Authored by Revere Health

Recognizing and Treating ADHD

April 20, 2017 | Family Medicine

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a complex condition that affects each individual in different ways. Its effects vary with age, and it can change as people get older.
The term attention deficit disorder (ADD) is often used interchangeably with ADHD. However, since the release of the DSM-IV in 1994 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), the Attention Deficit Disorder Association lists the proper medical terminology as ADHD.

There are three general types of ADHD:

  1. 1. Hyperactive-impulsive
  2. 2. Inattentive
  3. 3. A combination of both 1 and 2

Because the symptoms are so different for everyone, properly recognizing and diagnosing ADHD can be a challenge.

Recognizing Symptoms

Symptoms for ADHD often change with age.

Toddlers and Preschool-Age Children:

It can be tough to recognize ADHD in young children—kids in this age range are naturally very active and have short attention spans, so it can be difficult to tell the difference between ADHD and normal child behavior.

In general, it’s the extreme nature these traits that identifies ADHD in children. Kids with ADHD have an extremely difficult time concentrating and may find it hard to keep still.


Elementary School Children:

Children with hyperactive forms of ADHD often begin showing signs in elementary school. This is also the age when kids with ADHD are more noticeably different than other children—they often struggle with:

  • Taking turns or letting others speak while actively listening
  • Sharing
  • Remembering things, or keeping track of items
  • Finishing homework, chores or other responsibilities
  • Focusing for long periods of time
  • Emotional outbursts, especially with anything perceived as frustrating
  • Common accidents due to rash actions that weren’t thought out in advance



Many hyperactive cases of ADHD improve into the teen years, but other symptoms can arise. Concentration and time management nag at many teens with ADHD, and they may have more emotional health problems than the standard teen. They may be more impulsive or willing to take risks, and they may enjoy activities that take little work and offer immediate rewards, like video games.


Hyperactivity is usually less of a problem as patients with ADHD get older, but other symptoms affect people even well into adulthood:

  • Disorganization
  • Common use of shortcuts, even when they’re damaging
  • Abuse of drugs, alcohol and unhealthy food
  • Impulsive decisions and risky sexual encounters
  • Trouble finishing basic tasks or paying attention
  • Relationship issues—the divorce rate is high among adults with ADHD


How is it Diagnosed?

No test exists to determine a straight “yes” or “no” confirmation of ADHD. A diagnosis of ADHD includes a detailed discussion of symptoms, and in children, an observation of the child for a time. To confirm the diagnosis, doctors may use some of the following:


  • History: Medical and social, for both the child and immediate family.
  • Evaluations: These may include intelligence, aptitude, personality and processing evaluations, with help from parents and even teachers in some cases.
  • Physical exam and neurological assessment: Assessments include screenings for hearing, vision, verbal and motor skills. In some cases, hyperactive ADHD is related to other physical issues.
  • NEBA Scan: Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid System (NEBA) is a test that measures brain waves. Certain ratios of theta to beta brain waves may indicate ADHD.


Treatment Options

Once a positive diagnosis has been made, most treatments use a combination of medication and therapy. It’s vital that anyone who plays a large role in the patient’s life is on the same page—parents, doctors, therapists and even teachers. Some of the treatments include:


  • Stimulants: There’s debate in the medical world over the use of stimulants, but they are the most common medication for ADHD. They can help with both hyperactivity and concentration. Most are in pill form, but you can also find stimulants in patches. Stimulants can have some side effects for many people, and they need careful doctor supervision.
  • Non-stimulants and other drugs: Several other drugs are also used, ranging from non-stimulants to antidepressants.
  • Therapy: Your doctor may recommend behavior therapy and other forms of psychological therapy, including psychotherapy in some cases.
  • Basic lifestyle changes: There are several routine and lifestyle-related habits you can alter if you or your child is diagnosed with ADHD.


If your child is exhibiting signs of ADHD, speak to your doctor about options for testing and diagnosis.


Revere Health Orem Family Medicine is devoted to comprehensive healthcare for patients of all ages. Our commitment is to provide thorough and timely health care for the entire family throughout all stages of life. We revere our patients’ health above all else and work together to help them live better.



“How to Recognize ADHD Symptoms at Every Age.” WebMD.

“ADHD: The Facts.” Attention Deficit Disorder Association.

“Understanding ADHD — Diagnosis and Treatment.” WebMD.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.