Dr Daisy Gemayel PhD MPsych(Clin) BPsych(Hons) Registered Psychologist
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental health conditions affecting children and adults. It can cause a range of symptoms, including difficulty paying attention, impulsivity, hyperactivity, low self-esteem and poor academic performance. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for managing ADHD so that individuals can reach their full potential. In this article, we will provide an overview of ADHD assessment and treatment options available today. We'll look at the different types of assessments that can be used to diagnose ADHD and explain the various treatment approaches that have been shown effective for managing symptoms. We hope this information provides a helpful starting point for those struggling with ADHD or caring for someone with ADHD.
What is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It can have significant impacts on an individual’s ability to function in everyday life. Symptoms of ADHD can include difficulty focusing and concentrating, restlessness and fidgeting, difficulty following through with tasks, trouble controlling emotions and behaviors, forgetfulness or difficulty remembering things, lack of organization skills and poor time management. With proper diagnosis and treatment, individuals can manage their symptoms and reach their full potential.
ADHD is typically diagnosed using criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). These criteria include a pattern of behavior that includes six or more symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity persisting for at least six months. Symptoms must also be present across multiple settings and interfere with a person’s ability to function socially, academically, or in the workplace. In order to meet criteria for diagnosis, these symptoms must be present before age 12.
A comprehensive ADHD assessment should begin with a thorough medical evaluation to rule out any other physical, psychological, or developmental conditions may cause similar symptoms. This typically includes an in-depth review of the individual’s medical history, family history, mental health history and lifestyle habits. After the initial evaluation, a trained professional can assess for the presence of ADHD symptoms, including inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. This assessment may include interviews with family members or teachers as well as testing to measure IQ, academic achievement, and aptitude.
ADHD assessments typically involve the use of psychological tests and observations. Tests may include measures of intelligence, academic achievement, executive functioning skills (such as planning and organization), attention, and behavior. The results of these tests can help guide diagnosis and treatment decisions.
For many individuals with ADHD, assessment by a psychologist is recommended. Psychologists are trained to evaluate the presence of ADHD and can provide an accurate diagnosis based on their assessment as well as review any medical or psychological conditions that may be contributing to symptoms. They can also offer recommendations for treatment, such as lifestyle modifications, therapy, and medications if necessary.
Psychiatrists may also be involved in the assessment process and are generally responsible for prescribing medications used to manage ADHD symptoms. In addition to assessing for the presence of ADHD, psychiatrists will typically review any past medication trials, assess physical health conditions (such as thyroid or other hormone imbalances) which could contribute to symptoms, and monitor progress over time with different treatment strategies.
Treatment plans will vary depending on the individual, but generally include medication, counseling and lifestyle changes. Stimulants are often prescribed to treat ADHD symptoms such as inattention and hyperactivity. Non-stimulant medications can also be used to help address impulsivity or other behavioral issues. Counseling is recommended for those with ADHD, particularly for individuals who struggle with managing emotions or behavioral issues related to the disorder. Lifestyle changes such as reducing screen time, incorporating regular physical activity into daily routines and establishing healthy sleep habits can also be beneficial for managing ADHD symptoms. Additionally, support from family and peers can be helpful in improving self-esteem and social functioning.
Psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for ADHD, particularly for individuals who struggle with managing their emotions or developing organizational and social skills. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially useful in helping those with ADHD learn to manage symptoms and improve functioning. This type of therapy focuses on changing negative thinking patterns, learning how to cope with difficult situations, setting goals, improving communication skills, and increasing self-awareness. Additionally, peer support groups can provide a safe environment for people with ADHD to discuss their experiences and gain support from others in similar situations. Finally, family therapy is recommended for parents of children or adolescents with ADHD as it can help build relationships within the family and provide resources and guidance around managing behaviors associated with the disorder. No matter what type of psychotherapy is utilized, treatment should be tailored to an individual’s specific needs and monitored over time to ensure that it is having the desired effect. With the right kind of support, people with ADHD can learn to manage their symptoms and live successful lives.
In addition to psychotherapy and medication, there are a number of other interventions that can help individuals with ADHD more effectively manage their symptoms. Structured activities such as yoga or martial arts may be beneficial in helping individuals stay focused and increase physical activity levels. Additionally, building routines and creating an organized environment can help improve concentration and reduce distraction. Technology can also be used to assist those with ADHD; for example, programs that block websites or apps during working hours or devices that alert users when tasks have been completed. Finally, discovering individual strengths and cultivating interests can provide motivation for those with ADHD and give them a sense of accomplishment.
Overall, it is important to remember that individuals with ADHD are of achieving success with the right of support. With early diagnosis and implementation of effective treatments, those with ADHD can learn to manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that can have significant impacts on an individual’s ability to function in everyday life. A comprehensive assessment and diagnosis are needed to determine the best course of treatment which typically includes medication, counseling, and lifestyle changes. With the right interventions, individuals with ADHD can manage their symptoms and reach their full potential.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2018). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/index.shtml
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). ADHD: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). Diagnosis and Evaluation of the Child With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Retrieved from https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e 20161737
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020). ADHD: Treatment & Care. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adhd/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20376617
National Resource Center on ADHD. (n.d.). Evidence-based treatments for ADHD: What do they look like? Retrieved from https://www.help4adhd.org/en/treatment/guidelines-for-care--evidence-based-treatments.aspx.