Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental disorder that affects about 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults. In children, the condition is characterized by inability to focus, excessive movement that is inappropriate to the situation, and impulsive actions.
Individuals may not recognize the symptoms of adult ADHD until later in life, but they can include mood swings, disorganization and poor time management, restlessness, difficulty completing tasks, and trouble coping with stress. Like most other mental illnesses, symptoms can vary in type and severity.
Symptoms that appeared only recently or occasionally usually do not indicate ADHD. When they cause problems in multiple areas of life, and can be traced far into the past, that may be a sign of ADHD. Providers may administer an ADHD assessment as the first step toward diagnosis.
This chronic condition can lower quality of life. ADHD can hinder a person’s academic or professional achievements, relationships, and day-to-day functioning, including sleep. It can also limit self-esteem and impair a child’s social development.
Treatment for ADHD ideally involves both medication and therapy to improve functioning. These may include Parent-Child Interaction Therapy and prescribed psychostimulants. Approved medications include amphetamines, methylphenidate, alpha agonists, and the selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor atomoxetine.
Although experts have known about ADHD for decades, there is still a lot to learn about this condition. Here is some of the most recent research into a better understanding of ADHD.
ADHD diagnoses on the rise in the U.S.
A growing number of American adults, especially women, are being diagnosed with ADHD, according to findings from health analytics firm Epic Research. The number of women aged 23-49 years diagnosed with ADHD nearly doubled from 2020 to 2022. At the same time, the number of people taking prescription medications for ADHD remains unchanged.
Growing ADHD awareness may be one reason for the increased rate in women, as well as diagnoses later in life. ADHD also may be confused with other mental health conditions, preventing an accurate diagnosis.
Gene differences may explain ADHD
Research from the National Institutes of Health and published in Molecular Psychiatry points to differences in the gene activity of individuals with ADHD compared to those without the condition. The study authors used RNA sequencing to study the caudate and the frontal cortex regions in cadaver brains.
Previous studies have shown differences in the structure and activity of these regions among individuals with ADHD. This recent study found that these differences affect genes that code for glutamate neurotransmitters, which are involved in attention and learning.
Physical fitness improves mental health for people with ADHD
Research continues to show a strong link between physical and mental health, including for individuals with ADHD. This is especially important because ADHD often comes with other mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety.
In the Journal of Attention Disorders, researchers describe a study finding that adults with ADHD and low cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and stress. Those with higher CRF and ADHD reported feeling lower stress.
When treating clients for ADHD and other mental illness, your EHR software should make your job easier, not harder. Contact the BestNotes EHR team today to learn how our customized behavioral health solutions can help you streamline assessments, documentation, and other important parts of your behavioral health practice.