ADHD Myth or Fact?

For years professionals and parents alike have questioned whether or not ADHD is a real disorder or a choice.  I have included information regarding this controvercy in an attempt to untangle fact from fiction.

ADHD SUBTYPES as Described in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual:

There are three subtypes in the diagnostic criteria for ADHD.

  1. Attention Deficit Disorder:  inattentive type.  This type was once referred to as ADD.  One must have at least 6 of the following to meet criteria for ADHD, the inattentive type:

  • Fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes (often it seems like the person just does not care)

  • Difficulty staying focused

  • Does not appear to listen

  • Struggles to follow through on instructions

  • Organizing is a major problem

  • Avoids or dislikes tasks requiring mental effort

  • Often loses things necessary for tasks

  • Is easily distracted

  • Is forgetful

2.  ADHD Hyperactive:  impulsive type.  One must display at least 6 of the following to meet criteria for ADHD, hyperactive type:

  • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in their seat

  • Has difficulty remaining seated

  • Runs around, climbs excessively (in adults they may just feel restless)

  • Difficulty engaging in activities QUIETLY

  • Acts as if driven by a motor

  • Talks excessively

  • Blurts out answers before the questions have been completed

  • Has difficulty waiting for his/her turn

  • Interrupts or intrudes upon others

3.  ADHD The Combined Type:  meet criteria for both inattentive and hyperactive ADHD.

Is ADHD a real phenomenon or is it an excuse for laziness or behavioral issues?

ADHD has been controversial over the past several years as many debates have evolved questioning the authenticity of ADHD.  This has sparked a number of studies, which have revealed the following:

Most neurological studies show that those with ADHD Have:

  • 20-30% less brain electrical activity

  • 3-4% less brain volume

  • Reduced glucose metabolism – thus making areas of the brain less active

  • Areas of the brain that may be effected impact organization, motivation, motion, impulsivity, memory and the ability to differentiate the level of importance of thoughts, tasks, etc. making everything equally important.

  • Average to above average IQ

  • Some studies found that as many as 10% of individuals diagnosed with ADHD actually have seizure disorders.

  • ADHD appears to have a strong genetic link: one study analyzed twins whose parents had been diagnosed with ADHD and were adopted into two separate households.  Both twins developed similar levels of symptoms of ADHD.

  • In 2002 an international consensus statement regarding the authenticity of ADHD was released.  It stated that ADHD was a valid and scientifically proven phenomenon.

What Does this Mean?

Symptoms vary greatly from one individual to another.

Picture a continuum where ADHD symptoms go from no symptoms to extremely high symptoms.  Somewhere in between there is a point at which symptoms significantly affect functioning.  We all fall on this continuum, which explains why we can all say, “Gee I do that”.

ADHD is not an inability to pay attention.  It is an over-ability to pay attention.  Individuals with ADHD pay attention to everything equally; if there are 10 things going on, their attention is broken into 10 equal parts.  They also have many thoughts going on at the same time.

Many people question consistency of symptoms, especially in  individuals who play video games for hours on end without having any difficulty paying attention.  Upon closer inspection, you will discover that the games typically chosen by these individuals utilize a great deal of action, multiple characters and multiple tasks all going on at the same time.  Individuals with ADHD are able to master these video games because of their ability to divide their attention on every detail displayed on the screen.  They are not paying attention to one thing, but rather the many stimuli before them.

There are many treatment approaches and skills building that can decrease or manage symptoms of ADHD as well as medications.  Each individual is unique and requires a complete assessment to develop the most helpful treatment plan. 

Gulf Coast Psychotherapy offers comprehensive assessment and treatment options for all ages.

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