BY DEVON O'Reilly
What is ADHD?
When the four letters A-D-H-D are referenced, it is common to associate them with a particular depiction. Imagine if you were asked what ADHD, a.k.a Attention Deficit Hyperactive conditions, looks like in a person? More often than not, the mind pictures a young boy in school, struggling to pay attention and having trouble sitting still while most likely being reprimanded by his teacher. While ADHD takes the top spot as the most common neurodevelopmental conditions in children and youth, 4% of adults are also diagnosed with ADHD. Furthermore, while males are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, there is still a significant number of diagnoses in females (approximate 4:1 ratio).
Just so you have the science in your back pocket, the exact physiological cause of ADHD is still not clear but more and more research is being done in order to better identify it. Possible linked factors said to contribute to ADHD include development difficulties in the central nervous system during pivotal stages of neurological development. Genetics are another suspected cause asADHD is a highly hereditary conditions with notable traits emerging in children around the age of three to five years old. Individuals are at greater risk of developing ADHD if a blood relative also has ADHD or other mental health conditions. Environmental factors such as alcohol or drug use during pregnancy, premature birth and exposure to harmful toxins have also been linked to ADHD.
Traits of ADHDer in Women
Let’s return to the earlier question, what does ADHD look like? First and foremost, there are three subtypes of ADHD and individuals are placed within one depending on the pattern of traits observed over a six month period. There is the inattentive type, those who have difficulty paying attention during activities and while doing assigned tasks. These individuals also have trouble finishing tasks and listening when spoken to. The second type, ADHD–predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, those who have difficulty sitting still and often fidget. An individual with this type may have difficulty playing quietly and adhering to social cues in terms of more relaxed activities. They may also talk excessively and interrupt other people. The third type is ADHD–combined type, where a substantial number of traits from both other subtypes are present in the individual.
As you can imagine, a condition with an extensive list of traits such as ADHD can affect various parts of an adult’s life. While common treatments including medications, mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and healthy lifestyle habits can be most effective in alleviating traits. There are still ways that ADHD can impact one’s life in both positive and negative ways. Many adults feel that their certain traits are beneficial in the workplace: hyper-focus, problem solving, etc. While others struggle in relationships and the workplace due to difficulties with attention regulation, distractibility and impulsivity.
It is quite common for ADHD to go unrecognized or take years to diagnose. A later in life diagnosis can happen for a few different reasons. First, as touched on above, research on ADHD has been primarily conducted with male subjects in mind. This has led to only a partial awareness of these conditions and a lack of information on how it manifests in females, which can be very different from males, but we’ll talk about that in a little bit.
Imagine not having the resources to identify traits in yourself indicative of behavioural conditions? This can lead to various forms of personal mental health difficulties and to healthcare professionals being unable to identify strategies that may improve your quality of life. As you can see, ADHD is a complex neurodevelopmental condition offering plenty of research opportunities to further understand it.