ADHD Awareness Month

Table of Contents

Any person can have trouble sitting still, controlling impulsive behavior, or paying attention occasionally. However, for some individuals, the issues are so persistent and pervasive that they actually interfere with all aspects of their life — work, home, social, and academic.

Increasing awareness of ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder helps create accessible, welcoming workplaces and schools. It can also ensure healthcare professionals can treat ADHD properly, encourage those with symptoms to seek a diagnosis, and reduce the condition’s impact.

What is ADHD?

ADHD affects both children and adults. It’s one of the most common types of neurodevelopmental disorders.1 

One 2021 study shows that around 5% of adolescents and children worldwide are impacted by ADHD. This study also suggests a global 6.76% prevalence rate of symptomatic adult ADHD globally. And over three-quarters of cases present symptoms that continue into adulthood. ADHD is marked by developmentally inappropriate hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention levels.2

Symptoms of ADHD

It’s normal for kids to have challenges behaving and focusing sometimes. But, those with the condition don’t just grow out of these behaviors. They continue experiencing symptoms that can lead to difficulties at home, school, or with friends.

According to DSM-5 Criteria for ADHD, individuals with the condition display a persistent pattern of hyperactivity-impulsivity and/or inattention that interferes with development and functioning. 

Symptoms can be categorized into a couple of categories3.

Inattention and Distractability Symptoms

This will be six or more symptoms of inattention for kids up to 16 years old or five or more for adolescents who are 17 years old or older, as well as adults. The inattention symptoms need to be present for a minimum of six months, and they’re not appropriate for the developmental level:

  • Frequently has difficulty holding attention on play activities or different tasks
  • Frequently makes careless errors at work, with schoolwork, or with other activities or fails to pay close attention to details
  • Frequently doesn’t seem to listen when someone is talking with them directly
  • Frequently fails to finish chores, schoolwork, or workplace duties (i.e., gets side-tracked, loses focus) and doesn’t follow through on directions or instructions
  • Frequently has difficulty organizing activities and tasks
  • Frequently dislikes, avoids, or is reluctant to perform tasks that require a long period of mental effort (i.e., homework or schoolwork)
  • Frequently loses things that are necessary for activities and tasks (i.e., pencils, school materials, tools, books, paperwork, keys, phones, eyeglasses, wallets)
  • Is frequently forgetful in day-to-day activities
  • Is frequently easily distracted
A kid with ADHD at therapy with a female psychologist. The child is drawing on her notepad

Impulsivity and Hyperactivity Symptoms

This will be six or more symptoms of impulsivity-hyperactivity for kids up to 16 years old or five or more for adolescents who are 17 years old or older, as well as adults. The impulsivity-hyperactivity symptoms need to be present for a minimum of six months to where they are inappropriate and disruptive for the individual’s developmental level. Some impulsivity-hyperactivity symptoms include:

  • Frequently leaves their seat in settings where it’s expected that they remain in their seats
  • Frequently struggles with ADHD overstimulation
  • Frequently fidgets with or taps their feet or hands or squirms around in their seat
  • Frequently climbs or runs about in situations where it’s not appropriate (for adolescents or adults, this may come on as feeling restless)
  • Frequently can’t take part in or play leisure activities quietly
  • Frequently talks excessively
  • Is frequently acting like they’re “driven by a motor” or they’re “on the go”
  • Frequently has difficulty waiting their turn
  • Frequently blurts answers out before the question is completed
  • Often intrudes on or interrupts other people (i.e., butts into games or conversations)

Along with this, the following musts be met as well:

  • A few symptoms are present in more than one setting (i.e., at home, work o,r school; with relatives or friends; or in other activities)
  • A few hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms were present before the age of 12
  • There’s clear evidence that symptoms reduce the quality of, or interfere with, school, work, or social functioning
  • The symptoms aren’t explained better by another type of mental disorder (i.e., anxiety disorder, mood disorder, personality disorder, or dissociative disorder). The symptoms don’t occur only during a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia.

Importance of Awareness of ADHD

During October, ADHD Awareness Month aims to increase awareness of the condition, which can impact an individual’s school performance, work, self-esteem, relationships, and more. Increasing the condition’s awareness can help improve the quality of life for individuals with the disorder and those close to them. Since it’s so common of a condition, most people know someone with a diagnosis. ADHD Awareness Month’s objective is to correct certain misunderstandings about the disorder and highlight the ADHD community’s shared experiences.

ADHD Myths and Stigma

While ADHD is an extremely common developmental condition, it’s also one that is often misunderstood. ADHD myths can harm individuals who live with the disorder. The belief that this disorder isn’t a real disorder that warrants treatment may deter treatment. 

