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ADHD Adolescence Mental Health

Does Your Child Have ADHD?

ADHD is a common disorder that mental health professionals encounter. It has become a road-to-recoverygo-to diagnosis for physicians, whose first line of treatment is typically Adderal or Ritalin. However, ADHD diagnoses are often determined using elementary questionnaires, the answers to which are relative and rely on a patient’s (i.e., parent’s) willingness to be transparent rather than psychological clarification.

 

It’s important to recognize that there are many psychological issues that have similar traits to ADHD.  Often times, someone will present with ADHD traits when their actual diagnosis is depression, anxiety, or PTSD.  Using drugs like Adderal or Ritalin isn’t always a wise course of action. These drugs are both stimulants and highly addictive. While these drugs will certainly increase focus and attention, they will also mask the relevant and underlying issues that may be present. Additionally, they have severe side effects: paranoia, irregular heartbeat, and an increase in blood pressure, tremors, restlessness, hallucinations, and muscle twitches.

 

Finding a skilled mental-health professional will shift the course of your teen’s treatment; a qualified clinician can skillfully diagnose disorders that are similar in symptoms but which may require different treatment.  Diagnosing ADHD requires investigation into several areas. Doctors look at the following to determine if there is an issue of hyperactivity and impulsivity. This is often the more obvious form of ADHD and more easily recognizable because of the negative social constructs that occur. Note, a child or teen has to experience 6 or more of these symptoms for a minimum of 6 months to qualify for this diagnosis. ADHD is diagnosed by looking at the following issues (following info via PsychCentral):

 

Inattention

  • Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework)
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
  • Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities–even those the person performs regularly (e.g., a routine appointment)

  

Hyperactivity

  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
  • Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
  • Often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate (in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
  • Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
  • Often talks excessively

 

Impulsivity

  • Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  • Often has difficulty awaiting turn
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

 

Note, the DSM-5 lists three subcategories for ADHD, which are:

  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation — Symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity but not symptoms of inattention have been shown for at least 6 months.
  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation — Symptoms of inattention but not symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been shown for at least 6 months.
  • Combined Presentation — Symptoms of both hyperactive-impulsivity and inattentiveness have been shown for at least 6 months.

 

Regardless of where your child lands in the ADHD field, it’s important to have the appropriate clinical support, the willingness to accept the diagnosis, and the courage to do the work to support and care for your child. Creating schedules that your child can adhere to, having a therapist that your child relates to, and building an infrastructure of support can make managing ADHD and other similarly related issues easier for families. While it’s no walk in the park, it’s better to know than not know. It’s better to ask for help than to watch your child needlessly suffer.

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Addiction ADHD Adolescence Mental Health

ADHD Meds: Not Relief for Teen Stress!

Brain stress structures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The pressure on our kids starts early. I’m talking pre-school early. For many parents, their child’s pre-school becomes a status symbol. The kids, on the other hand, could care less. They just want blocks and naptime, really. What they don’t need is pressure. But as our little ones advance in age, they are introduced to the latest standards and school becomes less of a place to become intellectually enriched, and more of a place to try and attain the highest test score. Sure, great test scores are a wonderful achievement, but they are not everything. Unfortunately, the pressure to do well and to be the best puts a great deal of pressure on our kids, and honestly, most pre-teens and teens couldn’t tell you in earnest what they want to be when they grow up, let alone what college they plan on attending. For most kids, adolescence is similar to the hormonal version of Survivor: full of surprises and unexpected whirlwinds of emotional adventure (with some added fear-based scenarios tossed in for good measure.).

By the time they reach middle- and high-school age, pressure from parents and school administrators can really gnaw at the edge of adolescence. The pressure increases and kids start to fall apart in various ways: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug use, and other forms of teen stress.  An example of this are the kids who push themselves so hard, they use stimulants like Adderal or Ritalin (typically prescribed for ADHD) just to make it through their end-of-the-year finals. This is troubling. Those who truly suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder benefit from these drugs and need them in order to balance out their brain chemistry. But when someone without this disorder takes these drugs, they experience a classic amphetamine high. Their brains don’t need chemical balancing. Adolescence is prime time for brain development; the last thing it needs is to play the part of a petri dish just to do well on a test.

I wish we could eliminate this pressure and the inevitable teen stress, but realistically, we can’t. What we can do as parents, teachers, therapists, and mentors is encourage a sense of propriety in our kids. We can teach them early on to ways in which to manage their stress, and perhaps even avoid some of it altogether. When my son was a toddler, having tantrums and doing toddler things, I started teaching him breathing techniques to help him self-soothe. I often think going back to those basic self-soothing skills we learn when we’re young is beneficial for managing life as we get older. If you didn’t learn to self-soothe as a tot, you can pick up the pieces now. Learning to be gentle with ourselves when we’re under stress is an invaluable tool. Teens, in particular, need to find ways to manage stress without sinking into the negative patterns so common in adolescence. So, what can they do?

  • Breathe. Stop and take 10 deep breaths.
  • Take a break. 10 minutes of solace won’t destroy your chances for a good grade. If anything, it will allow your brain to recharge.
  • Eat something. Fruits, veggies and high-protein snacks keep your brain fueled. No fuel=foggy thinking.
  • Ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone.
  • Read something light and entertaining. In other words, take a break from the intensity of academics.

I think you get the idea. If we stop and take care of ourselves, we are less likely to take the risks of using someone else’s prescription to pass a test or to study. Sacrificing mental health and safety for good grades is self-sabotaging behavior. It’s not worth it.

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Addiction ADHD Mental Health

ADD and ADHD Prescription Drug Abuse

Just about anyone you talk to knows someone who has been diagnosed with ADHD. It makes you wonder how many people out there have it, but haven’t been diagnosed. I know that I have some of the textbook symptoms (ooh, look outside, the wind is blowing!). Recent research indicates that ADHD afflicts between eight and twelve percent of children and four percent of adults worldwide (August 27, 2009, Medscape Medical News). With an increase in diagnoses of ADHD there are increased prescriptions to treat ADHD. And yes, you guessed it; with increased prescriptions there are more cases of prescription-drug-abuse.

Prescription drug abuse as a whole is on the rise. It’s not surprising that ADHD meds, some of which are stimulant-based, are some of the most commonly abused. The same article from Medscape Medical News reported that 20-30% with a substance abuse diagnosis also have an ADHD diagnosis. It makes sense that adolescents with addictive traits would abuse their ADHD meds.

Teens are misusing their prescriptions in different ways. They take more than the indicated dose and many crush the pills up and snort them because that disables the time- release component in the pill. Some kids “cheek” or horde their meds for later use if their parents or a medical professional monitors their dose. Others trade their pills for other drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine. There are many stimulant-based meds for the treatment of ADHD out there, some of which are: Adderal, vivance, Dexadrine, Ritalin, and Concerta. Some psychiatrists prescribe Strattera as an alternative for teens that are prone to stimulant abuse.