Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a condition which usually includes problems with impaired attention, distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. It is thought to be among the most heritable (genetic) psychiatric conditions, and is commonly associated with other psychiatric diagnoses such as behavioral disorders, addictions, and mood disorders. ADHD has been described as akin to visual impairment, in that it is less a disease than a state of impaired function, with myriad potential consequences. Much as uncorrected impaired visual acuity can be the cause a wide range of problems in daily life, impaired attention and the reduced ability to inhibit behavioral impulses can similarly lead to a host of significant life challenges.
The diagnosis of ADHD is made through a comprehensive clinical assessment, often including research-supported rating scales and, in some cases, sophisticated neuropsychiatric tests to confirm the presence of the condition. Much has been reported in the popular media about the surge in the diagnosis of ADHD in recent decades, and yet both under- and over-diagnosis remain challenges. Children with ADHD who do not come to clinical attention often suffer from a broad range of academic, behavioral, and interpersonal problems. Adults with untreated ADHD often present to psychiatric clinics seeking treatment for long-standing problems with mood, anxiety, and substance misuse, having never been identified as having from ADHD during childhood.
Once a formal diagnosis has been established, the treatment of ADHD should include a personalized set of interventions to reduce the burden of the condition. While psychiatric medications are commonly helpful in the management of symptoms, they are rarely sufficient to accomplish full resolution of the impairments resulting from the condition. Dietary choices can have a profound impact on one’s capacity to sustain attention. The treatment of co-occurring conditions such as depression, anxiety, or addictions is integral to the process of relieving suffering and promoting a return to normal developmental processes. Relationships can be intensely strained by the symptoms of ADHD in one or both partners, and psychotherapeutic exploration of these themes can be very helpful.