Trouble Paying Attention? Is It ADHD or Too Much Energy?

We have all heard the term ADHD being used casually. It’s common for seemingly healthy people to make half-joking remarks like “I must have ADHD today…can’t focus!” But these jokes obscure the reality that ADHD is more than just occasional difficulty concentrating. It is a serious disorder, and if you believe your child may suffer from ADHD, it’s important to get him or her tested for it. Although most of us feel like we know what ADHD is, it takes a mental health professional to evaluate your child and make a diagnosis. Behaviors similar to ADHD can be caused by stress, medical conditions, learning disabilities or life-altering events. Just because a child has symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity does not mean that he or she has ADD or ADHD.

Psychiatric evaluation may be the first step in the right direction if your child has the following symptoms across all situations—at home, at school, and at play:

  • Acts without thinking
  • Blurts out answers in class without waiting to be called on or hear the whole question
  • Can’t wait for his or her turn in line or in games
  • Says the wrong thing at the wrong time
  • Often interrupts others
  • Intrudes on other people’s conversations or games
  • Inability to keep powerful emotions in check, resulting in angry outbursts or temper tantrums
  • Guesses, rather than taking time to solve a problem
  • Constantly fidgets and squirms
  • Often leaves his or her seat in situations where sitting quietly is expected
  • Moves around constantly, often runs or climbs inappropriately
  • Talks excessively
  • Has difficulty playing quietly or relaxing
  • Is always “on the go,” as if driven by a motor
  • May have a quick temper or a “short fuse”
  • Doesn’t pay attention to details
  • Makes careless mistakes
  • Has trouble staying focused; is easily distracted
  • Appears not to listen when spoken to
  • Has difficulty remembering things and following instructions
  • Has trouble staying organized, planning ahead, and finishing projects
  • Gets bored with a task before it’s completed
  • Frequently loses or misplaces homework, books, toys, or other items

It is important to understand that children with ADD/ADHD may do their best to be good, but still be unable to sit still, stay quiet, pay attention, or learn at school. Sometimes hyperactive children are labeled as troublemakers, or inattentive children are criticized for being lazy and undisciplined.

There is a way to avoid this unfair criticism and get help for your child and your family. Getting diagnosed with ADD/ADHD can offer relief and constructive changes that will help your child succeed. Your primarily care provider, mental health provider, therapist, and school will be able to work together to design a personalized treatment plan that meets his or her specific needs. Effective treatment for childhood ADD/ADHD involves behavioral therapy, medications, parent education and training, social support, and assistance at school.

Treatment can make a big difference in your child’s symptoms. With the right treatment team, parental guidance, and support at school, your child can get on track for success in all areas of life and take advantage of the positive effects often associated with ADD/ADHD: creativity, flexibility, enthusiasm, spontaneity, energy and drive.

Dr. Umugbe being a dedicated father himself, has a special interest in helping children and parents manage symptoms of ADD/ADHD.