Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) includes difficulty with paying attention and/or hyperactivity. ADHD can be hereditary and is a lifetime disorder. ADHD brains have deficits in the prefrontal cortex, which controls many important functions. 

Focus and hyperactivity are only two of the many symptoms of ADHD. Here are a few of the ways those symptoms can materialize in the daily lives of people with ADHD.

 

1. Executive Functioning Deficits

Executive functions include planning, attention, memory and the ability to multitask. 

Meeting deadlines is tough because people with ADHD struggle with "time blindness." Tasks requiring multiple steps seem impossible when the brain struggles to break them down into doable steps. Assignments are lost, messiness is present and planning is a challenge. 

Children with ADHD may appear "lazy" when flooded with overload. They procrastinate when tasks feel unmanageable, and these repeated "failures" to reach expectations cause anxiety. 

 

2. Short-Term Memory 

Humans need to be able to store a small amount of information for short periods in order to perform tasks. 

Short-term memory is a problem for children with ADHD. For example: A parent says, "Go downstairs and get me a cup of water." The child immediately heads downstairs, only to return in seconds, asking, "What was it you just told me to do?" The information disappears from the mind immediately. 

It is common to lose items, forget names or lose instructions. When a child asks an adult to repeat information, it is frustrating, yet expressing frustration over uncontrollable problems lowers self-worth. 

 

3. Social Skills

Social skills are required to be able to make friends and function with others. Experts say most children with ADHD are two to three years behind peers in emotional and social development. 

The ADHD brain tends towards impulsivity. If the child blurts out answers in class or "lacks a filter" for appropriate comments, it can cause social problems. Taking turns at play or in conversation does not come easy, and a lack of ability to interpret tone of voice and body language can result in offense to others. "Hogging the conversation" and interrupting can also be problematic, yet with ADHD, when a thought lands, the fear of losing it pushes immediate sharing. 

 

4. Attention Issues

Lack of focus and hyper-focus relate to both prefrontal cortex deficits and (as new research shows) lower levels of dopamine. While the ADHD brain can focus on things that trigger a release of dopamine, tedious details do not trigger dopamine, so focus is lost. 

 

5. Fidgeting

Hyperactivity in a small child often appears as fidgeting in later years. This need to move actually helps increase the ability to focus. 

Fidgeting ranges from being unable to remain seated to shifting constantly while seated to tapping rhythmically, twirling hair, rubbing jewelry or even chewing objects. 

 

6. Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to understand one’s own reactions to feelings about things that happen and to manage behaviors in response. 

Emotional control complications are also part of ADHD, so anger outbursts, sensitivity, crying or self-isolation can often be part of the disorder. 

 

7. Need for Treatment

The best-proven outcomes for ADHD occur with treatment — a combination of medication and therapy. People with ADHD are at higher risk of developing other comorbid mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or conduct disorders. The best way to prevent comorbidity is to seek treatment as early as possible.

 

Melanie McLeain is a licensed master social worker and therapist for Behavioral Health Services of Arkansas, which provides therapy for children, adolescents, families, adults and seniors in a comfortable environment. Treatment focuses on a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues and contemporary work, school or family problems.