Parents may feel guilty asking for treatment for their children with ADHD because of the notion that kids take unnecessary medications. According to a 2021 paper, ADHD myths and stigma are prevalent and impact the self-perception of those with ADHD. Myths like these deter individuals from seeking treatment and make them feel shame or guilt when they do seek treatment.4

Suicide Risk

Individuals with this disorder are around three times more likely to attempt suicide than individuals in the general population, according to a study in 2019.5 When myths and stigma interfere with an individual’s treatment, it can cost them their lives.  

Symptoms of ADHD can impact many areas of a person’s life. Raising awareness can help to increase empathy for individuals exhibiting symptoms of ADHD. It could also increase the chances of an individual with ADHD to seek and receive a diagnosis and treatment, which can enhance various aspects of their lives, along with the lives of their loved ones and other people around them. 

Increase Doctors' Knowledge of ADHD

ADHD guides often advise individuals who suspect they may have this disorder to consult with a doctor. But, doctors have different levels of knowledge on the condition. Awareness campaigns can help with this. For instance, one study in 2020 found that promoting ADHD awareness in general healthcare providers increased their understanding of the disorder, suggesting that awareness campaigns targeting healthcare providers may improve access to evidence-based, quality treatment.6

Not only this, but awareness campaigns could also help individuals with the disorder. Media coverage of a diagnosis frequently targets kids, creating the impression that it’s only a childhood diagnosis. However, this disorder can often persist into adulthood and can even show up for the first time during adulthood.

What Are Individuals Doing to Raise ADHD Awareness?

Throughout ADHD Awareness Month, different organizations like Children and Adults with ADD (CHADD) set up and host awareness campaigns, educational seminars, and events that help attract attention to ADHD and how it affects individuals. Certain medical organizations, which include mental health systems and hospitals, also raise awareness with brochures, campaigns, posters, and ADHD-focused events.

Stories of living with ADHD are shared on the ADHD Awareness Month website, which provides resources to individuals who suspect they may be living with this disorder. It also offers an extensive range of information and addresses common myths about ADHD, like the idea that healthcare providers overprescribe medication to kids and overdiagnose the condition and that the disorder is a choice or just a behavioral issue.

Public health campaigns and scientific education attempt to dispel ADHD myths and encourage individuals to seek a diagnosis and treatment. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published treatment recommendations highlighting the role of behavioral interventions and medication. The CDC also promotes the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, highlighting that behavioral strategies should be the first line of treatment for kids between four to six years old.7

A family (mother, father, child) in a therapy session for their child's ADHD

Ways that People Can Help Raise ADHD Awareness

CHADD recommends the following strategies for raising the condition’s awareness throughout ADHD Awareness Month:

  • Post on social media
  • Raise awareness or funds through an ADHD walk
  • Schedule an event either in-person or virtual if necessary

People can raise awareness both in October and in day-to-day life in the following ways:

  • People with ADHD may wish to share their experiences, if they feel comfortable, which could include how the treatment is helping them
  • People who don’t have the disorder can ask family and friends with an ADHD diagnosis how they can be helpful
  • People can share information about ADHD on social media, such as focusing on the experiences of individuals with ADHD and dispelling myths

Co-Occurring ADHD

ADHD often co-occurs with other mental health conditions. Certain research shows there may even be a link between the occurrences. For instance, a study in 2020 showed that childhood ADHD can increase the risk of adulthood depression.8 Treatment for the condition might help improve overall mental health.

Any health condition can coexist with the condition. However, some conditions tend to coexist more commonly with the disorder than others. ADHD can coexist with more than one disorder, too, including9:

1. Disruptive Behavior Disorders

3. Mood Disorders

5. Sleep Disorders

7. Substance Abuse

2. Anxiety

4. Learning Disorders

6. Tics and Tourette Syndrome

Two children in white dresses holding each other while walking on the beach

ADHD and Relationships

Some ADHD symptoms can make it hard to maintain relationships. For instance, individuals with the condition can have trouble with organization and are easily distracted. Because of this, they may forget essential tasks like paying the bills or helping out with chores around the home.  

A partner or spouse without ADHD may take on most of the chores and household responsibilities in response to this. They may feel slighted and overwhelmed or feel like they have to play the role of a parent. 

The partner or spouse with the condition may feel frustrated. They may feel like they have minimal control over their environment. They may feel like they’re being treated like they are a child.

For a relationship to be successful and strong when it involves a partner or spouse with ADHD, everyone who is involved should try and gain knowledge and an understanding of the challenges that the condition can present in a relationship and gain management strategies and skills that work.

