ADHD - an acronym for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - is a mental health disorder which is characterised by a number of persistent problems, including hyperactivity, difficulty paying attention, and impulsive behaviour.

What is ADHD?

In adults, the condition can lead to issues such as poor performance at work, relationship problems, and low self-esteem.

ADHD symptoms can begin in early childhood, and continue through adolescence to adulthood, although ADHD is not recognised until adulthood in some cases. Typically, hyperactivity may decrease in adulthood, but other symptoms such as impulsiveness and difficulty concentrating may continue.

Symptoms, which can range from mild to severe, can include; impulsiveness, restlessness, problems organising, inability to plan adequately, mood swings, problems completing tasks, inability to focus, difficulty in coping with stress.

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Causes of ADHD

The root cause of ADHD is not yet understood, but there are factors which are known to be involved in the development of the condition, including; environment, as environmental factors such as lead exposure at an early age have been found to increase risk of developing ADHD; genetics, as ADHD can run in families; and development problems, such as issues such as central nervous system.

You may have an increased risk of ADHD if: you have blood relatives with ADHD; your mother drank alcohol, smoked or used drugs in pregnancy; you were born prematurely; or if your environment while growing up - such as in an old building - exposed you to environmental toxins such as lead. But, it is not possible to be sure on the cause on a person by person basis.

Diagnosing ADHD

ADHD symptoms can be difficult to recognise, and typically multiple assessments will be needed in order to make a diagnosis. These tests can include; a physical examination, which can help to rule out other underlying conditions which could be causing your symptoms; a review of your medical history, and questions related to your symptoms and any other medical conditions; and psychological tests which can also help to assess your symptoms.

Treatment of ADHD

Treatment for ADHD can involve a combination of medication, psychological counselling and skills training. How much of each treatment is needed will depend on the nature of the specific individual's condition. It is important to note that while these treatments can help to manage the symptoms of ADHD, they should not be considered a cure.

Medications prescribed for ADHD can include; stimulants, such as lisamfetamine, dexamfetamine, methylphenidate, atomoxetine, and some other less known options.

The psychological counselling which is provided for adult ADHD typically involves psychotherapy, as well as skills training which can help you to improve symptoms. This can include learning methods to; reduce impulsive behaviour; improve self-esteem; problem solve; improve relationships with family and friends; cope with past failures in different aspects of life; control your temper; and improve organisational skills.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is another way of teaching specific skills to manage behaviour and change negative thinking patterns. Family therapy or marital counselling can be provided to loved ones living with someone who has the condition, helping them to cope better, and teaching them what they can do to help.