attention deficit hyperactivity disorder causes

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How do you know if you have ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)? What makes this condition recognizable for an adult?

This is the second in a series of articles on recognizing ADHD in yourself as an adult, its main causes, proper diagnosis, and suggestions regarding how to address it.

As mentioned in our previous article, individuals with the disorder show a consistent pattern of three different categories of symptoms:

  • Inattention (difficulty paying attention)
  • Hyperactivity (being overactive)
  • Impulsiveness (acting without weighing consequences)

In addition to the categories of symptoms, there are also three types of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder that some combination of the above symptom categories would designate an individual as: ADHD/Inattentive Type, ADHD/Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, and Combined ADHD Type. This article will discuss some causes of the disorder, diagnoses, and treatment. For more information regarding the three types of ADHD, and the primary symptoms of each one, please refer to the previous article in this series.

Causes of ADHD           
The exact cause of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not yet known. Many issues in childhood can lead to difficulty sustaining attention, though that wouldn’t necessarily be considered to be the same as ADHD. For one, sugar consumption has long been suspected of being a cause of inattention and/or hyperactivity, though there’s no research-based evidence that would support this possibility.

Factors that may affect the development of ADHD can be:

  • The mix of genetics that makes the development of ADHD likely can certainly run in a family.
  • Problems in the central nervous system at certain significant moments during development are considered to be likely as a contributive factor.
  • Some environmental factors (e.g., exposure to lead often found in paint and pipes in older buildings) can likely increase the risks.

This list of possible causes of ADHD is not exhaustive, and the study of the condition continues. Maternal drug use, alcohol use, and/or smoking during pregnancy as well as premature birth are considered to be additional possible risk factors.

Additional concerns
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder can make life fraught with problems for children, then later as adolescents, and even later as adults. Individuals with ADHD often:

  • Are frequently known to be more accident- and injury-prone than others who do not have ADHD
  • Struggle with poor self-esteem and lack of feeling socially accepted
  • Struggle to pay attention, which may lead to a subpar performance in work and other life endeavors, resulting in subsequent prejudice by other adults
  • Have shown an increased risk for a predisposition to abuse alcohol and/or drugs as well as other antisocial behavior

Other conditions
ADHD doesn’t spark other problems psychological, developmental, or otherwise. But individuals with ADHD are more likely than others to also grapple with conditions such as:

  • Anxiety disorders –which can cause overwhelming worry, insecurity, and/or nervousness
  • Depression – very common for individuals with ADHD
  • Learning disabilities –that include problems with comprehension and communicating confidently
  • Disruptive mood dysregulation disorderindicated by heightened irritability and problems coping with frustration
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) – which is typically recognized as a pattern of negative, defiant, and hostile behavioral patterns toward authority figures
  • Conduct disorder – characterized by antisocial behavior
  • Bipolar disorder – a combination of depression coupled with manic behavior
  • Tourette’s syndromeknown as a neurological disorder reflected by repetitive muscle or vocal tics.

ADHD Diagnosis
No single test exists that can be reliably used to diagnose attention-deficit hyperactive disorder. As mentioned in our previous article, ADHD is typically diagnosed initially when a child consistently exhibits a majority or all of the recognized symptoms consistently for more than six months.

For a reliable diagnosis, you should receive a full physical, including screenings for vision and hearing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid (NEBA) System, a non-invasive cerebral scan meant to monitor theta and beta brain waves. The theta/beta ratio will typically be higher for individuals with attention-deficit hyperactive disorder than for those without.

A comprehensive medical history should also be taken into account to screen for additional conditions that could be affecting you. ADHD-like symptoms and behaviors that can help determine whether you have ADHD or something else includes:

  • Thyroid problems
  • Problems sleeping
  • Unrecognized seizures
  • Recent significant life changes (such as the death of someone close to you, death of a long-time pet, divorce, moving)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

As previously mentioned in our last article, even though ADHD symptoms more often than not begin during childhood, hyperactivity will often diminish as a child grows into adolescence. Common symptoms (problems with paying attention, poor impulse control, and disorganization) may persist through an individual’s teens, on through college, and into adulthood. In the next article in the Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder series, we will discuss Adult ADHD in more depth.

