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  • Writer's pictureTyler N. Tolson

Problems with focus, irritability? Consider ADHD

ADHD (and the disused term ADD, now referred to as ADHD-inattentive type)—especially child ADHD— is commonly misunderstood and highly stigmatized due to speculation on part of many psychological professionals, as well as pop-journalistic styles of reporting of medical research.

The average understanding of ADHD is that it is not a legitimate medical condition, but is simply a hyperactive child or adult, that is likely lazy or lacking discipline. Oftentimes, people’s distrust in the medical system as one that is profiteering or over-pathologizes people that makes it less likely for children and adults to get the help they need.

The imagined criteria for this ADHD individual is that one must be extremely hyperactive, unable to focus on any subject for any length of time, with excessive talking, and an onslaught of behavioral issues typically tied to anger. These traits are not entirely false, but may not be entirely correct either— and should be kept in mind especially when evaluating our loved ones. On the contrary, plenty of people with ADHD are able to hyper-focus, can be quiet and complete certain tasks, and can learn ways to control some of their reactions and behavior based on some good fortune or guidance that has worked in adolescence.

What is ADHD?

Put simply, the definition of ADHD by is: A person that has differences in brain development and brain activity that affect attention, the ability to sit still, and self-control.

It is a very common condition that affects roughly 6-9% of children in the United States that persists to adulthood 60% of the time according to the CDC, with similar numbers around the world based on various studies.

I want to highlight the word ‘difference’ here, as that is what it is: a difference. No person is deficient or unable to overcome the challenges brought by ADHD. Our world is not built (yet!) for many people with different processing abilities and it is our job to better understand these people’s’ needs in order to better help them.

As described by Songuga-Barke and Halperin (2010), “ADHD does not have to be understood as a fixed pattern of core deficits, but rather a fluctuating interplay between individual child factors, developmental neurobiology, phenotypes and interpersonal dynamics. Hence, ADHD has a dynamic presentation across the child’s trajectory, and early intervention allows this to be shaped through the creation of positive social support, positive self-beliefs, sensitive and warm parenting environments and engaging in physical activity.”

Why CBT?

By using CBT— largely restructuring our negative and unhelpful thinking patterns through changing behavior and our reflections on our feelings and thoughts— we can reduce stress and maladaptive behavior by changing our cognitive processes which can strongly benefit children and adults to manage their inattentive behavior and stress responses that occur as a result.

What can I do for my loved one that may or may not have ADHD?

Suggest that meeting with a psychological professional that can distribute CBT or other prevailing, heavily-backed methods can provide a program that is made to fit for that individual.

If you are a parent, find a professional that is experienced in treating children and find a professional with the aforementioned criteria. Keep in mind that there may need to be radical changes to home life with shifts in styles in parenting. Family therapy may be right for you.

I’m unsure about therapy. What can I do before making that step?

Provide the following:

-Loving support, patience

- Clear instructions, explanations for what is expected for any task

-Clear routines and schedules with set, manageable expectations

-Broken-down tasks into smaller, manageable sessions

-Visual representations to reinforce memory

-Creative methods of delivery to engage

-Reward systems that are consistent and unvarying

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