What is ADHD?

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is a behavioural disorder that includes symptoms such as inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Symptoms are often noticed at an early age, such as when a child starts attending school, and as such cases are often diagnosed between the ages of 6-12 years old. Whilst for many symptoms improve with age, for many adults they continue to experience problems in later life, and often have additional problems such as sleep or anxiety disorders.

What does ADHD look like? 

ADHD usually presents with 3 cardinal symptoms: inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Those with ADHD may show symptoms across all three areas, or be more symptomatic in one area than another. But what do these symptoms actually look like for those who experience them?

Inattention

This is characterised by individuals moving between tasks without completing any single activity. Often they may seem to lose interest in one task because their attention is diverted to another, or because they become easily distracted. It can often lead to people becoming forgetful and disorganised.

Hyperactivity

Hyperactivity refers to a state of being that is characterised by unusually high amounts of energy or activity. It can present in different ways depending on the individuals age. Some common characteristics can include constant movement, disruptive behaviour, being easily distracted or becoming anxious.

Impulsivity 

This is linked to both of the above, and is a tendency to be reckless and appear impatient, or often uninhibited in social situations. It may cause a person to find it difficult to wait their turn, leading to frequently cutting across others talking, or an inability to stop themselves from speaking their thoughts straight away.

Comorbidity 

Comorbidity is the term used to describe the co-existing symptoms and disorders that are often related to the main diagnosis. Symptoms of ADHD often overlap with other disorders. Children with ADHD often have symptoms of other disorders related to mood, conduct, learning, motor skills, language, and or communication. This is the same as adults who have ADHD. Adults who have ADHD often also present with personality disorders, Bipolar, OCD and or struggles with substance abuse. For both adults and children anxiety disorders can be common.

How does a person get diagnosed with ADHD? 

Symptoms of ADHD are often spotted whilst a child is still in school, as teachers or parents etc pick up on symptoms such as an inability to pay attention or being disruptive in class. As such many people are diagnosed between the ages of 6-12. Some people however are not diagnosed until later in life. No matter the age one is diagnosed, a diagnosis usually follows an assessment by a professional who specialises in ADHD. This assessment usually takes the form of a diagnostic interview in which the person will be asked about their symptoms and how they affect their day to day life. Often family members are also spoken to, to ascertain when the symptoms may have first become noticeable and how they were affected in their childhood.

What is the best way to support a colleague or friend with ADHD? 

The most important thing to consider when trying to support someone with ADHD is to listen to them. Everyone’s experience of ADHD is different, and they will know best what they are struggling with and what they need more help or support with. Talking, but more importantly listening to the person will help you find out what will be most helpful for that person. It may mean adjusting your approach so that you can ensure that you’re utilising the type of learning or training that will best suit them, or giving tasks and information in a way they can best remember it.