Do you feel you might have ADHD as an adult? It is treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.


What's the Story with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?

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How do you know if you have ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)? What makes this condition recognizable?

This is the first of a series of articles on recognizing ADHD as an adult, the disorder’s backstory, and how to address it.

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a condition that makes it difficult for an individual to pay attention, follow the thread of a conversation, and reign in impulsive behaviors. He or she may also be restless, reckless, and virtually always active. Note that even though symptoms of ADHD typically begin during childhood, hyperactivity will often minimize as a child grows into adolescence. However, common symptoms (problems with paying attention, poor impulse control, and disorganization) are also frequently seen to persist through an individual’s teens, on through college, and into adulthood.

Individuals with ADHD show a consistent pattern of three different categories of symptoms:

  • Inattention (difficulty paying attention)
  • Hyperactivity (being overactive)
  • Impulsiveness (acting without thinking)

Three Primary Types of ADHD

ADHD/Inattentive Type (previously known simply as ADD)Individuals with this type the disorder typically get first labeled as children as dreamers, spacy, ditzy, unmotivated, lazy, unambitious, etc. One common trait is repeated forgetfulness (leaving things behind and/or losing them), and frequent “zoning out” in meetings or during conversations. He or she might miss an exit going home and not realize it for quite a while. An ADHD-prone individual may also run out of gas after forgetting to fill up during the work week. Friendships may suffer because the individual forgets get-togethers, or may wander past others without noticing them. Why? Because his or her mind is preoccupied with other things. This type of the disorder is the second most common type.

Maybe you’ve wondered if you have ADHD or perhaps something else. There is no blood or imaging test to diagnose the disorder, though if an individual as a child consistently showed signs of six of the following nine symptoms for more than six months (and on into adulthood), there’s a good chance for an ADHD/inattentive type diagnosis. Here is a frequently used ADHD checklist:

  1. Very easily distracted and sidetracked
  2. “Spacey” and forgetful throughout the day’s activities
  3. Will often avoid activities that take a lot of mental effort for long periods of time
  4. Doesn’t seem to pay attention when spoken to directly
  5. Frequently has a hard time staying on one task until completion
  6. Careless, sloppy, pays little attention to instructions and details
  7. Often loses materials and/or paperwork required for work and/or activities
  8. Typically disregards instructions, and does not follow through on chores or homework (usually because of a lack of comprehension, not out of rebellion).
  9. Has difficulty with organization and tidiness

ADHD/Hyperactive-Impulsive TypeThis type is far less common in children, though this type of the disorder typically manifests the type of behaviors most associated with ADHD. Only about 5 percent of with the disorder are classified as this type, and usually signs of ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive will have been recognized by the time a child is of preschool age. Most of the other ADHD diagnoses will be of the inattentive type, or the combined type.

Hyperactive/Impulsive individuals when children are typically viewed as “bratty,” obnoxious, unruly, wild, ill-behaved, etc. A hyperactive individual may have been very likeable as a child, but may have been considered to be an incorrigible “class clown.” Individuals who grow up with this type of ADHD are often thrill-seekers, restlessly active, etc. As children they may have grabbed toys from other children and/or refused to share long after classmates had learned the concept. Hyperactive child may have frequently continued to play at recess in school after the bell rang to go back inside, and may have frequently pretended not to hear parents and teachers. It would come as no surprise to see them push other children, yell, frighten/intimidate others, etc. Hyperactive-Impulsive children were most often those that would not nap, sit still, or stop disturbing a class by talking to others–they were often seen as “problem children.”

