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ADHD Explained

ADHD is the abbreviated term for a neurobiological disorder/condition called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder


ADHD is a deficit of the nervous system ( the brain) most often due to genetic or biological factors. If you or your child has ADHD, chances are good that you will be able to look at the family tree and see what side it came from. Heredity cause (genes) is the most common cause of ADHD. Research shows that a lack of ability to produce and regulate dopamine can be traced back to a persons genetic make up. If someone has ADHD there is five times more likelihood that another family member in the immediate family ( Mother, father and siblings) will also have ADHD.

While ADHD like symptoms may be caused by injury to the brain, exposure to alcohol ( like in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome also known as FAS), toxic chemical exposure in the developing brain of a baby or young child ( like lead exposure in paint from years ago before lead was removed), and even from extensive food allergies-These things are not the cause in the vast majority of people with ADHD. For the most part, you are born with ADHD, and it runs in your family, just like red hair, or blue eyes.

It seem like everybody is being labelled ADHD these days. What's that all about!?

ADHD has been medically documented and discussed in medical literature for more than two centuries. But, in the beginning it was first prevalent enough to be noticed in school aged boys-So early study of it was done on school aged boys only. It was never looked at in girls at a young age, or adults. Or even looked at long term in those school aged boys after they grew up. As such, a lot of myths about ADHD developed and still exist today that are slowly being cleared up through broader research and studies of people of all ages and genders with ADHD.

ADHD is not new; But over the last 20 years or so it has become much more understood as advances came in being able to study the brain. Over time, doctors became more educated and grew a more open minded view on ADHD and who it could impact, and therefore are capable of recognizing it better today across all people with ADHD. Not everyone is being labelled ADHD, it is just that the missed ADHD people are finally being told why they are the way they are, and ADHD in kids is less likely to be missed today, instead of a child being labelled spoiled, or lazy or a trouble maker, and overlooked for a genuine medical reason behind their behaviour.

When you know what ADHD is and what it looks like in behaviour in a person, and stop limiting the possibility of it occurring to only where it was first noticed, of course more people are going to be recognized and diagnosed as ADHD in our society. This is a good thing for ADHD people. It allows them to understand it better and learn how to cope and manage ADHD better.

But, my kid was just diagnosed as ADHD and she NEVER acts like that other kid in school with ADHD who is always in trouble! What gives?

ADHD is a "spectrum" disorder just like Autism is. No two people with ADHD will be exactly the same. Our own genetic make up aside from the ADHD type, also plays a role in how it shows to the world. As well, age and hormones shifts through teenage years ( and childbearing years and then menopausal years in females) all will play a role in how ADHD manifests itself in each person. Many other factors can play a role as well.

ADHD is a chronic condition that can present at all levels of severity from mild to severe, and rarely occurs by itself. You will most likely hear people call other diagnoses with ADHD "co-morbid". Which just means "together with" basically. Depression and anxiety and learning disabilities like Dyslexia can all be a part of a co-morbid diagnosis for an ADHD person.

Other neurological disorders can also come with ADHD. Like Tourettes, OCD, Auditory Processing Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. The severity of the symptoms each person presents will determine if ADHD is the primary diagnosis. Regardless of the cause of ADHD, or of being the primary diagnosis or a secondary diagnosis with other co-morbid conditions-treating the symptoms of ADHD are the same and treatment options are as individual as the person themselves.

The four main symptoms of ADHD are:

1.The inability to regulate attention.
2.The inability to regulate activity;
3.Difficulty with inhibitory behavior resulting in being impulsive.
4.Difficulty with regulating emotions.

ADHD symptoms severity can vary from day to day and even hour to hour. ADHD is always present, but not always calling all the shots. Stress, anxiety, being over tired and even hungry can make ADHD symptoms worse through different times of day.

But wait! Don't those symptoms basically describe all kids?

It can, yes. Many children may just naturally exhibit these traits, especially when they are younger. But children without ADHD will "mature" beyond those behaviors. People with ADHD have what is called "dysfunctional executive function". Those areas of the brain mature slower in people with ADHD. That is why most children with ADHD will not get diagnosed until after they are about 7 and continue to behave in an "immature way" with regard to their executive functioning. That is what becomes the red flag for parents, teachers and doctors to begin seeking answers.

