By Sacrifice Chirisa
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological (brain) disorder that develops during childhood and can persist into adulthood. Although adult ADHD is common, not all children who have these symptoms will go on to have the adult version of the disorder. Childhood symptoms may also change across the lifespan; some fade others may be expressed differently like chronic disorganisation may result in one getting fired from jobs.
ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders. Approximately 3-7 percent of school-aged children have the disorder. ADHD produces symptoms characterised by:
- Poor impulse control
The “attention deficit” component of ADHD refers to inattention, or difficulty focusing for long periods and being easily distractible. The Hyperactivity portion of ADHD is used to describe behaviour that is restless, agitated, and difficult to resist. Hyperactive individuals often appear as if they need to move, they are in almost constant motion, and they frequently make excessive noise.
Although impulsivity is not included in the diagnostic label, it is also considered a behaviour characteristic of this disorder. When impulsivity is paired with hyperactivity, the person appears to act without prior thought or intention. Impulsive behaviours are often intrusive, rude, and dangerous, sometimes resulting in accidents.
Given that all children tend to exhibit some of the behaviours characteristics of ADHD, such as daydreaming, restlessness, or thoughtlessness, it is important to understand the difference between normal behaviours and a true disorder.
True ADHD symptoms are long-term and severe enough to impair someone’s everyday functioning. Moreover, symptoms must occur in more than one environment. For example, in children, this means that the ADHD symptoms interfere with success in school and relationships with parents, siblings, or peers. For adults, ADHD interferes with both work and family functioning.
ADHD is a chronic condition that has no cure. However, individuals with this disorder should not give up hope. There are many different treatment options that can help people successfully manage ADHD symptoms and move forward in their lives.
The general symptoms of ADHD include:
- Failure to pay attention or a failure to retain learned information
- Fidgeting or restless behaviour
- Excessive activity or talking
- The appearance of being physically driven or compelled to constantly move
- Inability to sit quietly, even when motivated to do so
- Engaging in activity without thinking before hand
- Constantly interrupting or changing the subject
- Poor peer relationships
- Difficulty sustaining focused attention
- Forgetfulness or absent-mindedness
- Continual impatience
- Low frustration tolerance
- When focused attention is required, it is experienced as unpleasant
- Frequent shifts from one activity to another
- Careless or messy approach to assignments or tasks
- Failure to complete activities
- Difficulty organising or prioritising activities or possessions
ADHD is not:
- An attitude problem
- A personality disorder
- An absolute problem
- A lack of intelligence
What is paramount is the diagnosis to be made and for treatment started at the right time so that the child will not suffer in the future.
Dr Sacrifice Chirisa is a passionate mental health specialist at Parirenyatwa Hospital, one of the country’s major referral centres.