Your child grown into an adult with the hyperactive-impulsive disorder would likely have shown six of the following nine symptoms consistently over six months, many of which would have carried forward into adulthood:

  1. Frequent trouble doing leisure activities quietly
  2. Is ever on the go (think of someone being “driven by a motor”)
  3. Is a “pushy” driver, having difficulty waiting for his or her turn
  4. Talks excessively, rapidly
  5. “Fidgety” or “bouncy” with hands and feet, squirmy while seated
  6. Frequently stands up from sitting
  7. Excessively restless at inappropriate times
  8. Interrupts others/blurts out responses before the other person finishes talking
  9. Intrusive and “pushy” personality

Combined ADHD Type: Inattentive and Hyperactive-impulsiveThis type of ADHD is by far the most common, with obvious symptoms of both types. Keep in mind that not all individuals with ADHD display the full list of symptoms – someone with ADHD may have shown all the symptoms of one type, or several from each.

Some combination of the above symptoms need to have been consistently present for at least six months, symptoms need to have been made manifest before the age of seven years and been more pronouncedly manifest than childhood peers of the same age, and symptoms need to have consistently persisted through adolescence and adulthood.

In the next article in our ADHD series, we will discuss known causes of the condition, diagnoses, and treatment.

Are you concerned about the possibility that you may have ADHD? It is treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

adult adhd symptoms and treatment

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Adult ADHD. If you’ve been reading along with this article series, you know by now that it’s a thing. This is the third in a series of articles on recognizing Adult ADHD, and more on how to most effectively address it.

Our previous two articles in this series (Part I and Part II) addressed the origins of ADHD going from childhood to adulthood, common symptoms and classifications thereof (inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness), as well as known/suspected causes, and types of the disorder (ADHD/Inattentive Type, ADHD/Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, and Combined ADHD Type). In this series finale article, we will cover practical ways to recognize, seek treatment, and follow up with your Adult ADHD treatment plan.

About 4% to 5% of adults in the United States have gone from childhood to adulthood with the disorder, but relatively few of them ever get diagnosed and/or treated for it. Below is a more detailed look at what Adult ADHD really looks like.

Review of Adult ADHD Symptoms

Adults with ADHD may have difficulty with one or more of the following, and not yet be aware of their condition:


  • Concentrating
  • Remembering/retaining information
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Organizing tasks
  • Following directions

This list of potential challenges that accompany ADHD for an individual is not exhaustive, but it’s easy to see how such challenges would create problems in more than one area of someone’s life: home, work/school, relationships, etc. As mentioned before, ADHD is treatable and manageable, and those with the disorder can adapt appropriately and lead successful, satisfying lives.

ADHD-related Complications

As touched upon in Part II of this series, other consistent, ongoing problems that may manifest themselves for an adult with ADHD include:

  • Severe boredom/disillusionment with life
  • Low self-esteem/difficulty with social acceptance
  • Repeated tardiness/forgetfulness
  • Procrastination
  • Impatience/anger management problems
  • Lack of ambition/motivation
  • Underachievement/underperformance
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Impulsiveness/behavioral problems
  • Substance abuse
  • Difficulty staying at any job for long

Some individuals with ADHD may be able to concentrate on something that really interests them, or get enthused/motivated about some project or other. Others with ADHD may have trouble concentrating/focusing frequently. Some seek out stimulation, while others avoid it. Some are introverted and withdrawn, while others are very social. Symptoms may be significant or slight, they may occur often or infrequently—every case is unique.

Additional problems

Individuals with ADHD can also be prone to:

  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Get in more auto accidents/get more speeding/traffic tickets
  • Have difficulty managing time/finances
  • Have more marital/relationship problems
  • Higher rates of breakups/separations/divorces
  • Multiple failed marriages

Adult ADHD Diagnosis

If you suspect that you might possibly have ADHD as an adult, you should seek out a professional opinion by a trusted referral. Ideally, the mental health professional you consult will have experience with ADHD diagnoses and treatment.

Your mental health professional might consider:


  • Sending you to get a physical examination, to eliminate the possibility that another condition other than ADHD is causing your symptoms (e.g., a learning disability, mood disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), etc.)
  • Performing and analyzing thorough blood work
  • Getting as much information as possible regarding your alcohol and drug use
  • Performing or referring you for psychological tests
  • An in-depth interview about your medical/family history to gather as much data as possible (ADHD does seem to have a driving genetic component)


The jury might still be out regarding at what precise age ADHD can reliably be diagnosed at first, but mental health professionals and experts will all agree that no one has ever been known to suddenly develop the disorder as an adult. Your clinician will likely “dig deep” regarding what you remember about your social adjustment, academic performance, how well you got along (or didn’t) with friends and siblings, as well as other behavioral patterns you had as a child. He or she may even consult with your parents to be thorough.

