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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects attention and behaviour.


There are three main subtypes of ADHD:

  1. Inattentive Type: characterized by difficulty with attention, organization, and following through on tasks.

  2. Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: characterized by hyperactivity and impulsiveness, often acting without thinking about the consequences.

  3. Combined Type: the most common subtype, characterized by symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.

These subtypes are not mutually exclusive, and individuals can exhibit symptoms from multiple subtypes.

A Note on Executive Function: 

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects attention and behaviour, but it is not solely characterized by executive dysfunction. Executive dysfunction can be a component of ADHD, as individuals with ADHD often have difficulties with executive functions such as planning, organizing, and prioritizing tasks. However, executive impairment syndrome refers to a broader set of problems that can occur as a result of damage or dysfunction in the brain's executive control system, and can affect individuals with or without ADHD. So while ADHD and executive impairment syndrome can overlap, they are not synonymous terms.


A proper diagnosis of ADHD should be made by a qualified healthcare professional, but this is why assessments may or may not include a cognitive assessment.  It is important but an assessment can occur without a cognitive assessment as long as other cognitive impairment are rules out in the clinical evaluation process.


ADHD in Adults

In adults, ADHD can present differently than in children and adolescents. Some common symptoms of ADHD in adults include:

  1. Inattention: Difficulty paying attention, forgetfulness, easily distracted, disorganized and often losing things.

  2. Impulsiveness: Making hasty decisions, interrupting others, acting without thinking, and difficulty controlling emotions.

  3. Hyperactivity: Feeling restless, fidgety, and having trouble sitting still or relaxing.

  4. Executive dysfunction: Difficulty with planning, prioritizing tasks, and completing projects.

  5. Emotional dysregulation: Quick to anger, irritable, and prone to mood swings.

  6. Relationships difficulties: Struggling to form and maintain relationships, misinterpreting social cues, and having difficulty reading nonverbal cues.

  7. Career difficulties: Chronic lateness, losing or quitting jobs, difficulty meeting deadlines, and struggling to stay organized.

ADHD Assessment

A definitive diagnosis of ADHD requires a comprehensive evaluation that takes into account multiple sources of information. The criteria for ADHD diagnosis are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).


In Australia, ADHD is typically diagnosed by a qualified healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or paediatrician, using a combination of methods,  including:

  1. Clinical evaluation: The clinician will conduct a thorough assessment of the individual's symptoms, medical history, and behavioral patterns.

  2. Rating scales: The clinician may use rating scales, such as the CAARS or the ASRS, to help evaluate the presence and severity of ADHD symptoms.

  3. Additional rating scales such as the PAI or the PCL-5 are often included to assess for co-morbitity or rule out other disorders.

  4. Interviews with family members, teachers or others who know the individual well can provide important information about their symptoms and behaviour.

  5. A medical examination may be performed to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing symptoms similar to ADHD.


Treatment Options
for ADHD

The most effective evidence-based treatments for ADHD include:

  1. Psychological intervention such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and psychological support to develop coping strategies, improve their organizational skills, and manage their emotions are both effective and helpful interventions.

  2. Parent Training and Family Therapy approaches can help parents and families develop strategies for managing ADHD behaviours and improving family dynamics.

  3. Lifestyle Changes including regular exercise, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and stress management can help individuals with ADHD manage their symptoms.

  4. Both stimulant & non-stimulant medications are  commonly prescribed for ADHD and have been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity. 

  5. Combined Treatment: A combination of medication and psychotherapy is often the most effective treatment approach for ADHD.

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