How is ADHD Diagnosed and Treated? banner

By westgate February 9, 2021

How is ADHD Diagnosed and Treated?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, commonly referred to as ADHD, is a neurodevelopment condition that can affect children as well as adults. A person who suffers from ADHD may be unable to control certain behaviors such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness or focusing their attention. A seemingly simple command of “settle down” or “focus” may not be completely physically or mentally possible if a person has ADHD.

Signs of ADHD

Everyone has moments when they lose focus, become forgetful or make mistakes. However, these things may happen quite often in people with ADHD. Children may lack the ability to share with others, daydream when they should be paying attention, be unable to sit still, have risky behavior, etc. If you think you or your child may have ADHD, there are guidelines that medical professionals use to diagnose ADHD.

DSM-5 Criteria to Diagnose ADHD

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers parents and adults a general list of criteria that is used to diagnose ADHD. Published by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5), the list below is not meant to help non-medical personnel make a medical diagnosis, but it can get you thinking about behaviors that may be occurring in your child or in your own life. According to the CDC website:

People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity–impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development:

  1. Inattention: Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:
    • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
    • Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
    • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
    • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
    • Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
    • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
    • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
    • Is often easily distracted.
    • Is often forgetful in daily activities.
  2. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:
    • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
    • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
    • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
    • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
    • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor.”
    • Often talks excessively.
    • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
    • Often has trouble waiting their turn.
    • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).

There are other conditions that must be met in order to properly diagnose ADHD. In addition, there are 3 different types of ADHD that can be diagnosed: predominantly inattentive presentation, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation and combined presentation. The type can change over time, so treatment may need to change as well.

Treatment for ADHD in Spartanburg

Treatment can include behavior therapy or medications. The first line of defense should be behavior therapy for the child as well as for the parents or guardians. The goal is to reduce the problem behaviors and strengthen the positive ones – at home and in the classroom. Parents and teachers can learn strategies to help the child succeed:

  • Following a regular, organized routine at home and in school
  • Limiting distractions (noise, clutter, etc.)
  • Limiting options that may lead to overstimulation
  • Enforcing effective discipline without overreaction or scolding
  • Creating positive feedback
  • Promoting a healthy lifestyle with exercise and nutritious food

If this is not successful, FDA-approved medications may be necessary to control behaviors: fast-acting stimulants that can have a calming effect (forms of methylphenidate and amphetamine) or nonstimulants such as Strattera (atomoxetine), Intuniv (guanfacine), and Kapvay (clonidine) that may provide a more long-lasting effect.

While adults may be able to identify signs of ADHD in their own lives, children will not be capable of understanding this disorder. This is a very complicated disorder that will require a great deal of support from others to manage. The primary care doctors at Westgate Family Physicians can help you along the journey – helping diagnose and treat ADHD in the most effective ways possible. Call our primary care physicians in Spartanburg at (864) 574-0070 or click here to schedule an appointment.