ADHD in Children & Adolescents

Attention Deficit Disorder (also known as ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are terms used to describe patterns of behavior that appear most often in school-aged children. Children with these disorders are inattentive, overly impulsive and, in the case of ADHD, hyperactive. They have difficulty sitting still, attending to one thing for a long period of time, and may seem overactive.

What are ADD and ADHD?

Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are disorders that interfere with the learning process because they reduce the child’s ability to pay attention. It is important to understand that ADD and ADHD are not disabilities in the learning process, although they may be present in addition to a learning disability. A learning disability is a neurological condition that affects the child’s ability to learn.

ADD and ADHD are difficult to diagnose because they affect all areas of a child’s life; family, school, friendships, team sports and work.

What are the Emotional Effects of ADD and ADHD?

Your child can have a wide range of emotional responses to ADD and ADHD, which can be confusing to him or her, and to you. He or she may have already experienced years of frustration and failure which can lead to emotional stresses and further problems. Some of the emotional responses are:

  • Aggressive or violent behavior – Feelings of failure can result in aggressive or violent behavior at home or outside of the home
  • Withdrawal, anxiety and depression – Your child may turn inward and try to isolate himself or herself from the rest of the work, or  may become anxious and depressed.
  • Low self-esteem – If your child has been denied certain positive experiences because of ADD or ADHD, he or she will likely have trouble developing  healthy self-esteem.
  • Physical symptoms – Your child may bury his or her feelings so deeply that they will come out in the form of headaches, stomach or back aches, or pains in the hands or legs.

What are the Social Effects?

Because ADD and ADHD are so hard to diagnose, you may be confused by your child’s social behavior. A teacher may not investigate difficult or disruptive behavior because he or she cannot see the underlying attention problems. Two ways your child may try to mask his or her difficulty in the classroom or in a peer group are by:

  • becoming the “class clown” or the “class bully,” or
  • avoiding or refusing to become involved in activities where he or she is unsure of success.

Overcoming the Difficulties

If you think your child may have ADD or ADHD, your first goal should be to reduce the stress caused by the confusion and frustration your child is experiencing. It will be best if you work together with a team of professionals to find out what is wrong:

  • Your child’s pediatrician should examine your child for physical causes, including visual, hearing or speech problems.
  • A child psychiatrist should work with your child to see if there are any emotional or social problems in addition to or caused by ADD or ADHD.
  • A child psychiatrist or therapist should examine the family environment.
  • An education specialist should examine your child’s academic abilities and test for any visual, hearing or speech difficulties.

Once this professional team has evaluated your child completely and the problem is correctly diagnosed, the team can recommend the most appropriate treatment program for your child.

With the right kind of help, most children with ADD or ADHD overcome their disabilities, and their emotional problems usually improve dramatically. They perform better at school, improve their relationships with family and friends, and will be more likely to achieve their full potential. With help from family, school and other professionals, children with ADD or ADHD have an excellent chance to grow up to be healthy, happy and productive adults.

Learn more about ADHD

At Potomac Psychiatry our psychiatrists and therapists specialize in treating childhood and adolescent ADHD. Call (301) 984-9791 to contact us, discuss your needs and schedule an appointment. Our experienced professionals look forward to meeting you.