Children and adults are being increasingly referred for assessment and treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Individuals with ADHD commonly have difficulties with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Problems with organization and memory may also be present, together with moodiness, irritability, difficulties getting along with others, and getting things accomplished.
Those with ADHD experience these problems more frequently and more intensely than might others and their lives can therefore be more troubled. A child’s behaviour for example can test the abilities and patience of a parent and teachers and create failure in school even if the child has good intelligence and potential. Similarly, adults with ADHD often have difficulties at work and in their relationship with others and they can be difficult to live with.
True ADHD is something that we are born with; it is not something that we can ‘catch’ nor something that we can simply easily let go of by merely willing it. Emotional and behavioural problems that are due to anxiety or depression or trauma can show many of the same characteristics of ADHD. A differential diagnosis by a trained professional can do a comprehensive assessment to determine the difference.
Contact Gilmour Psychological Services in Ottawa to schedule a consultation with a psychologist who has an expertise in ADHD.
Dr. Smyth’s chapter clarifies the issues, the diagnosis, and also the treatment approaches that are most effective. No longer do individuals with ADHD have to hear that they are lazy, bad, insensitive, incapable, or hopeless. We now know more about this condition and both children and adults and all those who care deeply about them and want to help can look forward to a future that is far more bright and hopeful.
If you recognize that you or your child has experienced the symptoms of ADHD since early in life, and you recognize that these symptoms are causing significant difficulties at home, and at school or in the work place, referral to a mental health professional is certainly appropriate.
A psychologist can help. By using specialized assessment and treatment methods ADHD can be properly diagnosed and worked with , and the families and friends and teachers who are involved or affected can also come to know how they in turn can best assist.
If a diagnosis of ADHD is made, a number of treatment strategies will be offered by the professional, based on the particular difficulties of the individual. As noted in this chapter, some individuals receiving this diagnosis are primarily inattentive while others are primarily hyperactive and impulsive. Still others show significant problems with attention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that individuals with ADHD may differ in terms of the problems that are most prominent in their adjustment.
Medication, usually stimulant medication, is often recommended. Many factors need to be taken into account to determine if the prescription of medication is in the individual's best interest. Only a medical doctor is trained and legally permitted to prescribe and monitor medication. Therefore, social workers and clinical psychologists who diagnose ADHD refer children and adults to psychiatrists if they feel that medication may be useful to the individual.
Parents are also taught to apply behaviour management programs designed by the professional to cope with the child's problems at home while teachers are helped to design programs to address the child's problems in the school setting. Children whose impulsive behaviours lead to conflicts with peers are often helped to achieve better interpersonal relationships through social skills training groups. Adults who are diagnosed as suffering from ADHD can also benefit from the use of medication.
Therapists can also teach the adult with ADHD time management and self-organizational skills. The teaching of anger management and communication skills may also be appropriate for some adults. Most large urban communities have support groups for parents and adults who suffer from ADHD (i.e. C.H.A.D.D. – a support group for parents, which can be easily accessed). It is important to recognize, however, that involvement in a support group cannot replace professional assessment and treatment.
You can obtain a referral to a health professional practicing in this field through your family doctor, your child's teacher, an Employee Assistance Counselor, or through your state or provincial professional associations for doctors, psychologists or social workers. If an "official" diagnosis is required to access special services within the school system, assessment by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist would ensure the most comprehensive treatment following assessment. Similarly, services provided by different health professionals are not always reimbursed by insurance companies or may be reimbursed to varying degrees. As appropriate, in-depth assessment and treatment of ADHD is a relatively time consuming process, the wise consumer will take the time to make sure that they will be able to obtain full, comprehensive service prior to taking this important step for themselves or their child.
Read more about the author of this chapter and Gilmour psychologist, Dr. Frances Smyth.