What is ADHD?

ADHD is one of the most common mental illnesses in children. It is estimated that 3 to 5 % of children have this condition. ADHD is often mistaken for a behavior problem, laziness, or even a developmental disability. Symptoms usually develop in early childhood, but are often undiagnosed until a child becomes school age.

Children with ADHD may have difficulty concentrating and/or they may have difficulty controlling their behavior. It is not unusual for their symptoms to appear different depending on their environment.

While social and environmental issues can play a role in ADHD, they are not believed to cause ADHD. It is more likely that a combination of genetics and biochemical factors are responsible.

Although social factors do not cause ADHD, they can often lead to symptoms that are mistaken for ADHD. Children who grow up in homes where there is inconsistent parenting or domestic violence or who live in impoverished and violence-prone neighborhoods are likely to display symptoms which mimic ADHD, but really reflect a normal response to an abnormal situation.

ADHS is mostly associated with children, however, adolescents and adults may also have this disorder.

Since children all display the symptoms associated with ADHD from time to time, it can be confusing to determine whether it is truly ADHD. In order to a child to be diagnosed with ADHD, their symptoms need to have appeared for the first time before the age of 7, be consistent over a period of at least 6 months, and significantly impair at least two areas of their life (school, home, friends).

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of ADHD fall into three different categories:

In-attention

  1. Becoming easily distracted by sights and sounds
  2. Failing to pay attention to details
  3. Making careless mistakes
  4. Rarely following instructions
  5. Losing or forgetting things
  6. Moving quickly from one activity to another

Hyper-activity

  1. Being in constant in motion
  2. Touching or playing with what ever is in sight
  3. Fidgeting or squirming
  4. Incessant talking

Impulsivity

  1. Blurting out answers before hearing the full question
  2. Constantly getting out of one’s seat when sitting behavior is expected
  3. Difficulty waiting in line or for one’s turn

Forms of Treatment

Behavioral Therapy

Children with ADHD often benefit from learning different ways to manage their symptoms and the problems their symptoms cause for them. Behavior Therapy, which can occur in the context of other forms of therapy, focuses on helping them to learn specific, concrete tasks that may allow them to be more organized, become less distracted, and feel more successful.

Some specific areas that behavioral therapy might focus on are:

  • Scheduling – Children with ADHD benefit greatly from having a regular routine from morning to evening that does not deviate from day to day.
  • Organizing – Helping children develop a specific spot for all their belongings helps them to feel less stress.
  • School and Homework – Writing down assignments and having separate notebooks or binders help children to stay on top of school work.

Family Therapy

A child diagnosed with ADHD can cause a tremendous amount of strain on the entire family. Families often benefit from being able to talk, with the assistance of a trained therapist, about their experiences so they can better support one another.

Medication Therapy

There are several medications that help to manage the symptoms of ADHD. Most stay in the body for only short periods of time so a child can receive only the amount of medication necessary to help them manage the life areas where their illness poses difficulties for them such as at school. The short-term nature of these medications thus requires frequent dosages and this may cause children to not want to comply with their medication regime. There are newer longer acting medicines now that help with this.

Most of the medicines for ADHD are in the stimulant family. For most of the general population, these medications would cause the body and pain to be overly stimulated. Because the pains of children with ADHD perform differently, these medications have the opposite effect for them.

Since both body chemistry and health issues are unique from child to child, there is not one medicine that is the “right” one for ADHD. The choice of medication needs to be determined by how a child responds and what other mental and physical health issues he/she might have.

Medications for ADHD should be prescribed by a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse.

Request Treatment

If you would like more information or an assessment by a mental health professional you can contact Catholic Charities Behavioral Health Services at

1-866-682-2166 or e-mail at counseling@camdendiocese.org