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Defining ADHD ​​​continued

From the National Resource Center on ADHD, ​​CHADD.org:

Approximately 10 million adults have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In early adulthood, ADHD may be associated with depression, mood or conduct disorders and substance abuse. Adults with ADHD often cope with difficulties at work and in their personal and family lives related to ADHD symptoms.  Many have inconsistent performance at work or in their careers; have difficulties with day-to-day responsibilities; experience relationship problems; and may have chronic feelings of frustration, guilt or blame.

Individuals with ADHD may also have difficulties with maintaining attention, executive function and working memory.  Recently, deficits in executive function have emerged as key factors affecting academic and career success. Executive function is the brain’s ability to prioritize and manage thoughts and actions. This ability permits individuals to consider the long-term consequences of their actions and guide their behavior across time more effectively.  Individuals who have issues with executive functioning may have difficulties completing tasks or may forget important things. (Oh yes, this is definitely me.)


​ADHD is a neurobiological disorder that affects individuals across the lifespan, and not merely a childhood affliction.


Individuals with ADHD exhibit behavior that is often seen as impulsive, disorganized, aggressive, overly sensitive, intense, emotional, or disruptive. Their social interactions with others in their social environment—parents, siblings, teachers, friends, co-workers, spouses/partners—are often filled with misunderstanding and miscommunication.

Those with ADHD have a decreased ability to self-regulate their actions and reactions toward others. This can cause relationships to be tense and fragile.


From the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, ADDA.org

ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors. 


These brain operations are collectively referred to as “executive functioning skills” and include important functions such as attention, concentration, memory, motivation and effort, learning from mistakes, impulsivity, hyperactivity, organization, and social skills.  There are various contributing factors that play a role in these challenges including chemical and structural differences in the brain as well as genetics.


While there is still much that is unknown, there are some clear insights gained by research to date:

ADHD is NOT caused by: poor parenting, falls or head injuries, traumatic life events, digital distractions, video games and television, lack of physical activity, food additives, food allergies, or excess sugar. (Researchers used to believe that ADHD was related to minor head injuries and brain damage, but most people with ADHD have no such history and this theory has been disproved.  Others have speculated that refined sugar and food additives cause ADHD symptoms.) While refined sugar may not be good for one’s health in general, there has not been any scientifically proven correlation between sugar or food additives and ADHD.

​ADHD IS caused by chemical, structural, and connectivity differences in the brain, mostly as a result of genetics.

Seek out a psychiatrist, psychologist, or psychotherapist specializing in ADHD and related challenges if you would like to be evaluated for ADHD.  While a primary care physician can typically identify signs of ADHD and give a preliminary diagnosis, they may not have the extensive ADHD-specific experience necessary to accurately diagnose and treat ADHD. Often, a primary care physician will refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist specializing in mental health in these instances, just as they would refer you to a cardiologist for a more in-depth exploration of a heart problem.  Teachers and coaches cannot diagnose ADHD.

ADHD is recognized as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Some individuals with ADHD require accommodations in school and/or the workplace to support their challenges. There is a higher than normal incidence of learning disorders in the ADHD population, making the need for academic accommodations more common. The first step to pursuing accommodations is to check on your school and office protocols, read up on your rights under the law, and consider neuropsychological testing, which may be necessary for approval.