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Adhd And You

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Imagine living in a fast-moving train, where everything seems to be constantly shifting. Feeling easily bored, yet helpless to keep your mind on tasks you need to complete. Distracted by unimportant sights and sounds, your mind drives you from one thought or activity to the next. Perhaps you are so wrapped up in a collage of thoughts and images that you don't notice when someone speaks to you. For many people, this is what it's like to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. They may be unable to sit still, plan ahead, finish tasks, or be fully aware of what's going on around them. To many around them, they seem to exist in a whirlwind of disorganized chaos. On some days and in some situations--they seem fine, often leading others to think the person with ADHD can actually control these behaviors. As a result, the disorder can mar the person's relationships with others in addition to disrupting their daily life, consuming energy, and diminishing self-esteem.

ADHD, once called hyper kinesis or minimal brain dysfunction (MBD), is one of the most common mental disorders among children. In 1972, a Canadian researcher, Dr. Virginia Douglas gave MBD it’s new characterization as ADHD. It was the turning point of Child Psychiatry. Allen 2001 It affects 3 to 5 percent of all children, perhaps as many as 2 million American children. Two to three times more boys than girls are affected. On the average, at least one child in every classroom in the United States needs help for the disorder. ADHD often continues into adolescence and adulthood, and can cause a lifetime of frustrated dreams and emotional pain. NIMH 1994

But there is help and hope. Scientists have learned much about the course of the disorder and are now able to identify and treat children, adolescents, and adults who have it. Many different medications, behavior-changing therapies, and educational options are already available to

help those affected with ADHD focus their attention, build self-esteem, and function in new ways.

In addition, new avenues of research promise to further improve diagnosis and treatment. With so many American children diagnosed as having attention disorder, research on ADHD has become a national priority. During the 1990s--which the President and Congress have declared the "Decade of

the Brain"--it is possible that scientists will pinpoint the biological basis of ADHD and learn how to prevent or treat it even more effectively.

ADHD is a diagnosis applied to children and adults who consistently display certain characteristic behaviors over a period of time. The most common behaviors fall into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Inattention.

People who are inattentive have a hard time keeping their mind on any one thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes. They may give effortless, automatic attention to activities and things they enjoy. But focusing deliberate, conscious attention to organizing and completing a task

or learning something new is difficult.

For example, Lisa found it agonizing to do homework. Often, she forgot to plan ahead by writing down the assignment or bringing home the right books. And when trying to work, every few minutes she found her mind drifting to something else. As a result, she rarely finished and her work was full of errors.

Hyperactivity.

People who are hyperactive always seem to be in motion. They can't sit still. Like Mark, they may dash around or talk incessantly. Sitting still through a lesson can be an impossible task. Hyperactive children squirm in their seat or roam around the room. Or they might wiggle their feet, touch everything, or noisily tap their pencil. Hyperactive teens and adults may feel intensely restless. They may be fidgety or, like Henry, they may try to do several things at once, bouncing around from one activity to the next.

Impulsivity.

People who are overly impulsive seem unable to curb their immediate reactions or think before they act. As a result, like Lisa, they may blurt out inappropriate comments. Or like Mark, they may run into the street without looking. Their impulsivity may make it hard for them to wait for things they want or to take their turn in games. They may grab a toy from another child or hit when theyÐ"Ñ*re upset.

Not everyone who is overly hyperactive, inattentive, or impulsive has an attention disorder. Since most people sometimes blurt out things they didn't mean to say, bounce from one task to another, or become disorganized and forgetful, how can specialists tell if the problem is ADHD?

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To assess whether a person has ADHD, specialists consider several critical questions: Are these behaviors excessive, long-term, and pervasive? That is, do they occur more often than in other people the same age? Are they a continuous problem, not just a response to a temporary situation? Do the behaviors occur in several settings or only in one specific place like the playground or the office? The person's pattern of behavior is compared against a set of criteria and characteristics of the disorder. These criteria appear in a diagnostic reference book called the DSM (short for the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders").

According to the diagnostic manual, there are three patterns of behavior that indicate ADHD. People with ADHD may show several signs of being consistently inattentive. They may have a pattern of being hyperactive and impulsive. Or they may show all three types of behavior.

According to the DSM, signs of inattention include:

 becoming easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds

 failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes

 rarely following instructions carefully and completely

 losing or forgetting things like toys, or pencils, books, and tools needed for a task

Some signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity are:

 feeling restless, often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming

 running, climbing, or leaving a seat, in situations where sitting or quiet behavior is expected

 blurting

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