Some tips that the spouse or partner without the condition can try include:

A happy adult with her mother in a cafe. They're both smiling and enjoying a conversation

Tips for the spouse or partner with ADHD include:

Most importantly, individuals with ADHD should get a diagnosis. ADHD can play a more significant role in relationships when individuals aren’t even aware that they have ADHD. Only 10% of individuals experiencing symptoms of ADHD receive a proper diagnosis. Diagnosing is often the first step toward learning successful management skills and strategies and receiving care.11

Treatment for ADHD

ADHD treatment frequently requires educational, medical, psychological, and behavioral intervention. This comprehensive treatment approach is often referred to as “multimodal” and, depending on how old the person with ADHD is, may include the following:

A little girl running in a grassy field with a big white dog

Closely working with doctors and other professionals, treatment should be customized to the individual’s unique needs to help them manage their symptoms, improve overall psychological well-being, cope with the condition, and manage social relationships.

Treatment for ADHD typically encompasses a combination of medication and therapy intervention.12

In preschool-age and younger kids, the recommended first-line approach includes behavioral strategies that take the form of school intervention and parent management training. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is a therapy modality based on evidence and helps young kids with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder.

Current guidelines show the first-line pharmacological treatment to manage ADHD is psychostimulants. In preschool-aged kids with ADHD, the only FDA-approved medication is amphetamines. However, policies show that methylphenidate (instead of amphetamines) could be potentially helpful when behavioral interventions aren’t working. 

Alpha agonists (guanfacine and clonidine) and atomoxetine (a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) are the other medications approved by the FDA to treat ADHD. There are also newer ADHD treatments approved by the FDA which can be discussed with a healthcare provider.

Many kids and families often alternate between different medication therapies. They may do so depending on the tolerability of the medication and the efficacy of the treatment. The treatment goal is to restore functioning at school, home, and work and improve symptoms.

Sources
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is ADHD? Retrieved on October 16, 2022 from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html
  2. National Library of Medicine. The prevalence of adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A global systematic review and meta-analysis. J Glob Health. 2021; 11: 04009. Published online 2021 Feb 11. doi: 10.7189/jogh.11.04009 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7916320/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms and Diagnosis of ADHD. Retrieved on October 16, 2022 from: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html
  4. Sage Journals. Recent Attitudes toward ADHD in the Broader Community: A Systematic Review. Matthew Bisset https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8757-4215 [email protected], Leanne Winter, […], Christel M. Middeldorp, David Coghill, Nardia Zendarski https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4498-0202, Mark A. Bellgrove, and Emma Sciberras https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2812-303X,  March 26, 2021. Volume 26, Issue 4 https://doi.org/10.1177/10870547211003671 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/10870547211003671
  5. Cambridge University Press. Suicidal behavior among persons with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Cecilie Fitzgerald, Søren Dalsgaard, Merete Nordentoft, and Annette Erlangsen. June 19, 2019. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/suicidal-behaviour-among-persons-with-attentiondeficit-hyperactivity-disorder/6CECF48A64E415C871D233B2607114ED
  6. National Library of Medicine. Evaluation of a Web-Based ADHD Awareness Training in Primary Care: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial With Nested Interview. Monitoring Editor: Gunther Eysenbach Reviewed by Vibhore Prasad and Allen McLean, Blandine French, BSc,1 Charlotte Hall, PhD,1 Elvira Perez Vallejos, PhD,1 Kapil Sayal, PhD,1 and David Daley, PhDcorresponding author. JMIR Med Educ. 2020 Jul-Dec; 6(2): e19871. Published online 2020 Dec 11. doi: 10.2196/19871 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7762685/
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ADHD Treatment Recommendations. Retrieved on October 16, 2022 from:  https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/guidelines.html
  8. Cambridge University Press. ADHD and depression: investigating a causal explanation. Lucy Riglin, Beate Leppert, Christina Dardani, Ajay K. Thapar, Frances Rice, Michael C. O’Donovan, George Davey Smith, Evie Stergiakouli, Kate Tilling and Anita Thapar. April 6, 2020. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/adhd-and-depression-investigating-a-causal-explanation/02FC95F0E26F6265C7024856227DC510
  9. CHADD. Coexisting Conditions. Retrieved on October 16, 2022 from:  https://chadd.org/about-adhd/coexisting-conditions/
  10. National Library of Medicine. The Complicated Relationship Between Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Substance Use Disorders. Courtney A. Zulauf, Susan E. Sprich, Steven A. Safren, and Timothy E. Wilens. Curr Psychiatry Rep. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2015 Apr 29. Published in final edited form as: Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2014 Mar; 16(3): 436. doi: 10.1007/s11920-013-0436-6 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4414493/
  11. American Psychological Association. Pay attention to me Undiagnosed ADHD affects millions of adults — and their romantic relationships. By Kirsten Weir March 2012, Vol 43, No. 3 https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/03/adhd
  12. American Psychological Association. What is ADHD? Retrieved on October 16, 2022 from: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/adhd/what-is-adhd
 
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