ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a mental health condition that is characterized by difficulty concentrating, impulsive behavior and general hyperactivity. It is also one of the better-known and more common conditions and growing up most of us will have known of one or two classmates who suffered from it.
But while ADHD is a generally well-known and understood condition, it can still sometimes be difficult to diagnose. Many of us fidget and many of us have difficulty concentrating on things: the question is how to tell whether that’s just a ‘normal’ amount of inattention versus full-blown ADHD. If you had difficulty in school or in careers with regards to focus and attention, then it could well be that you’ve been suffering from ADHD without being aware.
This is not necessarily an entirely ‘bad thing’. While ADHD is considered a mental health disorder, it is not entirely ‘negative’ so much as it is maladaptive in certain contexts. In fact, many of society’s most successful thinkers and entrepreneurs attribute their creativity and ability to think outside the box to ADHD!
Remember too that almost all psychological conditions should be viewed as a ‘spectrum’. This is not a binary choice – the psychological and neurological makeup of every one of us is completely unique and so it might well be that you have elements of ADHD without suffering from a full-blown form of the condition.
Read on and we’ll take a look at some of the signs and symptoms of ADHD so that you can decide whether you think you might classify.
Signs and Symptoms
Before we go into ADHD in more detail, let’s first begin with a brief overview of the general symptoms that tend to be associated with it. If you experience a number of these, then there is a heightened chance that you might be experiencing ADHD…
- Easily distracted from tasks and activities
- Frequent daydreaming
- Inability to listen when spoken to
- Misinterpreting instructions
- Lack of attention to detail
- Inability to work without reminders
- Losing things
- Forgetting routines
- Difficulty in ‘getting started’ on a task
- Poor organization
- Mood swings
- Standing instead of sitting
- Constant moving
- Butting in conversation
- Impulsivity in decision making
Subtypes of ADHD
If you notice that you have some of these symptoms and not others, then it’s worth noting that there are subtypes within ADHD which exhibit specific symptoms.
These subtypes are:
- ADHD primarily inattentive subtype
- ADHD primarily hyperactive-impulsive subtype
- ADHD combined subtype
In the former, the main symptoms exhibited will be those associated with poor attention such as lack of focus, poor attention to detail and difficulty listening. ADHD primarily hyperactive-impulsive subtype involves more of the hyperactive and impulsive symptoms such as fidgeting, running, impulsive decision making and butting in conversation.
These symptoms may also change with age, across cases or where the sufferers have developed coping mechanisms in order to manage their condition.
The Neuroscience of ADHD
In order to better understand ADHD and better ascertain whether you may in fact have the condition, it can be helpful to examine what’s going on inside the brain of someone with ADHD.
Specifically then, ADHD appears to be the result of lower amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine, particularly in the prefrontal cortex. Dopamine and norepinephrine are both neurotransmitters that are related to attention and focus and which help us to see things as ‘important’. These give us a certain clarity and tunnel vision when focusing on a particular goal but they also prevent us sometimes from thinking ‘outside the box’ or from being aware of our surroundings.
Those with ADHD however, have lower amounts of these neurotransmitters which causes their minds to wander more freely between ideas and concepts. This can potentially lead to increased ‘out the box’ thinking and to the generation of new ideas.
So Do You Have ADHD?
So with all that in mind, is it possible that you have ADHD to some degree? Chances are that if you’re like most people, then you will have read the above and you’ll now be thinking it’s possible for you to have a case of ADHD. This is actually pretty common with mental health disorders – psychology students are in fact infamous for believing that they have every psychological condition under the sun while studying.
In order to meet the diagnostic criteria for these conditions under the DSM-V though, then you must tick all of the boxes for either type of ADHD:
Inattention Diagnostic Criteria:
- Poor attention to detail
- Making careless mistakes
- Failing to pay attention and remain ‘on-task’
- Not listening to others
- Inability to follow instructions
- Avoidance of tasks
- Being distracted or forgetful
- Losing things
Hyperactivity Diagnostic Criteria:
- Inability to remain seated
- Talking out of turn/excessively
- Running or climbing at inappropriate times
Likewise, in order for the condition to be considered a mental health disorder it must interfere with your normal routine. This in fact is the main criterion for any condition. If on reflection, you think that any of these things have caused you difficulty in the past – only then might they be considered as part of a mental health disorder.
Otherwise, there is a chance that you simply have a distractible and disorganized personality. Perhaps you have more in common with ADHD sufferers than most, but that is simply part of the unique makeup that is your psychology!