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Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

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Do you ever get the feeling that you’re always repeating the same things to your child? Or are you dealing with a real ball of energy who is almost uncontrollable? If you feel like you’re running on empty when dealing with your child on a daily basis, ADHD might be to blame.

Le trouble de déficit de l’attention avec ou sans hyperactivité (TDAH)

ADHD: a new disorder?

Many people think that attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is more common in today’s society. Actually, it has probably always existed, but it’s only in the last few decades that it has been taken more seriously, diagnosed and treated.

Fortunately for our youth, nowadays there are tools that can detect this disorder as early as possible, and there are many ways to live with it on a daily basis.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurological condition whose causes are still not very well known. Although it affects the general population, it is mostly diagnosed in children and teenagers (it is said that approximately 5 to 8% of them suffer from ADHD).

It is not uncommon for this condition to continue into adulthood, and it can have negative repercussions on many aspects of the affected person’s life, as well as that of his or her loved ones.

There are three subtypes of ADHD, which lead to two larger categories of symptoms: inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.

  • The first subtype is therefore called “inattentive”,
  • while the second is “hyperactive-impulsive”.
  • An individual can also have the “combined” subtype, which is a mix of both classes.

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Unfortunately, though, a lot of myths and prejudices are still being disseminated within our society and in our schools, making things more difficult for individuals who are affected by this condition.

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Manifestations of ADHD

ADHD manifests itself differently from one child or adolescent to another. Whatever the case may be, here are some examples of signs that can indicate ADHD:

Signs related to attention:

Individual has difficulty:

  • concentrating;
  • paying attention;
  • getting organised;
  • remembering instructions, even though he understands them;
  • completing long or complex tasks.

Tends to:

  • be easily distracted;
  • not listen when spoken to.

Signs related to hyperactivity-impulsivity:

Individual constantly needs to:

  • move;
  • shake his hands or feet, or squirm in his chair;
  • get up when he is supposed to remain seated;
  • talk non stop;
  • run or climb everywhere.

Tends to:

  • interrupt others or answer questions before they are completed;
  • impose his presence and have a hard time waiting for his turn;
  • be irritable, aggressive or agitated.

These problems are usually present both at home and at school, and can affect learning and grades, as well as social and family life. If this is the case, it is recommended to consult a doctor or a professional in order to confirm or exclude a diagnosis of ADHD. Note that some children can momentarily display such symptoms without necessarily suffering from the condition. A diagnosis is given when symptoms have been present for at least six months, in sufficient amounts.

Global management

Many people falsely believe that only medication can help a child or adolescent with ADHD. In truth, a multi-faceted strategy that focuses on non-medicinal approaches before anything else should be privileged. Indeed, when children receive behavioural intervention and parents are educated to face the issues of this condition, there is less of a need to turn to medication.

Here are a few examples of approaches that can be particularly useful and healthy:

  • psychotherapy (for the child and her parents);
  • occupational therapy;
  • remedial instruction;
  • special education.

It is also very important for the child to be very supported; he or she needs structure, organisation and boundaries. Parents can take classes or workshops to learn to better manage the symptoms of ADHD and ways to support their child on a daily basis. For example, helping the child learn, as early as possible, how to work effectively can be very helpful at homework time and will allow him or her to become more autonomous.

Successful long-term management of ADHD lies, for the most part, in the level of parental involvement. In addition, it is important to note that young people who are affected by this type of disorder sometimes have lower self-esteem. Being well informed and equipped with the proper tools will allow you to do your very best as a parent to accompany your child on the path to adulthood.

Many specialists can also offer you their expertise to help you with this process. Contact your local CLSC or your child’s school to find out about information sessions and other available resources in your area.

Medication: sometimes necessary

In some cases, despite trying the aforementioned strategies, medication may be required. The most commonly used medications to treat ADHD are psychostimulants. They are considered to be effective and safe; their use has been widely studied for this type of disorder. They must be prescribed by a doctor.

Usually, treatment begins with a low dose, which is then progressively increased until it results in expected benefits. Several psychostimulants must be taken only once a day, in the morning.

As is the case for all medications, psychostimulants can cause side effects, notably:

  • sleep disorders (insomnia);
  • loss of appetite, sometimes accompanied by weight loss;
  • nausea or abdominal discomfort;
  • headaches;
  • dizziness;
  • dry mouth;
  • nervousness or irritability;
  • aggravation of pre-existing tics.

If your child seems to be experiencing side effects related to the use of a psychostimulant, speak to your pharmacist or doctor without delay. They can give you more information about those side effects and give you advice to better manage them. They might also recommend another medication that would be more suitable for your child.

Managing ADHD is a challenge that is best undertaken as a team (child, parents, teachers, health professionals). Don’t ignore symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity or impulsivity, since an early diagnosis and interventions will make a huge difference in your child’s life, both on a short- and long-term basis.

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