ADHD: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

ADHD: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Do you have trouble focusing on everyday tasks like chores or work? Do you find organization or following through with responsibilities difficult? Are you a pro at procrastination? You could be suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADD and ADHD are chronic neurological disorders that cause a range of behavioral problems, such as difficulty focusing, following instructions, completing tasks, and controlling impulses. Originally, people who experienced symptoms like having trouble concentrating, listening, or managing time were diagnosed with ADD, while people who experienced those symptoms plus hyperactive or impulsive symptoms were diagnosed with ADHD. Today, the term ADD is not used. Rather, ADD is considered a subtype of ADHD. There are three subtypes of ADHD:
  • ADHD predominantly inattentive presentation (what used to be called ADD)
  • ADHD predominantly hyperactive/impulsive presentation
  • ADHD combined presentation
Because the term ADD is not regularly used anymore, we will refer to the condition as ADHD for the remainder of this article, which encompasses what used to be referred to as ADD. If you have been diagnosed with ADHD, you’re certainly not alone. An estimated 8.4 percent[1] of children and 2.5 percent[1] of adults have this condition. Despite it being such a common disorder, most people aren’t aware of the root cause of ADHD. Neurologically speaking, ADHD is brain circuitry gone awry. The difficulty people have with focusing, completing tasks, and controlling impulses occurs due to dysfunction in a part of the brain called the limbic system. The good news is that this faulty circuitry can be rewired thanks to neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural pathways. In this article, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about ADHD, including how re-origin, a neuroplasticity-based treatment program, can help you eliminate the dysfunctional brain patterns and re-establish normalcy and balance.

Symptoms of ADHD

There are three main symptoms of ADHD: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The symptoms, however, vary depending on the type of ADHD a person is experiencing, as well as age and gender. Let’s take a look at how symptoms commonly manifest in children, men, and women.

Symptoms of ADHD

In children, the most common symptoms include:
  • A lack of attention
  • Extreme hyperactivity
  • A tendency to make impulsive decisions
  • Interrupting the teacher or friends
  • Difficulty listening
  • Inability to multi-task
  • Inability to focus on one task
  • Disorganized and forgetful
While all children will likely display some of these behaviors from time to time, they may have ADHD if these symptoms are the norm.

Symptoms in adult men

In adults, symptoms may not be as apparent as they are in children. Additionally, symptoms in adults can differ depending on the gender of the individual. In men, symptoms might present themselves as:
  • Disorganization
  • Tendency to miss appointments
  • Tendency to pay bills very late
  • Need to constantly be active or fidgeting
  • Tendency to be impulsive
  • Potential memory challenges with important tasks
  • Difficulty paying attention

Symptoms in adult women

Women are often diagnosed much later in life because they present symptoms in more subtle ways. In women, symptoms can be similar to those in men, however, inattentiveness tends to be the most prominent symptom. Other potential symptoms in women include:
  • Feeling uncomfortable in large crowds
  • Feeling unable to shut out distractions
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Depression and/or anxiety

Causes and risk factors of ADHD

While ADHD has long been considered a behavioral disorder, more recent research suggests it’s actually a neurological disorder[2]. In the largest-ever brain imaging study on ADHD, researchers determined through MRI scans that in people with ADHD[3], there are changes in certain structures in (and relating to) the limbic system. These structures include the amygdala, hippocampus, caudate nucleus, putamen, and nucleus accumbens.
The limbic system is the part of the brain that drives your primal fight/flight/freeze response. Under normal circumstances, the protective mechanisms of the limbic system would only become activated in times of appropriate danger or threat. However, if the limbic system becomes impaired as a result of various forms of trauma[4], it can cause “cross-wiring” of normal neuronal circuits in the brain. When these changes occur, it can lead to distorted, unconscious reactions, which trigger the behavioral changes that are seen with ADHD.
Changes in the limbic system, such as those seen in ADHD, typically occur when a high chronic stress load[5] combines with an acute infection, injury, or another traumatic event. The combination of stressors essentially overwhelms the brain, causing it to go into an extreme survival mode in which it’s hypersensitive and hyper-reactive.
As we’ve mentioned, ADHD can affect people of all ages, however, it most commonly develops before age 12[6]. If a child with ADHD is not treated, however, the condition can continue into adulthood. Some risk factors that may make one more likely to develop the disorder include:
  • Having a high chronic stress load
  • Experiencing traumatic or stressful life events (contracting a virus, getting in an accident, experiencing an emotional event, etc.)
  • Experiencing traumas or stressful events in close succession
  • Experiencing trauma in childhood
  • Having a relative who suffers from ADHD

How ADHD is Diagnosed

Healthcare professionals, such as doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists, can diagnose ADHD using the guidelines set forth by the DSM-5, a book that helps guide the diagnosis of psychological disorders and diseases.

It’s important to note that those who are diagnosed with ADHD generally have the same symptoms for at least six months or longer[7], and in more than one setting. These factors are what account for the difference between a disorder and a tendency to act a certain way in a particular location.
There is no single test that can confirm an ADHD diagnosis. Rather, the diagnostic process typically includes a physical exam to rule out other possible causes, information gathering, and ADHD rating scales or psychological tests.

