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WHAT IS ADHD

ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. ADHD is characterised by persistent inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interfere with daily functioning and development.

The symptoms of ADHD can vary from person to person and may change over time. Inattentive symptoms include difficulty sustaining attention, being easily distracted, forgetfulness, and difficulty organising tasks. Hyperactive symptoms involve excessive physical restlessness, fidgeting, impulsivity, difficulty staying seated, and talking excessively. Some individuals may exhibit a combination of both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, and symptoms often continue into adolescence and adulthood. However, it's important to note that not all individuals with ADHD exhibit hyperactivity. There are three subtypes of ADHD:

  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: Individuals primarily experience symptoms of inattention without significant hyperactivity or impulsivity.

  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: Individuals primarily exhibit symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity without significant inattention.

  • Combined Presentation: Individuals display both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms.

The exact cause of ADHD is not fully understood, but research suggests that a combination of genetic, neurological, and environmental factors may contribute to its development. It is important to note that ADHD is not caused by bad parenting, inadequate discipline, or excessive sugar consumption, as some misconceptions may suggest.

ADHD can significantly impact various aspects of life, including academics, work, relationships, and self-esteem. However, with proper diagnosis, understanding, and appropriate treatment, individuals with ADHD can manage their symptoms effectively. Treatment options may include medication, behavioural interventions, therapy, and educational support. If you suspect you or someone you know may have ADHD, it's best to consult a qualified healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation and guidance.

Managing ADHD with executive function and self-regulation 
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Self-control is key to directing our actions, changing our behaviour, and increasing our chances of reaching our goals. Research suggests that ADHD is a self-control disorder that affects inhibition, attention management, self-motivation, and self-awareness. Both executive functioning and self-control involve actions aimed at achieving goals, problem-solving, and sticking to them over time.

 

Disorders in executive functioning or self-control, like ADHD, can be effectively managed by creating environments that encourage the desired behaviours and adjusting to maintain those changes. The challenge for mental health and educational professionals is not only to address these disorders but also to modify the environment to promote desired behaviour and long-term progress.

 

Due to their impaired ability to represent information internally, people with executive function deficits rely on external reminders to effectively regulate their behaviour. Self-control activities can deplete one's effort resources, making it more difficult to resist immediate gratification and succeed. Therefore, clinicians should provide active interventions in natural settings rather than relying solely on weekly counselling sessions.

 

The neurological and genetic aspects of executive function deficits can be improved or normalised using medication, whether stimulants or non-stimulants. The effects, however, usually last only as long as the medication remains active.

 

Individuals with executive function deficits benefit from external reminders, such as signs, verbal prompts, and audio recordings that guide their behaviour toward more appropriate activities. To encourage goal-directed behaviour, clinicians, educators, and caregivers need to supplement weak internal motivation with external motivation.

The Important Role of Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation in ADHD© Russell A. Barkley, Ph.D.

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