There is considerable confusion by parents about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD.  It starts with the name.  Parents commonly discuss ADD vs. ADHD.  In fact, both of these lay terms refer to ADHD in different forms.  ADD is use to describe a form of ADHD when hyperactivity is not present.  In this form of ADHD, the primary complaint is lack of focus or distractibility.  ADHD refers to a type of the disorder when both inattention and hyperactivity are present.

There is still not clear understanding of what causes ADHD.  It is related to frontal functioning in the brain.  Levels of the neurotransmitter Dopamine have been shown to be lower in children and adults with ADHD.  Individuals with ADHD appear to have problems determining what information to attend to. Common symptoms include impulsivity, lack of ability to focus, distractibility, and lack of organization.  Overactivity or hyperness may or may not be present.  Individuals with this disorder have trouble completing tasks; lose track of common or necessary items: struggle to multi-task: put off important tasks to the last minute and miss important information or deadlines.

Diagnosing ADHD individuals requires comprehensive assessment of their educational/vocational skills, cognitive functioning, emotional functioning and measures of attention and visual motor speed.  In addition, I try to observe the client in their school or work environment to see how they respond to the specific demands of that setting.  Many other conditions such as mood problems and anxiety can present similarly to the symptoms present in ADHD.  It is important that these factors be considered in the diagnostic process.

Many clients have come to me misdiagnosed with ADHD because a full assessment of their functioning was not done.  In some cases, this misdiagnosis has lead to years of frustration and poor social and emotional adjustment.  If you have questions about ADHD or ADHD like symptoms, please contact me or another qualified mental health professional with specialized training in assessment.