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What Is ADHD? Symptoms, Types, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatments for ADHD

Updated: Jul 3

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopment condition that involves impulsive, hyperactive, and inattentive symptoms and subtypes. Let's review ADHD and its symptoms, types, and causes, and the possible ways ADHD is diagnosed and treated.




What is ADHD?


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder and neurodivergent condition that impacts the way ADHDers interact with the world. 


ADHDers may struggle with hyperactive, impulsive, or inattentive symptoms that can interfere with relationships, work, school, and other life activities. 


Around 366.33 million people worldwide are considered to be ADHDers, which is approximately 5% of the worldwide population. 


Both children and adults can be diagnosed with ADHD. It is more common to be diagnosed in childhood, but many adults go underdiagnosed into adulthood. 


Women are especially more likely to be diagnosed in adulthood and misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed in childhood. 


ADHD Symptoms


The signs of ADHD can vary slightly from person to person and vary based on what subtype of ADHD someone is diagnosed with. 


There are some common ADHD symptoms, which include:



Some people with ADHD have fewer symptoms as they age, while others continue to have the same amount of symptoms they did when you were a child.


When it comes to the symptoms of ADHD, some of these symptoms could be hidden, and many adults may not even know they have it until it starts to interfere with daily life. 


Missing deadlines, forgetting meetings, impatience waiting in line, and mood swings can occur with ADHD. 


If you think you have these symptoms of ADHD, you can request an adult ADHD assessment from a Blue Sky Learning partner organization. 


Causes of ADHD


The exact causes of ADHD are still unclear, but there is research to suggest that genetics play a role in ADHD. 


This means that you may be at increased risk for ADHD if one or both of your parents are ADHDers. 


Researchers are unsure whether certain genes may play a role in ADHD, including the neurotransmitter dopamine. 


We do know that ADHD is not a result of parenting, video games, sugar, or laziness.


The Three Types of ADHD


Three types of ADHD differ in the symptoms that they display. 


These subtypes of ADHD include: 


  • Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD

  • Inattentive ADHD

  • Combined-type ADHD


Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD


Primarily hyperactive-impulsive ADHDers are those who display hyperactive and impulsive symptoms of ADHD as their primary symptoms, with no inattentive symptoms of ADHD. 


These hyperactive and impulsive symptoms can show up as:


  • Fidgets or taps hands while sitting

  • Moves around and can’t sit still.

  • Not able to play quietly

  • On-the-go behavior

  • Talks excessively

  • Blurts out answers before you are done talking.

  • Difficulty waiting for his or her turn

  • Interrupts others


Primarily Inattentive Type ADHD


Primarily inattentive ADHDers are those who display inattentive symptoms of ADHD as their primary symptoms, with no impulsive or hyperactive symptoms of ADHD. 


These inattentive symptoms can show up as:


  • Making careless mistakes

  • Difficulty with sustained attention on a task

  • Not listening when spoken to directly

  • Not following through with instructions

  • Disorganization

  • Dislikes or avoids tasks with sustained mental effort

  • Losing things often

  • Becoming easily distracted

  • Forgetfulness


Primarily Combined-Type ADHD


Combined-Type ADHDers display a mix of inattentive, impulsive, and hyperactive symptoms of ADHD. 


To be diagnosed with combined-type ADHD, you will be assessed to see if you meet the criteria for both inattentive type ADHD and impulsive-hyperactive type ADHD. 


This would include displaying six of the nine symptoms of each of the two other types of ADHD. 


How is ADHD Diagnosed?


ADHD does not have a single assessment or test. It is diagnosed by a professional trained to assess ADHD, including a family doctor, nurse practitioner, psychiatrist, neurologist, or psychologist.


Your healthcare provider will assess your ADHD symptoms over six months and also examine you to see if any of your symptoms may be better explained by a medical or psychiatric condition. 


For an adult to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, the symptoms need to be present before the age of 12. 


