ADHD Assessment and Treatment
Do you find yourself struggling to maintain focus despite how hard you try? Do you often catch yourself impulsively interrupting others without thinking? Are you constantly on the move, finding it difficult to sit still? Do these symptoms manifest in multiple areas of your life, like when you're at home, work, and during class?
If any of these resonate with you, it's possible that you may have ADHD.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects people of all ages, commonly beginning in childhood. It's characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
People with ADHD often struggle with staying on task, remaining focus, and maintaining organization. They also tend to be more forgetful and have difficulty concentrating as they are easily distracted. Many people with inattentive ADHD aren't diagnosed until adulthood.
Individuals with ADHD may exhibit excessive movement or restlessness, even when it may not be appropriate. They may engage in excessive fidgeting, tapping, or talking. In adults, hyperactivity can manifest as restlessness or excessive talking.
People with ADHD may struggle with self-control and acting without thinking. It's sometimes difficult for them to consider long-term consequences, which can lead to impulsive decision-making. This may also involve a strong desire for immediate rewards or having difficulty with delaying gratification. Interrupting others and making important decisions without considering long-term effects can also be common.
ADHD can show up in different ways, with three main presentations: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, or a combined presentation. These different presentations allow us to understand the different symptoms people may experience.
ADHD can have a significant impact on different aspects of life, interfering with individuals' performance at school or work, potentially leading to misunderstandings with friends and family, and even causing relationship problems.
Many individuals with ADHD also experience significant difficulties with anxiety and anger, especially if they have had the experience of living undiagnosed for a long period of time. It's not surprising that anxiety develops for individuals that have had a long track record of making mistakes, being judged, accused of not trying hard enough, or told that they are failing to reach their potential. Similarly, it's expected that such experiences would bring up feelings of anger and resentment, augmented by the inherent impulse-control and emotion regulation issues that come along with ADHD.
Therefore, if you suspect that you might be having challenges related to ADHD, it's important to seek an assessment and receive treatment.
A comprehensive diagnostic evaluation for ADHD involves gathering information from various sources. The evaluation includes ADHD symptom checklists, standardized behaviour rating scales, a detailed history of the person's functioning, and input from family members or significant others who are familiar with the individual. In some cases, cognitive and academic tests may also be administered to rule out other mental health conditions, such as learning disabilities.
It's important to know that ADHD cannot be accurately diagnosed in just a brief office interaction or a simple conversation. This is because ADHD symptoms may not always be evident during a visit. This makes it necessary to conduct a thorough examination of the person and their symptoms to ensure a correct diagnosis. The possibility of co-occurring conditions is also considered during the evaluation.
If you are struggling with these experiences, as difficult as it may seem right now, we want you to know that there is hope and we are here to provide the support you need. Although a full recovery from ADHD may be challenging, medical and psychological treatments are available to reduce symptoms and assist individuals on their recovery journey.
ADHD medications, such as stimulants and non-stimulant, are commonly prescribed to help manage symptoms and improve focus, attention, impulse control, and facilitated working memory. While stimulants are generally safe when taken under medical supervision, they can have side effects and require close monitoring.
Non-stimulant medications are an alternative for individuals who experience side effects from stimulants or do not respond to them effectively. These medications typically take longer to work but can still improve ADHD symptoms.
Engaging in psychotherapy can help maximize the effects of medication. A psychotherapist works closely with individuals with ADHD to assist them in learning and improving their coping skills, establishing a healthy daily routine to comfortably maintain ADHD symptoms, and to enhance their productivity, functioning, and overall quality of life.
Psychological interventions play a big role in helping individuals with ADHD manage their symptoms and improve daily functioning.
Behavioural therapy, a form of psychotherapy, focuses on behaviour change. It may include practical assistance, such as organizing tasks, completing work, as well as addressing emotionally challenging situations. The therapist works with the individual to teach them how to monitor their behaviour and offer self-praise or rewards for positive actions. Behavioural therapy can also help individuals, especially children with ADHD, to develop social skills, manage emotions, and improve their ability to respond appropriately to difficult social cues.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can also be helpful to individuals with ADHD by helping them become aware of and accept their thoughts and feelings, leading to enhanced focus and concentration. CBT helps individuals develop strategies to think more positively during stressful situations. This is especially helpful when individuals experience additional personal issues because of ADHD, such as feelings of failure, low self-esteem, frequent difficulties with academics or their job, and disturbances to their sense of identity and relationships. CBT also supports adjustment to life changes associated with the treatment, such as thinking before acting and resisting impulsive behaviours.
Mindfulness-based interventions are another effective therapy form to individuals with ADHD. Through mindfulness techniques such as breath awareness, meditation, mindful movement, and learning how to spend time in the present, individuals learn to observe their thoughts, emotions, and impulses without immediately reacting to them. This increased self-awareness helps manage distractibility, impulsivity, and emotional reactivity.