17 Oct ADHD Awareness Month: Understanding a Shared Experience
ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders present in childhood but is not limited to children. Despite receiving significant attention throughout the last 30 years, doctors and researchers are still uncovering new potential causes, contributing factors, and treatment options for those with ADHD.
Sharing knowledge and being open-minded as we continue to learn together is the key to creating a more supportive and understanding environment for individuals with this condition. With that in mind, advocates created ADHD Awareness Month. This annual observance was initially organized as ADHD Awareness Day in 2004, but quickly evolved into a month-long advocacy and awareness campaign.
ADHD by the Numbers
Almost 10% of American children under the age of 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, so it’s important that we understand more about diagnosing, treating, and managing this condition. Because ADHD affects adults as well as children, solutions need to be looked at through a broader lens.
- 4.4% of adults aged 18-44 in the United States have ADHD.
- The median age of onset for children with ADHD is 6 years.
- Boys are diagnosed with ADHD at consistently higher rates than girls.
- Many children who have been diagnosed with ADHD have co-existing conditions such as anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder, and Tourette syndrome.
- 23% of children diagnosed with ADHD are not receiving any treatment.
- Approximately one-third of children diagnosed with ADHD retain the condition into adulthood.
ADHD through the Years
Our understanding of ADHD has evolved significantly over the last thirty years. The first time any type of decreased attention disorder was mentioned in medical literature was in 1798 by a Scottish physician named Sir Alexander Crichton. Just over 100 years later, Sir George Still lectured on a similar topic but focused his research on the abnormal lack of attention control in children.
Fast forward to 1952, when the APA released the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and ADHD was not recognized. It took until 1968 with the release of the DSM-II for doctors to identify a disorder known as the hyperkinetic reaction of childhood.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the use of Ritalin to increase attention and limit hyperactivity became popular. Subsequent DSM revisions included the condition that came to be known as attention deficit disorder (ADD) and then ADHD.
In the 1990s, ADHD case numbers began to rise significantly. Many doctors believe it’s due to a combination of factors, including better diagnostic criteria making diagnoses more accurate and efficient, and more parental awareness of the condition.
ADHD and Mental Health
While the correlation is not quite clear, many children and adults with ADHD have a co-existing mood, learning, or developmental disorder.
- Roughly 14% of children with ADHD have depression
- 30% of children and 57% of adults with ADHD also have anxiety
- 20% of individuals with ADHD show symptoms of bipolar disorder
- Up to 50% of children with ADHD have a learning disorder, compared to just 5% of children who do not have ADHD
The symptoms of these co-occurring mental health conditions can make the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD quite difficult. Minimizing the effect of ADHD on an individual’s mental health is easier when families, doctors, and behavioral health clinicians can work closely to coordinate treatment. Depending on the individual and their needs, this could include medication, talk or behavioral therapy, school support and accommodation, and skills training.
Developing a customized treatment plan and reviewing it no less than annually to determine whether it still offers the ideal support is the best way to improve overall well-being.
While there are many options for treating ADHD, ongoing research is continually uncovering new possibilities for medications and other treatment modalities.
Some of the newest innovations include non-stimulant medications that can be used to treat symptoms of ADHD in both children and adults. Qelbree was the first non-stimulant ADHD medication released in 20 years and was recently approved for both children and adults.
Additionally, new research into how ADHD manifests in the body shows that certain behaviors like fidgeting are critical to how children with ADHD self-regulate and learn. And programs that teach improved balance training and motor control may be able to help improve executive function.
Non-pharmacologic treatment options that focus on improving the ability of the mind and body to focus on a single task can have a profound and lasting impact on a person with ADHD. One alternative for people with ADHD to try is balance board training. It’s rapidly gaining popularity because it’s shown to be very effective in reducing ADHD symptoms and improving concentration and reading skills.
ADHD Awareness Month 2022
One of the best ways for clinicians to ensure they’re keeping up to date on all the latest news and research on ADHD is to follow the events and activities of ADHD Awareness Month. Celebrated every October, this annual event focuses on raising awareness of ADHD while simultaneously highlighting the voices and experiences of those living with this condition.
This year, the theme of ADHD Awareness Month is ‘Understanding a Shared Experience’. To help highlight the voices of those living with ADHD, the organizers are using the hashtags #ADHDExperience2022 and #ADHDAwarenessMonth across various social media platforms. By following or searching the hashtags, people will be able to find a variety of resources that will help them develop a better understanding of ADHD and discover new perspectives.
More Resources for ADHD
ADHD Awareness Month allows us to re-examine what we think we know about ADHD while delving into new perspectives and research that can help improve our understanding.
Here are additional resources that can help.
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