What Is ADHD
Many people do not understand that ADHD is essentially a neuropsychological issue in which a person's nervous system is under-stimulated and therefore they may need stimulant medications in order to regulate it (counter-intuitive I know!). There are four components - inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity and poor timeliness. ADHD can affect all or just a couple of areas. When it is not regulated, we may see inattention that impacts schooling and workplace outcomes. It can also impact one's relationships. If we cannot take in information correctly, then we cannot process that information in our lives. Attention is managed by our executive functioning processes which also control and regulate our emotions. That is why we sometimes see challenges with impulsivity, anger outbursts or overall mood swings in this population too. So learning to regulate these systems is incredibly important!
ADD vs ADHD
So this is confusing to many of us. In the pop culture world, we usually distinguish these two with ADHD being used for hyperactive people and ADD being used for inattentive subtype. In the psychological world, it's all ADHD and then we specify which subtype, whether it's inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive.
Is there an ADHD test?
Well, yes! Testing can absolutely be done to confirm an ADHD diagnosis. You should not self-diagnose based on an online survey. Those can be a nice start to confirm some of your concerns but they are not diagnostic. A full psychological evaluation battery can be used to determine this. KML completes high level fully integrated diagnostic assessments to determine what exactly your issue is - memory? Executive functioning? selective attention? long-term memory? There are many factors that can be involved. They can be completed on both adults and kids. If you go outside of KML, make sure they are using a CPT test as part of their diagnostics. Many people do not and the results of your testing will not be as comprehensive.
Medications (usually stimulant based but there are others!) are the gold standard treatment for treating ADHD due to the nervous system dysregulation. In addition, non-pharmacological approaches can complement this to ensure the best outcome possible. The nonpharamcological ADHD interventions that can be helpful are things like eliminating distractions in your environment while you are doing a task that requires mental effort. Think about when you are most productive and schedule your hardest tasks for those times. Testing in small groups or preferential seating in a classroom or an office space can be helpful to eliminate additional information competing for space in your attentional capacity. It is also important to ensure that you are taking care of the basics in life like balanced nutrition, physical activity, and getting plenty of sleep to ensure your neurological system is functioning at ideal capacity. In this population, we also encourage frequent breaks to refresh the computer of the brain and to "chunk" information together. Opportunities for additional movement, like walking desks, doing work in a standing position or being able to fidget with toys can also improve focus. For some having music on or sound in the background is also a strategy for success! There are programs such as "brain training" and nuerofeedback that have some promising results on impacting the outcomes of attentional capacity as well. Finally, I would say placing organizational skills in your life to help you organize the information of your daily needs is also a really effective strategy.
Can Apps help with ADHD?
Yes - absolutely! There are many apps out there. There are apps intended to help people with ADHD manage their poor organizational skills or to remind them to do certain things at certain times. There are also apps that can be used to improve overall executive functioning skills, which is a major deficit for these folks. Typically those types of apps are game-like and can feel like puzzles or fun!
When to See a Doctor
Often I see people struggle with thinking they are not smart and that is not true! People with ADHD are often very bright. If you have done some of the above and you are still struggling at work or school, then you likely need more. That is okay and nothing to be ashamed of. This is a neuropsychological disorder and requires lean in from a multidisciplinary team who can often help create a specialized plan for success! That includes a dietitian, psychiatrist, therapist and sometimes study skills coach, life coach and neurologist. There is help out there and life can be better!
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