ADHD Symptoms: Signs and Symptoms of ADHD

Signs and symptoms of ADHD, frequently referred to as ADD, typically present prior to seven years of age and sometimes in children as young as two or three years old. ADHD, short for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (see What is ADHD?), affects millions of children from all socio-economic backgrounds and the ADHD symptoms frequently continue into adulthood.
ADHD Symptoms in Children
The signs of ADHD differ depending on the type of ADHD the person has. The DSM-IV lists three sub-types of the disorder: predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and combined type.

Those with the inattentive type ADHD have difficulty concentrating on tasks requiring focused mental energy. They appear to daydream and not listen, even when someone speaks directly to them. The ADHD symptoms associated with this type of the disorder are relatively subtle, causing health care professionals to under-diagnose people in this group.

Hyperactive/impulsive behavior and the classroom disruptions that go with it tend to result in earlier interventions for children in this group. Children in this group tend to blurt out answers without waiting their turn, interrupt conversations and activities of others, and act upon impulse without proper forethought. These children know and can recite proper social behavior, but do not follow what they know in practice.

People with the combined type of ADHD consistently exhibit signs and symptoms common in the other sub-types. They may have trouble sitting still and fidget constantly for a block of time and then seem to settle down and remain still and attentive. Teachers and parents mistakenly think that these children are listening and processing information during these periods of apparent calmness. In reality, they are zoning out and daydreaming, frequently without even realizing it.
ADHD Symptoms in Adults
Research shows that 30% to 70 % of children showing signs of ADHD still struggle with the symptoms of ADHD as adults. In other words, a significant number of people do not outgrow this chronic disorder. Typically, adults with ADHD do not show outward signs of hyperactivity. By adulthood, many have developed coping skills that help attenuate the hyperactivity associated with ADHD or they choose professions that do not require long periods of focused thought processes and concentration. Adults with ADHD become distracted at work, do not pre-plan activities, do not organize personal spaces well, and others may describe them as moody. They may seek impulsive thrills and make rash, impulsive decisions, which hinder their professional and personal development.
Everyone Has Some ADHD Symptoms
Everyone experiences periods of inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. Major life changes can temporarily bring on the common signs and symptoms of ADHD. Young children, teens, and adults alike are affected by major events, such as divorce, moving away from family and friends, and other common stressors. Parents, teachers, and even physicians can mistake symptoms from other disorders for those of ADHD. Anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and others can elicit behaviors in children and adults that look like ADHD. It is important that a qualified health care practitioner or specialists at residential treatment for young adults evaluate the person to determine the cause of the symptoms.

Neurofeedback for Depression and ADHD

Neurofeedback has been used successfully to improve brain function after brain injury, stroke, and in ADHD and depression for more than 15 years.

Neurofeedback is a scientific technique for measuring and modifying brain performance that has moved into the clinical setting to provide fast and lasting relief.

Neurofeedback is a special kind of biofeedback using an electro-encephalograph (EEG) to display the brain’s functioning. This information is presented to the patient graphically in real time to allow the person to learn to control the brain more effectively. In the case of ADHD, the person has limited ability to concentrate. On an EEG, the brain waves are similar to those of a normal person who is daydreaming. To train such a person, a variation of a computer game is created, where the motion of an object, such as an airplane, is controlled by brain waves. The patient sits in front a monitor, “flying” the plane to avoid obstacles and the ground. The patient is learning to control the brain waves that provide concentration while having fun. The result is that the patient learns to concentrate the attention where it will do the most good.

In the case of depression, there are characteristic brain wave patterns. With neurofeedback, those patterns can be replaced by ones characteristic of normal mental behavior without drugs and without talk therapy.

About the author: Cory Hammond is the immediate Past President of the International Society for Neuronal Regulation (ISNR), the Past President and a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, and the past Chair of the Board of Trustees of the ASCH Education and Research Foundation. He is a full Professor of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and a Psychologist at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Dr. Hammond has published 57 journal articles or reviews, 40 chapters, numerous sections in books, and 8 books, including a leading textbook, Handbook of Hypnotic Suggestions & Metaphors.