-[Female voiceover] Did you know that about 4-6% of the U.S. population has ADHD? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD, is a medical condition that affects a person’s ability to focus, pay attention, or manage their behavior. The condition is usually diagnosed in childhood and causes very high energy levels, but it can be managed by lifestyle changes, behavioral treatment, and/or medication. There are three main types of ADHD.
The first, Predominantly Inattentive ADHD, is characterized by making careless mistakes due to lack of attention, difficulty following instructions, and staying organized. This type is more commonly diagnosed in adults and girls.
-[Dr. Christopher Peters] So if we look at one of the subgroups being “inattention”, there’s a list of say, nine symptoms that sort of suggest a person has trouble with inattention. Things like they’re distractible, forgetful, lose things, have trouble sustaining effort, a mental task, etc. And if you have at least six out of those nine that impair you on a regular basis for weeks on end with no other good explanation, then that subgroup would be sort of linked as a positive find.
-[Female voiceover] The second type is Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD. In this type, there is a need for constant movement or action, and it is more recognizable and diagnosed in children and men.
-[Dr. Peters] Then you have the other subgroup: Hyperactive-Impulsive. So then these are those kind of symptoms that they blurt out, the individual struggles with motor control, they’re hyper, can’t settle down, maybe can’t sit still for very long, those kinds of things. And again, the same kind of criteria, six out of nine. And again, those symptoms, you can have them, but if they’re not impairing, you wouldn’t necessarily call it a “disorder”.
-[Female voiceover] The third type is Combined ADHD in which a person is hyperactive, impulsive, inattentive, displaying symptoms of both other types combined.
-[Dr. Peters] Some patients will have symptoms that are both Hyperactive-Impulsive, and inattentive, distractible, okay? Some will only have symptoms from one of the subgroups, so you can subdivide the diagnosis. So you can have ADHD Inattentive type, ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive type, or ADHD Combined type.
-[Female voiceover] Even with these different types, there are still positive aspects of ADHD itself, including being energetic, spontaneous, and creative. Some other major benefits of ADHD are hyperfocus and multitasking.
-[Nancy Renick] So this is somebody who can take an idea, say a project at work or at school, and be absolutely laser-sharp focused on it. And to the exclusion of everything else. Now that person’s family members may say that’s destructive, but for that person that allows them often to really accomplish a lot. So I think that is one of the gifts. For some people, they truly can multitask, not everybody, but some people can say, listen to a podcast while they’re doing their work or writing a paper or you know, doing something else. So there is that gift of it.
-[Dr. Peters] And so let’s think it through: if you take the symptomatology and kind of break it down, what are some advantages if someone is able to shift attention quickly? Not be sort of focused in to the point of missing other things going on around, they can scan the environment quickly, so are there jobs, careers, where that’s sort of, a specific thing that would be helpful to them, right? So if you think of aspects of maybe military where you’re on high alert and need to scan and shift and move. Maybe there’s a level of it that can be helpful. Or we certainly have a generation of gamers who seem to have an extra ability, right? That folks with ADHD, even at a high level, can seem to really excel at this technological, stimulating, rapid-changing kind of stimuli and seem to excel at a level that maybe some folks without that ability have. So that [Laughs], that may serve people better in the future we’re headed into with more and more technological interaction and virtual realities and things like that. In terms of the impulsivity and hyperactivity, I often think of it as people who are less fearful to try new stuff. [Chuckles] So these are maybe the risk-takers that over time have allowed us to advance, where some of us may be more inhibited, would not have taken that chance and expanded human knowledge base.These are the entrepreneurs, the risk-takers, the people maybe getting out there ahead of the… the curve a little bit.
-[Female voiceover] Other strengths include being perceptive, innovative, and expressing emotions. There are various strategies to help harness these strengths such as setting goals, sticking to a structure, building a support system, finding a coach, taking “small bites” (which are steps to manage big tasks), slowing down, matching your skills to your job, and finding a hobby or interest you love. Going through the treatment process and gaining a better sense of self may result in that person becoming a more insightful and self-governing individual. This may be the true power of ADHD. There are plenty of famous people with ADHD: musicians such as Adam Levine, Justin Timberlake, and Solange Knowles have ADHD; athletes such as Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Tim Howard, and Terry Bradshaw also have ADHD; and actresses and actors such as Channing Tatum, Zooey Deschanel, Jim Carrey, Emma Watson, and Johnny Depp all have ADHD. Celebrities are living proof that a medical disorder doesn’t have to be a reason for not living a full, happy life. These well-known figures, as well as many other less famous folks, have found ways to thrive with ADHD. The key to managing the signs and symptoms of ADHD is finding a treatment plan that works and sticking with it. Different options are available to treat ADHD, both through behavioral changes or medication.
-[Dr. Peters] Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc. So we do a lot to try to help folks manage and get treatment for their ADHD. And there’s different approaches, right? So if you say, “Well how do you treat someone effectively with ADHD?” It usually comes down to two components: one is the non-pharmacological interventions, right? Helping parents have the management strategies, the behavioral strategies, the parent management strategies to shape behavior and help with emotional regulation and impulse control. One may be helping the school have strategies to help the kid be able to get through the school day in an effective way with some accommodation. Maybe it’s better for them to sit towards the front of the class so they’re less distracted, maybe extended time or being able to take a test in a quieter area for less distraction. Maybe they do better if they sit on a bouncy ball as opposed to a chair because they can wiggle and still participate and be attentive. So there are things that schools can do, parents can do to help the child or teen self-manage some of the symptoms that create an issue. And then the other piece, of course, if appropriate, is to use medication intervention. That can help kind of decrease the symptoms and the impairment that the person may have.
-[Female voiceover] Some resources to help with managing ADHD include the books “Driven to Distraction”, and “Thriving with Adult ADHD.”
-[Nancy] This actually has like different exercises people can do, and I’ve photocopied those exercises and given them out in a therapy session. There’s one, one of my favorites is to kind of practice attention, is like watch a podcast, a short one–er, watch a YouTube video, not a podcast– on how to do something. And then try and write down all the steps that you remember. And then try again. You know, so there’s some practical things like that.
-[Female voiceover] There’s also a website called ADDitude that provides lots of helpful information and resources about ADHD.
-[Dr. Peters] I think of it as potentially lifelong experience for about half of folks who get diagnosed with it. So I think that’s something we don’t always think about, that some adults still struggle with some of the symptoms, although it can change over time in how it presents, much less hyperactivity and things like that. But still a lot of the distractibility, inattention, procrastination, struggle with organization, you know, all those things. Just want the public to know, hey, for some people as they age and develop and develop skills, it definitely lessens, other people continue maybe to struggle a little bit. So you know, support, understanding. I think the push still for mental health is less stigma, more support, more access to care. Help and educate older generations, you know, and parents as they come through so that the next generation has those opportunities to get support where they need it earlier. That’s probably what comes to mind.
-[Nancy] And ADHD is a different way of being in the world, the same way any diagnosis is, that it affects people’s ability to pay attention, you know. And that can be different– different things for different people. That can be inability to stay on task, or laser-focus. It may affect somebody’s organization, or it may not. It may affect impulsivity or it may not. So I would just say, you know, if you know somebody who has ADHD to ask them what that means, you know? ‘Cause somebody, a friend or a sibling or a loved one with a diagnosis, “What does this look like for you?” Because it’s different for everybody. And tell me what you need from me to help you.
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