Approximately 5 to 10% of children between the ages of 6 and 18 years are affected by ADHD. Boys are 3 to 4 times more affected than girls. For a long time people believed that ADHD occurs solely during childhood. But in 30% of the affected children the symptoms persist – possibly in a milder form -, frequently combined with additional psychiatric disorders as depressions, anxiety disorders or dependencies. Adults with ADHD are often not diagnosed until a diagnosis has been made for one of their children.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder is a neurobiological brain function disorder, which often causes significant implications for the affected person’s professional and private life. It is presumed that this condition is caused by an imbalance between individual neurotransmitters leading to disturbed information processing between different areas of the brain, which are responsible for concentration, conception, and impulse control.
Hence new information can be less well filtered and the persons affected become constantly over-stimulated. They are struggling to distinguish what is important from what is unimportant and is hard for them to focus on main points. Due to the high rate of occurrence within families a genetic predisposition does probably exist, but birth asphyxia and other environmental influences are said to be contributing elements, too.
ADHD is mainly characterized by symptoms such as attention deficiencies and disorganization, hyperactivity, impulsiveness and labile affect.
Lack of concentration while reading longer texts – work instructions! -, difficulty following longer conversations and lectures attentively. A person with ADHD becomes even more distracted while performing subjectively boring activities, for example routine activities. New tasks are continually being started with older tasks not being finished, preventing the formation of patterns, which would be required for establishing structures. This implies disorder and chaotic organisation: The persons affected are not able to multitask, they have problems to organise their daily life and they have poor time management skills. They frequently change jobs, interrupt their life career and generally even face financial difficulties. In their private lives they are often unhappy in relationships, break up with their partners more often, have unstable friendships and have difficulties parenting their own children, too. The consequences are reduced self-esteem and feelings of failure.
Hyperactivity is generally less pronounced in adults, but can reflect in the inability to remain seated for longer periods (flights, cinema, lectures etc.). The affected persons often jiggle feet or tap the table with their fingers.
Emotional liability and hyperexcitability with rapidly changing moods up to several times per day may occur spontaneously but can also be initialised from the outside. The affected persons react extremely emotionally to daily stress factors; they are impatient with others, interrupt their counterpart during a conversation, are increasingly irritable, have a low frustration tolerance and tend to risky driving behaviour. On the other hand: Adults with ADHD are often very creative and have associative thinking abilities. When they are occupied with tasks they are interested in, they can work extremely hard and persistently. They even become specialists on many occasions. They are very sensitive towards interpersonal vibrations, can be very empathetic, enthusiastic and impulsive.
Diagnosing ADHD is mainly a clinical process including neuropsychological tests.
There are various therapeutic options, as for example concentration techniques, self-organisation techniques and conflict management training. The treatment should be customized for each individual according to their specific needs. Moreover, education of patients, families, and teachers regarding the diagnosis is an integral part of treatment. In more severe cases medication might be required.
The treatment is focused on improvements in daily life, education, job, career, personal and family life.