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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is, by definition, a neurodevelopmental disorder. That means it’s a pattern of behavior that interferes with daily functioning or development. Characterized by difficulty focusing, controlling impulsive behavior or staying organized, ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders in children, although it can develop at any age.
While we know that ADHD is often present with other mild mental health disorders, like anxiety and learning difficulties, a study published in the “BMJ Mental Health” journal now links it to more serious mental health issues, including anorexia nervosa and major clinical depression. That’s why the study’s authors — and our behavioral health experts — believe it’s important to be aware of the association so you can be more proactive in supporting your loved one with ADHD.
Most of the time, ADHD is diagnosed in children when teachers flag certain behaviors. For boys, those behaviors usually include hyperactivity, poor impulse control and inability to focus on schoolwork. For girls, however, teachers notice different tendencies, like daydreaming and the inability to follow through on detailed instructions.
In adults, ADHD symptoms can look different: While adult ADHD symptoms still generally include difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, for instance, may appear more like extreme restlessness.
Since other conditions — like anxiety, depression, sleep problems and certain types of learning disabilities — can have similar symptoms, health care providers use guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association to help them reach an ADHD diagnosis. Instead of performing a single test, doctors go through an exhaustive checklist of ADHD symptoms and gather a patient’s full medical and behavioral history.
Once ADHD is diagnosed, it’s commonly treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication.
At a time when Americans are experiencing challenges getting some of the medications needed to treat ADHD — including Adderall, Ritalin and generic forms of these drugs — scientists are urging doctors, people living with ADHD and their loved ones to be aware that ADHD could be an independent risk factor certain psychiatric disorders, including some that are severe.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first announced a shortage of Adderall, a medicine that works by improving focus and reducing impulsive behavior, in October 2022, citing a manufacturing issue. Since then, however, a rise in demand for ADHD medications has worsened the problem. To counteract the issue, the FDA has approved other types of ADHD medications in the past 12 months. But should your loved one be without medication for their ADHD, it’s crucial to stay on top of any changes in their behavior.
Behavioral Health Care with Heart
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ADHD or are living with a condition like depression, addiction, anxiety or bipolar disorder, our caring behavioral health specialists can help. You can count on our expert physicians, psychologists, social workers and counselors to work with you — and for you — to support your whole health.