Getting a better understanding of ADD and ADHD

Deux enfants se courent l'un après l'autre

Did you know? More and more people are being diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity. What does it mean and what can you do if a loved one is diagnosed?

What are ADD and ADHD?

Attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity, is a mental health disorder that comes in three different types, according to the Centre d’évaluation neuropsychologique et d’orientation pédagogique (Cénop).

  • The first type is ADD, an attention deficit disorder that is primarily distinguished by inattention. It is characterized by an excessive tendency to distraction, such as being significantly slower when performing intellectual or routine tasks;
  • ADHD, the second type, is an ADD that is primarily characterized by hyperactivity-impulsiveness. Those impacted demonstrate increased motor restlessness or excessive impulsiveness, or both. It also includes a lack of inhibition, i.e. self-control or control over emotions.
  • Combined ADHD, the third type of the deficit disorder, is found in children and adults and includes inattention and impulsiveness-hyperactivity. ADHD is the most common form among North American school-aged children. It affects between 6 and 9% of them.

What are the symptoms?

ADHD manifests itself in many ways.

Most of the symptoms involve a recurrent lack of attention: difficulty understanding information, starting a specific task or staying focused for an extended period of time. Immediate loss of memory causes one to repeatedly forget information or material and trouble listening when someone is speaking. Those with the disorder have trouble following instructions.

They can also have trouble interacting with others in their immediate environment. For example, they may be constantly distracted by trivial things such as surrounding noises. They tend to be disorganized and have trouble locating their personal effects.

Hyperactivity-impulsiveness manifests itself differently. Those impacted have trouble remaining seated or still. Their hands and feet are usually fidgeting. They have an uncontrollable urge to want to touch all objects around them. They talk a lot, usually too often, and have a tendency to interrupt others who are speaking.

How to get diagnosed

Avoid jumping to conclusions if your child or someone you know is showing signs of ADHD. According to recent studies, hundreds of thousands of young North Americans are falsely diagnosed because behaviour that is typical of a youngster is mistaken with ADHD. The best way to get a definite answer is to consult a healthcare professional, such as a neuropsychologist.

Une professionnelle de la santé discute avec une fillette

How to evaluate ADHD

The Association québécoise des neurologues has basic rules for adequately evaluating people who may be suffering from ADHD.

First, the person in question is tested to measure his or her attention span and other cognitive capacities. Their psychological and emotional state are also assessed. Sometimes, especially with the young, sadness or anxiety can trigger behaviour that is similar to ADD symptoms.

When it comes to children, their parents and teachers must be consulted and given a questionnaire to complete. Their answers provide detailed information about the symptoms and when they first appeared.

Which resources can be contacted

If you suspect yourself or a loved one is suffering from ADHD, you should first discuss it with your family doctor. He or she can refer you to a specialist, if necessary.

Otherwise, the Centre d’évaluation neuropsychologique et d’évaluation pédagogique can provide you with a host of information on the nature of ADHD and how to treat it, especially among children. A neuropsychologist can also provide additional resources.

It may be concerning to see a loved one with ADHD symptoms. But the best thing you can do is to consult a professional because there are solutions to reduce the impact of the disorder on the quality of your life.