Adult ADHD Treatment

If your clinician does indicate that you have ADHD, the opportunity will present itself for him or her to develop a customized treatment plan – such a plan may include therapy and medication, as well as getting you educated on the subject, getting you up to speed with management tactics, and helping you enroll your family for moral support.

By following this treatment plan, you will be able to find creative ways to navigate your daily life more effectively, and moving forward in this manner, in and of itself, should give you a huge boost in confidence right away.  It will be of great benefit to you to take your mental health professional’s advice to heart and to follow his or her directives (i.e., consistency in taking medication as prescribed, practicing tools and techniques, etc.). Any side effects or setbacks you notice should be reported to your clinician right away.

Adult ADHD Medication

  • Stimulants – stimulant medications (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, Focalin, Dexedrine, etc.) are commonly used to treat ADHD in adults with a good success rate. Though stimulants can be successful in treatment, they can also be addictive, they can be difficult to remember to take daily for someone with ADHD, and they can lead to other unhealthy habits, such as drinking an alcoholic beverage in the evening to “unwind.”
  • Non-Stimulants –Your clinician might possibly prescribe a non-stimulant (e.g., Kapvay, Strattera, Intuniv).for you to take on its own, or in conjunction with a stimulant.

Therapy and Other Behavioral Treatments

Your clinician and you might consider some combination of the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a “psycho-social” approach directed at improving mental health. CBT helps condition the individual to develop an awareness of and to challenge counterproductive attitudes, thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs about oneself. Throughout the process, the individual learns to develop and integrate healthier coping strategies and problem-solving skills. It is a powerful self-esteem booster.
  • Stress Management Training/Relaxation Techniques. Learning how to manage stress and relax in healthy ways can help lower anxiety, stress, and other physiological problems (e.g., high blood pressure, problems sleeping, obesity).  
  • Life/Career coaching and mentoring. If you feel uncomfortable setting and achieving goals, maybe you need to consult with someone who can help you challenge yourself more. A coach/mentor can help you learn to set and reach goals, as well as to improve productivity, organizational skills, and performance in critical areas of your life, including in the development of meaningful and healthy relationships with others.
  • Educating your support group. For your family and friends to better be able to support you throughout your treatment and on, it will help to get them up to speed on what ADHD is, and on how they can help and support you better.

Additional Practices

Take note and see if you can’t start implementing some of the following to get yourself going right away:

  • Get organized. Start with daily to-do lists (you don’t need to kill yourself, just be consistent), and get in the habit of getting them knocked out every day. Start using a planner, or a scheduling app on your phone; take notes to help you remember important tasks and events. Set reminders.
  • Eliminate distractions. Loud music, television, noisy environments. Learn how to focus better on where you are and on what you’re doing by minimizing distractions in your environment.
  • Deep, meditative breathing. Individuals with ADHD often have relationship problems with others because they are impatient in conversation, ineffective listeners, they can often do counterproductive things impulsively without considering consequences, etc. Teach yourself impulse control and to “slow down” through the practice of awareness breathing meditation. As you get more practiced at this, you will see your impulsive tendencies gradually melt away.
  • Burn off excess energy. Start exercising or take up a hobby to help you get in the habit of directing your energy toward filling your time with more productive pursuits and choices.
  • Learn to ask for help when you need it. No one can possibly know how to do everything, and we all need help from time to time. You shouldn’t ever be afraid or ashamed of asking your clinician or someone in your support group for help. Maybe you need help minimizing invasive/irrational thoughts, or need some ideas to help you fill your time with more creative and productive habits. Just ask.

Are you concerned about living with ADHD as an adult? Not to worry. It is treatable and manageable. If you or someone close to you need to talk to someone about mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.