When a doctor is looking at a child for ADHD, the important thing to look at is the degree of presentation of those symptoms. The inability to self control, or regulate themselves in emotions and impulsiveness over an ongoing period of time that negatively affects their day to day ability to function, and their relationships with family and peers-as well as the level of impairment of attention and behavior, is what doctors look at and assess to come to a diagnosis of ADHD.

Isn't ADHD a kid disorder? I'm an adult, but my doctor just told me I have it!?

ADHD is a common condition that affects people of all ages and gender. Yes, it was once thought of as a condition of hyper school aged boys, and something they grew out of. But that is an outdated assessment and still a large myth about ADHD. Many boys with ADHD who were not hyperactive, and were good students were often missed as being ADHD, even.

Through years of study and better understanding of the brain and how ADHD presents in a person- ADHD is no longer "just a childhood disorder".

Today, with better diagnosing criteria in both genders, experts say ADHD occurs in about 8% to 10% of school-aged children, and while symptoms can lessen through the teen years and into adulthood, about 65% of ADHD kids never really outgrow ADHD. What that means is,this disorder is becoming more seen and diagnosed in adults now who were not diagnosed in childhood,or thought they didn't have it anymore simply because they were told they would grow out it is and ADHD is a lifelong issue for many people with it more than previously understood.

People of all ages with ADHD have problems paying attention or concentrating due to their natural brain chemistry and genetic make up. They can't seem to follow directions,and are easily bored or frustrated with routine tasks due to lack of Dopamine in their brain or a dysregulation of how the dopamine is utalized by the brain. They move constantly, are often called "figgity" and are impulsive, in speech and behavior. ADHD people tend to not stop to think before they talk or take action.That is a trait of ADHD no matter the age.

These behaviors can be normal in children. But, they occur more often and are more severe in a child with ADHD. In Adults, these behaviors can lessen, but often they still have a negative impact on their life. The behaviors that are common with ADHD and are neurological symptoms ( not bad habits) that interfere with a person's ability to function at school, work, in social settings and at home.

Adults with ADHD may have difficulty with time management, organizational skills, goal setting, and employment. They may also have problems with relationships, self-esteem, and addictions, depression and anxiety if left untreated.

OK, But what is the difference between ADD and ADHD?

Symptoms of ADHD are generally grouped into three categories: inattentive, hyperactive, and combined. Inattentive ADHD used to be called ADD.But in past years the terminology was changed and it is all called ADHD now.

If a person was ADD,the thought was that because they are not externally hyperactive, there was no H involved,therefore called ADD. But really, ADD and ADHD are the same thing.

People without external hyper behavior are Inattentive ADHD. Think of the H as being silent.The H is silent because an inattentive ADHD person has thoughts that go a million miles an hour in their head and are internally, or "silently hyper".

Inattentive ADHD


  • Is easily distracted
  • Does not follow directions or finish tasks
  • Does not appear to be listening when someone is speaking
  • Does not pay attention and makes careless mistakes
  • Is forgetful about daily activities
  • Has problems organizing daily tasks
  • Avoids or dislikes activities that require sitting still or a sustained effort
  • Often loses things, including personal items
  • Has a tendency to daydream
  • Hyperactive ADHD


  • Often squirms, fidgets, taps hands or shuffles feet or bounces when sitting.
  • Does not stay seated as expected, will get up and just walk away in the middle of a conversation.
  • Has difficulty playing quietly.
  • Talks excessively
  • Has difficulty waiting for his or her turn
  • Blurts out answers before the question has been completed
  • Often interrupts others
  • Is always moving, such as running or climbing on things (In teens and adults, this is more commonly described as a sense of restlessness, the feeling of always needing to be doing something or feeling anxious all the time.)
  • adhdcombined

    Combined ADHD is simply a person who displays both sets of symptoms/traits from Hyperactive and Inattentive ADHD lists. The criteria for a combined ADHD diagnosis is any 6 of the 9 ADHD traits across both the Inattentive and Hyperactive categories.

    To continue educating yourself on ADHD, SuperADDmom recommends you check out Dr. Edward Hallowell, M.D. He is a child and adult psychiatrist, a NY Times bestselling author, a well respected world-renowned speaker, and a leading authority in the field of ADHD.

    Be sure to check out SuperADDmom's book recommendations on adhd by clicking here

    This article was written on Feb 19th, 2015 by SuperADDmom and provided for informational purposes only, as a resource for www.superaddmom.com-Copyright 2015.

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