If over the years you’ve found yourself being unable to focus on a task at hand, having difficulty concentrating and paying attention because your mind is “all over the place” and you’re extremely impulsive and/or hyper and it negatively affects your daily life, you could be suffering from Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder.

Millions of people around the world suffer from Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD. We will best understand ADHD when we look at the three common symptoms of the disorder. These are usually a combination of inability to pay attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity.

With the inability to focus, a person might have a hard time concentrating on tasks given and, therefore, shy away from any work that requires serious concentration and attention to detail. If the person starts the task, they may have a hard time completing it, simply because the ability to focus is none existent. They are usually very easily distracted and also tend to forget easily.

As it relates to impulsivity and hyperactivity, the person will usually act on impulse and may be extremely hyperactive. Children who have ADHD will tend to be extremely restless and would rather run and jump around as opposed to being still. Adults can also feel the urge to move around and fidget if they don’t get to act on their impulse of being a “busybody.” For the most part, sufferers of ADHD are generally impatient and have difficulty waiting their turn.

ADHD is a common disorder and is frequently diagnosed in children who are easily distracted, have difficulty focusing and/ or are extremely hyper, although this can also be the case for adults. And while ADHD is diagnosed in childhood, it can continue into adulthood.

When is ADHD diagnosed?

In children, ADHD can be diagnosed from as young as four-years-old by a specialist. The children and parents are likely to be asked a series of questions and for older children they must have started to show symptoms before the age of 12. Before a clear diagnosis can be made, a minimum of six symptoms must be present over a specified period of time and these symptoms must have affected the child in their day-to-day activities.

Since ADHD is best diagnosed in childhood, it is usually difficult for a definitive diagnosis to be made in adulthood unless the person (or their parents) is able to recall details of their childhood. Nonetheless, if a person complains of inability to focus or has impulsivity and hyperactivity issues, these are usually sufficient, ruling out, of course, any other mental health condition.

What causes ADHD?

As with almost every illness, whether mental or physical, genetics and/ or the environment have a critical role to play. According to research, possible causes of a person developing ADHD include:

If a parent was diagnosed with the disorder
Alcohol or other drug use during pregnancy
Brain damage
Low birth weight

Treatment and care

Although there is no cure for ADHD, medication and family/ peer support have proven effective in the management of the disorder. In the case of a child, a paediatrician can usually detect early signs of ADHD. For teenagers and adults, a psychologist, psychiatrist or a specialist in ADHD can make this diagnosis.

The type of medication given will depend on the physician. While there is no specific psychotherapy for this disorder, usually having family and peer support groups understanding and empathising with the affected person will help a great deal. Once a person is on treatment, a psychologist may advise on best practices for focusing and minimising impulsivity and hyperactivity.

Alicia Roopnaraine is a Psychologist at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation’s Psychiatric Department and also sees patients privately. You can send questions, comments or schedule a private consultation at aliciaroopnaraine@gmail.com

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