Learn more about Attention Deficit Problems

General Description of Attention Deficit Problems
Strengths that Accompany Attention Deficit Problems
Causes of Attention Deficit and Clinical ADD/ADHD
12 Ways to Reduce Attention Deficit Problems
Blog posts on ADD and ADHD
Assessment Tools for ADD
Overview of “ADD/ADHD” from the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH)

General Description of Attention Deficit

Difficulty with attention usually becomes evident in childhood, especially in the school setting, but sometimes people don’t become aware of it until later in life. Since there is wide consensus among mental health professionals that Attention Deficit Disorder is grossly overdiagnosed in both children and adults, it is important to distinguish what might be general deficits in attention from an actual clinical disorder warranting mental health treatment. Attention Deficit is a spectrum of behaviors that manifest in some (if not all) of the following ways, at the most extreme end of the spectrum warranting a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):

(1) Trouble holding attention on tasks and activities
(2) Easily distractible
(3) Low tolerance for frustration
(4) Low tolerance for boredom
(5) Forgetfulness
(6) Difficulty organizing

And sometimes, in addition to the above:
(6) Restlessness
(7) Extreme talkativeness and tendency to interrupt
(8) Impulsivity

If you or your child experience some or all of the behaviors on this list some of the time, that is normal. If you or your child experience these behaviors all of the time, cannot finish a task, and are failing in school or at your job, or are losing friends because of constant interrupting (for example), you may want to seek help.If not, you or your child may just have difficult paying attention and be more restless than most.

Ask yourself the following questions:

-Were you or your child experiencing these behaviors before age 7?

-Could these attention issues be the result of a life situation, grief, possible depression or major trauma? Or have they persisted for several months, and have always been present in some way?

-Are these difficulties with attention and restlessness causing you significant distress at home and at school or work?

-Are you finding that you or your child is having difficulty maintaining positive relationships with family and friends because they become angry or frustrated during your interactions?

-If the answer is yes to all of these questions, you may want to contact your health or mental health professional for an assessment to see if you have clinical ADD/ADHD. (Please see section Overview of “ADD/ADHD” from the National Institute for Mental Health for more info)

If the answer is no, there are many non-medical ways to improve problems with attention.

ALL children (and adults!) are inattentive and distractible some of the time, but children that experience Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD/ADHD feel this way MOST of the time, and cannot hold a “normal” attention span. It is important to note what a “normal” attention span is. It is considered normal for a young child to hold their attention on a single task for 3-5 minutes of their age, so on average, a child entering kindergarden should be able to hold their attention on a single engaging task for about 15 minutes. It is important to note that a child’s attention span while watching TV or video games is not an accurate measure of their attention. Most adults should be able to hold focused attention on a single task for 20 minutes and refocus their attention when distracted.If you find that you are unable to hold focused attention for this long, or find it difficult to ever complete a task because you are constantly restless and distracted, you may have clinical ADD.

These challenges are often framed by parents or teachers as the child being “in a fog”, “out of control,” or “bouncing off the walls”. Children with Attention Deficit also commonly have additional challenges with reading and learning. The adult frustration with these behaviors compounded with learning difficulties result in low self-esteem of children struggling with Attention Deficit, especially if it is not recognized early.

Next SectionStrengths that Accompany Attention Deficit Problems

  1. I enjoyed reading this, thank you.

    There is another important differential diagnosis well worth mentioning. Symptoms resulting from traumatic experiences can overlap with ADHD symptoms. Point being, trauma may be an underlying cause of symptoms and should be assessed – this could change the treatment approach considerably. To learn more, check out the following: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23561240

    … and for a list of symptoms common to both PTSD and ADHD, please see:
    http://untappedbrilliance.com/ptsd-vs-adhd/

    Also, if you want to learn more deeply about ADHD, I recommend the book “Scattered: how ADHD originates and what you can do about it” by Gabor Mate. This book is informed by years of personal and clinical experience, and provides some of the best explanations I have found for explaining how the “disorder” works.

    I am hopeful that ADHD treatment is advancing in a positive direction. Certainly I have seen that stimulant meds can help, but personally I am interested in incorporating non-pharmaceutical treatment approaches such as meditation and nature time.

    Do others have thoughts/opinions/experiences on the topic?

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