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ADHD Basics

July 6, 2021

ADHD is a Lifespan Condition.

  • Children with ADHD grow into adults with ADHD. It does not go away. 

  • The symptoms change in adulthood, but the current diagnostic criteria does not reflect this change. 

  • Adults with ADHD are less likely to show motor hyperactivity, and, instead experience impulsivity in cognitive functioning (quick decision making), emotional functioning (reacting quickly and intensely), and behavior (having trouble waiting, or interrupting others in conversation)

  • Diagnosis of ADHD in adults must consider Executive Function deficits in addition to the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria

ADHD is Not Just a School Thing.

  • It is a Life Thing. 

  • It affects relationships, nutrition, finances, health outcomes, driving, hobbies

  • It is a neurobiological condition that affects thinking, feeling, and behaving, and is thus relevant in all aspects of life.

ADHD is a Developmental Condition.

  • It has its origins before birth

  • It affects behavioral and cognitive functioning

  • The symptoms are seen in early developmental years and, in various forms, throughout the lifespan.

  • Oftentimes, the earliest symptoms of ADHD are seen most clearly in retrospect when the more commonly recognized symptoms surface during school years.

ADHD has a Neurobiological Origin.

  • In most cases, the origin of ADHD stems from one or a combination of the following:

    • Genetics

    • Prenatal factors (maternal stress, alcohol or nicotine exposure)

    • Birth conditions (premature birth, delivery complications)

    • Early environmental factors (nutrition, infection, trauma) before age 4

  • Most children with ADHD have at least one parent with the condition (diagnosed or undiagnosed)

ADHD Brains are Measurably Different

  • The feeling and quick-acting part of the brain is toward the back in the very center and develops first (limbic system)

  • The planning and thinking-about-consequences part of the brain is in the front and develops very last (still developing into the mid 20s) (prefrontal cortex)

  • The superhighways of fibers that facilitate connections within the brain determine the efficiency of communication between centers like the ones described here.

  • ADHD brains show anatomical differences such as

    • Underdevelopment of the prefrontal cortex

    • Structural differences in the fiber superhighways

  • ADHD brains show neurochemical differences such as 

    • Lower levels of dopamine and norepinephrine

    • Both of which are particularly relevant for the prefrontal cortex