By Dr. Stephen Pannel
Special to Hotty Toddy News
Alongside depression and anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the few mental health disorders that has become a regular topic in public discourse.
Even if you’re not in the mental health field, you’ve likely heard some of the facts—and some of the myths—about ADHD. As a psychiatrist who works daily with ADHD patients and their parents, I hope to educate you about this common disorder this ADHD Awareness Month.
Part of this has to do with just how widespread ADHD is. Most often diagnosed in boys from ages six to 17, ADHD affects about one in 10 school-age children. In general, ADHD is categorized by developmentally inappropriate levels of attention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, but it can look vastly different from patient to patient.
Some patients experience inattentive type ADHD, having trouble paying attention or being easily distracted, while others have the hyperactive or impulsive type, cropping up in difficult relaxing or impulsive behavior.
In both cases, ADHD is typically first noticed in the classroom, when a child has trouble academically or gets in trouble for acting out. It can also, however, show up at home, during sports or clubs or in other social situations.
While ADHD is most common in children, it is not just a childhood disorder. For nearly three-quarters of ADHD patients, their symptoms persist and require ongoing treatment into adulthood.
As I mentioned before, October is ADHD Awareness Month, which might lead you to ask: But wait, isn’t ADHD way over-diagnosed? Why would we need an awareness month?
Overdiagnosis is the most impactful myth about ADHD. While there may be individual cases where children are incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD, the disorder is actually underdiagnosed in many cases. This becomes clear when looking at gender and race disparities.
Boys are much more likely to get an ADHD diagnosis, with school-age girls over two times less likely to be diagnosed. And, in terms of race, Black and Latino children are about two times less likely to receive treatment for ADHD than white children.
For someone who has ADHD but never gets a diagnosis or receive treatments, the consequences can be dire. Issues stemming from untreated ADHD can include low self-esteem, potential for antisocial or criminal behavior and a higher risk for car accidents.
Even the expected issues—such as difficulty completing schoolwork and behavioral problems—have serious consequences. Academic problems in grade school can spiral, making it harder for individuals to find and hold down jobs as they age.
These issues, however, are not inevitable. ADHD is treatable. Most kids respond well to medication, as well as learning coping strategies and making other lifestyle changes to improve their ability to focus or relax.
As with other common mental health concerns, early intervention is key. If your child has been struggling and you’re concerned they may have ADHD, talk to your pediatrician or a psychiatrist about being evaluated.
If they do indeed show signs of ADHD, this simple step can give you a head start on helping your child thrive in everything they do.
Dr. Stephen Pannel is the chief medical officer with Right Track Medical Group.