Boys are more likely to be diagnosed than girls with ADHD in childhood because their ADHD hyperactive symptoms are more likely to be noticed by their teachers. 


If left untreated, ADHD can have negative impacts on relationships, work, school, and other aspects of your life. 


If you live in Canada, Blue Sky Learning has created a step-by-step guide for how to get diagnosed as an adult with ADHD in Canada.


ADHD Co-occurring conditions and identities


It is very common for ADHD to occur with other conditions. Roughly 60–70% of adults with ADHD have a comorbid condition. 


These comorbid conditions include:


Mood Disorders


ADHDers may also display depression, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders. Mood disorders and ADHD can create a cycle whereby failures and other symptoms of ADHD can worsen depression, and depression can also worsen ADHD symptoms. 


Anxiety Disorders


Anxiety is very common in ADHDers. The worry and nervousness can worsen ADHD symptoms, and vice versa. ADHD symptoms can also worsen anxiety symptoms. 


Academic learning difficulties


Adults with ADHD are also more likely to be diagnosed with learning difficulties. They may score lower than those in their age group on academic tests due to this. 


Academic coaching may be of support for the learning difficulties that can come along with ADHD.


Other co-occurring conditions and identities


Along with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and learning difficulties, ADHDers are also more likely to experience pain disorders. 


Though this isn’t a condition, we also thought it might be interesting to note that ADHDers are also more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ or neuroqueer. 


ADHD Treatment


No one treatment is universal for ADHD. The treatment approach will differ from person to person, but the best approach is likely one that is multimodal. 


This multimodal approach uses multiple different approaches to reduce the symptoms of ADHD. 

This could include ADHD coaching, ADHD therapy, and medications. It could also include exercise, nutrition, and other methods. 


ADHD Coaching


ADHD coaching helps people with ADHD take control of their lives so they can be productive in all aspects—at school or work, in relationships, or any other area of life. 


It helps promote personal growth and equips clients with the skills they need to make positive life changes. 


An ADHD coach focuses on helping clients recognize strengths, build self-awareness and confidence, and develop strategies for success. 


ADHD Therapy 

 

ADHD therapy, or neurodivergent-affirming therapy, involves therapy that affirms your ADHD or neurodivergent identity. 


An ADHD therapist recognizes that neurodivergence makes the world a more diverse place. 


They don’t try to fix you, and they don’t view ADHD as a disease or flaw to be cured. 


At the same time, the therapist affirms the challenges you go through as an ADHDer and how ableist societal systems can be disabling. 


They work with you to find the accommodations that support you.


Both ADHD coaching and ADHD therapy often start with a free ADHD coaching or ADHD therapy consultation which you can use to figure out whether the therapist or coach is neurodivergent-affirming. 


ADHD Medications


Medications for ADHD can include both stimulants and non-stimulants. 


Stimulants work by increasing the amount of the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. 


In addition, if stimulants don’t work for you or cause problematic side effects, non-stimulants can be used as a second line of treatment. 


To decide which medication may be best suited for you, speak to your healthcare provider to learn about the risks and benefits and make an informed decision.


Book a Free Consultation With Blue Sky Learning


Are you an ADHDer seeking an ADHD assessment from one of the Blue Sky Learning partner clinics?


Are you seeking ADHD coaching or ADHD therapy from an ADHD coach or ADHD therapist on the Blue Sky Learning team? 


Book a free 20-minute consultation with one of the Blue Sky Learning team members by emailing hello@blueskylearning.ca or head on over to the Blue Sky Learning website.


Blue Sky Learning team members embody values of compassion, empathy, and person-centered approaches. 


Blue Sky Learning provides the opportunity for students, professionals, parental guardians, and educators to connect with them regarding individual concerns and areas of growth. 


Blue Sky Learning strives to provide a service where clients feel safe, supported, and intersectionality understood. 


Blue Sky Learning aims to reduce stigma and shame cycles, deepen client understanding of internalized ableism, and empower areas of avoidance to increase your value of motivation.


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