ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. From 1980 to 1987, it was known as ADD, which stands for Attention Deficit Disorder. Rather than ADD and ADHD comprising of two separate disorders (as is sometimes believed), ADHD is broken down into three subtypes:
- Predominantly inattentive (ADHD-PI or ADHD-I)
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive (ADHD-PH or ADHD-HI)
- Combined type (ADHD-C)
That said, ADHD is better understood now to include other symptoms. A more full list includes the following nine symptoms:
- Impulsiveness/Difficulty delaying gratification
- Poor planning
- Irritability/Low frustration tolerance
- Constant mood swings / Mood lability
- Trouble coping with stress (emotional dysregulation)
- Disorganization/Difficulty in Prioritizing
- Time management difficulties
- Difficulty finishing or focusing on a specific task
- Difficulty or inability to multitask
Executive Function/Self Regulation
As you can see, this list is far more expansive than the commonly-held belief that ADHD is merely a deficit in “paying attention.” This is because ADHD really represents a deficit in executive function or self-regulation. In fact, it’s been suggested by people like Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D. that a more appropriate acronym would be SRDD (Self-regulation deficit disorder). As he writes in The Important Role of Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation in ADHD©.
“If ADHD involves difficulties in these faculties and these are the human mental abilities that are involved in our regulating our own behavior, then logically ADHD ought to be a disorder of self-regulation. Since then, research has continued to affirm the involvement of deficits in these and other mental abilities that are essential for effective self regulation in people with ADHD resulting in a tacit acceptance of the idea that ADHD is actually SRDD (self-regulation deficit disorder). While the official name for the disorder will not be changed anytime soon in the official manual that grants names to mental disorders, it is important that people understand this equivalence of ADHD with self-regulation deficits.“
Here is an informative video by Jessica McCabe of How to ADHD.
What does ADHD do to a person?
People with ADHD generally experience the nine symptoms listed above. This can make everyday situations far more difficult for a person with ADHD relative to their neurotypical peers. This is true for both children and adults. These challenges along with the emotional dysregulation that often comes with ADHD often lead to comorbidities like anxiety and depression.
Children with ADHD
For a child, difficulty organizing and staying focused can have an impact on academic success. Hyperactivity and difficulty focusing may make sitting still and paying attention seemingly impossible. Impulsivity and irritability may lead to friction with their peers, making stable friendships difficult for a child with ADHD to maintain. This is one of the reasons children with this disorder often face bullying from certain peers.
Adult ADHD poses a similar set of challenges, especially in our modern, fast-paced world where we’re expected to function as cogs in a machine. Adults with ADHD may face challenges at work, including frequently showing up late, difficulty completing projects or tasks, or even paying attention in meetings. Emotional dysregulation also leads to constant negative feelings over matters that may seem trivial to a neurotypical person. Many people with adult ADHD even experience something called impostor syndrome.
Fortunately, treatment is available in the form of medication (both stimulant and non-stimulant) therapy and other non-medicinal treatments. These include programs that improve things like emotional intelligence. working memory and organizational skills.
Resources on ADHD