ADHD stands for “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” ADD is a term that was once used to describe a form of ADHD, but is now medically irrelevant. Both ADHD and ADD describe a condition whereby an individual struggles with disorganization, fragmented focus, spaciness, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating. Because ADHD has been stereotyped and stigmatized in our culture, it’s helpful to learn what this condition is actually about.
Instead of the ADD term, ADHD is now broken down into a couple subcategories: Inattentive ADHD and Hyperactive ADHD. In children, Inattentive ADHD appears as spaciness and general lack of interest. In adults, it appears as moodiness, lack of focus, and anxiety. There are many adults living with undiagnosed ADHD, blaming their symptoms on other conditions like depression or anxiety. It can be helpful to understand the larger range of symptoms associated with ADHD. The Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders states that six of the following symptoms must exist in an interfering manner, to imply a diagnosis:
- Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes
- Often has difficulty sustaining attention
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish projects
- Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort
- Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities
- Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
- Is often forgetful in daily activities
The other category of ADHD is known as Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD, which describes what ADHD is often known or stereotyped for. Six of the following symptoms must be present to indicate Hyperactive ADHD:
- Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
- Leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
- Runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
- Has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
- Appears “on the go” or acts as if “driven by a motor”
- Talks excessively
- Blurts out the answers before the questions have been completed.
- Has difficulty awaiting turn
- Interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
It is possible for both adults and children to have combined symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity. But it is important to note that ADHD looks very different in adults compared to children. The general symptoms for ADHD in adults are disorganization, forgetfulness, and a sense of overwhelm at life’s responsibilities — especially when these symptoms interfere with career, relationship, and other adult areas of life. In adults, ADHD is commonly experienced alongside other disorders. In fact, a person with ADHD is six times more likely to experience a coinciding mental health condition.
ADHD is manageable with the right knowledge and therapy, with treatment options including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Colorado CBT is a Denver clinic which supports mostly adults, but also children, as they learn how to work with their ADHD symptoms. To discuss possible ADHD diagnosis and/or symptoms, please reach out to Colorado CBT to make an appointment.