know that even with health insurance, ADHD medications can be very expensive. Some families may find it difficult to cover the monthly cost of the medications their children need, and adults may struggle to pay for it for themselves. Fortunately, there are programs like ours that can help.

You and your family may qualify for our services to help reduce the cost of your ADHD medications. Please contact us to learn more about our program and how we can help.

 

External Sources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Data and Statistics About ADHD. November 2020. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html
  2. National Institute of Mental Health: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. September 2019. Available at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Symptoms and Diagnosis of ADHD. September 2020. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html
  4. CHADD: Diagnosis of ADHD in Adults. Available at https://chadd.org/for-adults/diagnosis-of-adhd-in-adults/
  5. Medical News Today: Three types of ADHD: What are the differences? Available at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317815#What-are-the-different-types-of-ADHD
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Treatment of ADHD. September 2020. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/treatment.html
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Parent Training in Behavior Management for ADHD. September 2020. Available at ​​https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/behavior-therapy.html
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