What is ADHD?
You may have heard it called ADHD or ADD, but what attention deficit hyperactivity disorder looks like can really vary from person to person. However, key signs are usually struggling to concentrate or focus, finding it hard to sit still and having an inability to control impulses.
It is estimated that in the UK around 5% of children and 4% of adults have ADHD; this equates to about 2.6 million people in Britain.*
ADHD has three types, each with different symptoms and challenges:
The ‘H’ is actually important here because it distinguishes between the two main types of ADHD: the inattentive type, being classed as ADD, and the predominantly hyperactive type, hence the H.
Celebrating people with ADHD!
ADHD is often described in terms of the deficits, and this is done so that the right support can be put in place. But always talking about what a person can’t do or focussing on the negatives can be demoralising.
Let’s look at some successful people with ADHD and see what it's meant for them.
There are lots of celebrities who have ADHD and they’re happy to talk about it and share their experiences, which is fantastic for helping to break down the stigma in society. And what’s more, they help prove just how valuable and exciting it is to have people in the world who think differently!
Despite his school teachers berating his ‘inability to sit still’ when he was younger, Michael Phelps has achieved a total of 28 medals and 5 world records. Equally, musician Will.i.am cites his ADHD as “a gift, not a flaw” and says it helps his creativity flourish. Dav Pilkey, author and cartoonist well-known for his Dog Man and Captain Underpants series, calls it Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Delightfulness. He totally credits his ADHD for his success and says “it's a good thing to think differently; it’s a superpower!” And arguably one of the cleverest men ever, Stephen Hawking, also had ADHD.
It's so wonderful to hear of all sorts of people thinking of their ADHD, and their neurodiversity, as a positive trait, and indeed a superpower! The world needs more people to see it this way.
So instead of thinking about what can be considered only as negatives, flip this on its head and start thinking of them as positive traits, for example:
Symptoms of ADHD tend to be noticed at an early age and may become more noticeable when children start school, for example, or when their circumstances change. Most cases are usually diagnosed before the age of about 12, but sometimes it can be missed until later in childhood and into secondary school, and sometimes it isn’t diagnosed until much later altogether, into adulthood.
Symptoms of ADHD typically improve with age, but many people who were diagnosed as a child can go on to experience problems as an adult. People with ADHD may also experience additional issues such as depression, sleep or anxiety disorders. ADHD can only be diagnosed by a medical professional, a doctor or psychologist, who will use different tests and interviews to assess behaviour.
The old-fashioned, stereotypical image of ADHD is a boy bouncing around a classroom, full of energy. However, ADHD can present itself differently in boys and girls. Boys tend to have more noticeable, behavioural symptoms and because girls’ symptoms tend to be less ‘disruptive’ and they are notoriously better at masking symptoms, it can go undetected. For this reason it has often been long overlooked in girls and can lead to mental health challenges later in life. For every one girl diagnosed with ADHD, four boys will be diagnosed.*
What can cause ADHD?
It is thought that ADHD is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, but the exact cause is still unknown, however it does tend to run in families. And ADHD can occur in people of any intellectual ability.
Q. Is there a cure?
Q. Can you grow out of it?
Q. Is there treatment?