How ADHD is Treated

While more and more research is pointing to the fact that ADHD is caused by changes in the limbic system, this understanding has not fully infiltrated traditional medicine. As such, using neuroplasticity to eliminate ADHD is not yet common practice. The most common treatment methods that are currently used to treat ADHD include:

Medication

Medication is one of the primary ways that doctors treat patients with ADHD. Stimulants are typically the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD, but other medications, such as certain antidepressants, may also be prescribed.
These medications help boost or balance levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which may help reduce or eliminate some of the symptoms the individual is experiencing. The major downside of these medications is that they don’t address the root neurological cause of the dysfunction. As such, when people stop taking the medications, their symptoms often resume. This class of medications also comes with a long list of potential side effects and many people have difficulty discontinuing use.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Another method used to treat attention deficit disorder is psychological counseling. One of the most common types of therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps you learn specific skills to manage your behaviors and change negative thinking patterns.
The process of treating ADHD through CBT often takes many months, and sometimes even years, of weekly visits to a therapist. While CBT can be helpful for ADHD sufferers, it often doesn’t address the root neurological cause and can be quite expensive, which is a drawback for many patients.

Natural Remedies and Individual Behavioral Management

To avoid medication, some people with ADHD turn to lifestyle remedies and individual behavioral management methods, such as being more active, changing their diet, following a routine, breaking down tasks into steps, and making to-do lists.
While these types of changes may help temporarily, they are generally not enough to eliminate the symptoms of ADHD completely. This is because they don’t address the dysfunctional limbic system, which is perpetuating the symptoms.

How We Approach ADHD

ADHD occurs when the limbic system becomes traumatized and stuck in a state of “fight or flight” due to persistent stress, a traumatic event, or a series of traumatic events. When in this impaired state, the limbic system repeatedly sends out inappropriate signals, leading to the behavioral patterns associated with ADHD.
The good news is that these symptoms are temporary and can be reversed. At re-origin, we focus on addressing the root cause of ADHD: an impaired limbic system[2]. By interrupting the faulty neural pathways in the brain and calming the overactive threat-response system, you can permanently and fully recover from ADHD, no matter how long you’ve been struggling with it.
Through re-origin, you’ll learn specific neurocognitive exercises that will help you create new, functional neural pathways and get back to a place of safety and balance where normal thought processes, actions, and reactions can resume.
re-origin’s approach is self-directed, meaning you can implement it entirely on your own, restoring homeostasis to your brain. Additionally, this treatment does not chase or mask symptoms, but rather works to rewire the part of the brain that is causing the dysfunction (the limbic system), resulting in long-lasting recovery. The program is easy to follow, cost-effective, and takes just minutes a day to practice.

How to Live and Cope with ADHD

At re-origin, we believe that nobody should have to live or cope with ADHD. We want you to eliminate your symptoms and re-establish normalcy, eliminating the need for coping mechanisms altogether. Our program involves applying an easy-to-follow, five-step neurocognitive technique to override and rewire faulty conditioning in the brain and create new, healthy neural pathways.
The key to overcoming ADHD lies in systematically applying our techniques and being persistent and consistent in your efforts. With dedication and repetition, you can change your brain and consequently, the behavioral patterns associated with ADHD.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions about ADHD:
ADD is now considered one of the subtypes of ADHD. When the condition presents predominantly with inattention, the term ADD may be used.
If you suspect you have ADD or ADHD, you should visit your primary care physician for a thorough evaluation. They will perform a physical exam, ask you questions about your medical history and symptoms, and perform psychological testing.

There are several symptoms of ADHD, however, nine common ones include:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Disorganization
  • Poor time management abilities
  • Difficulty focusing on one task
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Excessive restlessness
  • Poor planning
  • Low tolerance for frustration
While ADHD was once considered a behavioral disorder, research now suggests that it’s actually a neurological disorder that occurs due to changes in the limbic system.
ADHD tends to arise when someone experiences an emotional or physical trauma while their stress load is already high. This causes the limbic system to go into a maladaptive state that triggers dysfunctional behaviors.
Because ADHD can cause people to have difficulty focusing and remaining attentive, this can affect how they act in social settings. For example, people with ADHD may have difficulty maintaining a conversation and connecting with others.

A Final Word from re-origin

No matter how long you’ve been living with ADHD, you can overcome your symptoms and reclaim your life by addressing the maladaptive conditioning in your limbic system. By consistently applying the neuroplasticity-based exercises taught in re-origin, you’ll be correcting the dysfunctional part of the brain, thereby restoring normal limbic system function.
With patience and repetition, the changes occurring in your brain will start to reflect outwardly in a reduction of your ADHD symptoms. They’ll keep lessening and lessening until one day you’ll realize you’re free from the behavioral patterns that have debilitated you for so long.
Our program is based on decades of research and development and aims to put an end to your suffering once and for all. You can learn more about the re-origin neuroplasticity training program with a free trial.

References

  1. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/adhd/what-is-adhd
  2. Plessen, K. J., Bansal, R., Zhu, H., Whiteman, R., Amat, J., Quackenbush, G. A., Martin, L., Durkin, K., Blair, C., Royal, J., Hugdahl, K., & Peterson, B. S. (2006). Hippocampus and amygdala morphology in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Archives of general psychiatry, 63(7), 795–807. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.63.7.795. Available From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2367150/
  3. Hoogman, M., Bralten, J., Hibar, D. P., Mennes, M., Zwiers, M. P., Schweren, L. S., … & Franke, B. (2017). Subcortical brain volume differences in participants with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults: a cross-sectional mega-analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry, 4(4), 310-319.
  4. Bremner, J. D., Elzinga, B., Schmahl, C., & Vermetten, E. (2007). Structural and functional plasticity of the human brain in posttraumatic stress disorder. Progress in brain research, 167, 171-186.
  5. Bremner J. D. (2006). Traumatic stress: effects on the brain. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 8(4), 445–461. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2006.8.4/jbremner. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181836/
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adult-adhd/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350883
  7. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/diagnosing-adhd