Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a pervasive learning disorder. This means that it not only causes "school problems" as is commonly thought, but affects all aspects of a person's life.

By definition, this disorder results in impairment of function in at least two venues: home, academic, vocational, and/or social. Although the impairment caused by ADHD may seem to present at any time in a person's life, it is often consistent with a history of dysfunctional behavior and learning difficulties since childhood. All persons with ADHD experience inattentiveness and distractibility; some, in addition, also exhibit hyperactive/impulsive behavior.

Persons who suffer from ADHD feel a chronic sense of frustration, failures, underachievement, and ineffectiveness that may ultimately lead to depression, anxiety, anger, irritability, and often self-loathing. Social relationships may suffer greatly. In adults, these feelings often lead to "self-medication" with excessive amounts of coffee, alcohol, and drugs.

The untreated child/student with ADHD may feel stupid, criticized, and often told that he/ she is not "working up to potential" or is "lazy". Students may feel easily frustrated and overwhelmed as they attempt to complete tasks that seem to come easily for their peers but that take them much longer. They are unable to sustain the focus and lack of distractibility required in settings in which they must: learn new or more difficult material, listen to lengthy teacher discourses, or spend what they perceive is "too much time" on a task that competes with another, more desired, activity.

Prioritization and initiation of tasks is a problem for both the adult and child with ADHD. The inability to sustain the mental effort to perform tasks to completion-whether these are school or job related, or household duties-may be a chronic source of demoralization and conflict with teachers, peers, co-workers, family members, and spouse. Persons with ADHD tend to "live-in-the-moment" and have difficulty with hindsight, foresight and overall judgment.

In addition, ADHD is often accompanied by other conditions such as specific learning disabilities (reading, math), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), mood disorders (anxiety, bipolar, depression), or other anxiety disorders such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), skin picking disorder, and trichotillomania (hair pulling). It is important that all persons with ADHD are screened for associated disorders.

ADHD is a legal disability and falls under the category of "other health impaired".This means that students with ADHD are entitled to classroom accommodations which may be vital to the student's academic success (extra time on the SAT, e.g.) Parents and adult patients should be made fully aware of the education laws that are in place to support them.

The GOOD news is that ADHD is the easiest of the behavioral disorders to diagnose and treat! The quality of a person's life, as well as their interpersonal relationships, can be greatly improved with the proper care. Treatment involves a multi-faceted approach that includes accommodations, life-coaching, medication, and follow-up. All four parts are equally important and necessary to living successfully with ADHD.

The "A" in ADHD also stands for "asset"! Most of these individuals are intelligent, creative, and gifted in a particular area (often in the arts). They have the ability to "hyperfocus" which can be to their great advantage when applied appropriately. Most importantly, anyone with ADHD can live a happy, productive, and successful life if they learn to "take care" of their disorder.

In my practice, "failure" is not an option. I work as hard as I tell my patients that they should, to minimize their ADHD symptoms and allow them to be whatever they want to be.

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